Tony Luckett, managing partner of the Darlington office of Clive Owen, has worked his way up the company for almost 30 years. He talks to BQ about his career so far and what it takes to be a great leader.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I have worked at Clive Owen for nearly 30 years and am currently managing partner at Darlington. I provide proactive business advice, business development strategies and accounts/audit advice to a range of clients from owner managed businesses to not for profit organisations.
I love the varied and fast paced nature of what we do and enjoy the challenge of working with many different businesses across all sorts of sectors to help them solve their problems and achieve their objectives.
What is it the company does?
Clive Owen provide business advice and accountancy services to a range of clients across the North East and Yorkshire. We have 3 offices in Darlington, Durham and York. Established for nearly 35 years the business has grown consistently and now has ten partners and nearly a hundred staff.
We provide a range of services from general accountancy services to forward thinking business advice. We also have a number of specialist services such as Clive Owen IT providing IT for business, cloud accounting, corporate finance and grants teams.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Following university, I initially went to work for a large accountancy firm in Birmingham which had a great training environment. I found it became very bureaucratic and impersonal and felt my impact on clients was limited because of this. Having achieved my qualifications in just 23 months, I then moved on to a very different experience working for another global firm with a smaller office in Jersey and gained valuable experience working on a range of businesses from small start-ups to large offshore clients and got much more involvement with people and their businesses, which I found I enjoyed.
For family reasons, we came to the North East and I began working for Clive Owen where I have stayed ever since, working my way up through the business. I had the opportunity to transfer with my existing firm but I saw in Clive and what he was offering a different way of dealing with people and businesses, which struck a chord with me.
Clive himself was very much a mentor to me and we worked together to build a business that is proactive and which cares passionately about service delivery and standards. I believe we take a truly proactive approach towards understanding the desires and needs of our clients to drive timely, successful solutions.
The company has grown steadily which demonstrates that this has been a positive experience for all involved and it has certainly proved very rewarding personally to support clients as they have developed over the years.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
This is quite a hard question because the answer, I believe, is a complex mix of skills.
Firstly, I think it’s the foresight to recruit talented, hardworking people to build high performing teams. There is also an element of mentoring in there to drive and develop the teams to achieve and to ensure that they are motivated and engaged. I don’t believe one person can do it all.
I also think it takes strong vision to run a business, to identify opportunities and threats. There is a clear need for business acumen, the ability to make tough decisions, determination to succeed and self-belief.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
All businesses face challenges on a daily basis and we are no different. It can be difficult to build and structure our teams to effectively meet the fast changing needs of the market and our clients, particularly with the advent of evolving digital technology.
Predicting the future can also be thought provoking! The landscape for accountancy and business advisory services is changing and we need to adapt and develop new skills and offerings to remain relevant. It keeps us on our toes.
I think this is why we develop such a strong affinity with our clients. It’s because we are business people too, facing the same daily challenges, risks, threats and opportunities that they are.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It’s sometimes difficult to switch off but I really enjoy taking time out with my family and having children keeps you busy and grounded. It also drives the need to earn lots of money just to pay for their education!
I try to take regular breaks because I think being away from the business for short periods allows the perspective that distance can bring and that’s a great thing!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Initially I really wasn’t sure. I was quite sporty at school and at one point quite fancied the idea of being an astronaut…courtesy of Neil Armstrong, of course.
I was always good at maths and almost fell into accountancy when I realised I needed to start making decisions about my future. It worked out well because it’s been the perfect choice for me. It’s a great profession and I find it fascinating working with different businesses in different sectors and delivering insights on so many fronts. It’s fast paced and demanding but thoroughly rewarding.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?
I don’t like office politics and try and lead my teams with purpose to engender open and honest feedback at all levels. Any issues arising are discussed openly so we can make a resolve and move on, which seems to fix most issues and give a positive voice to the teams.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The pace of change in our sector is staggering.
Luckily, we are a team of partners who embrace change and review our offering on an ongoing basis to ensure we can continue to act proactively for our clients. If we feel there are changes to be made, we are prepared to review the options thoroughly and take those decisions quickly.
This is one of the reasons we have developed an IT business as part of the Clive Owen LLP offering to clients. It allows us to offer IT solutions for business. It covers all aspects from hardware, network management, software development and even cyber security which is a hot topic currently.
We also offer a raft of cloud accounting solutions and payroll services in our managed services department.
Basically, it’s a brave new technology driven world and our philosophy is always to be ahead of the curve and the competition.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Work hard but smart. Time is a scare resource so use it wisely. Focus on your purpose and build and inspire a great team to deliver your promises. Have belief in yourself and your team and have the strength of conviction to make it all happen. Also, have fun along the way!