Mike Hughes meets a man who has perfected the art of balancing global and regional demands – Grant Thornton’s Andy Wood.
Global firms with a base in Yorkshire face quite a challenge. They need the global footprint to bring experience and expertise, and to prove a certain level of success that will be attractive to their clients, but that almost needs to be overshadowed by their regional clout.
Giants like Grant Thornton need an impressive sense of balance to get it right. That footprint needs to stride across continents in one moment and leave a lasting impression in Halifax in the next.
With that aim, Andy Wood is the not-so-secret weapon for GT. After three years leading the audit team for RSM Robson Rhodes in Leeds, Andy has spent the last seven with GT, now as practice leader for the Leeds and Newcastle operations. Add a Bradford University education and a role as a parent governor at Burley Oaks Primary School in Wharfedale and it seems Andy is straight out of central casting.
“I have been an audit partner for 12 years, with most of that time spent in Leeds. My job is to lead our firm to growth in the region, through the growth of our clients and our market share,” explains Andy.
“But that also means the growth of our people across all our offices so we can work with a range of businesses across all sectors.”
The keyword is confidence – how to get it, keep it, grow it and understand why there is quite a bit of it about in Yorkshire. For Andy it is dominating the work GT is doing.
“Confidence is back – which means our client base is more stable than it has been since the crash. There is confidence to spend money in terms of hiring, M&A activity or acquiring plant and machinery,” says Andy.
“For a business like ours that creates opportunity, because there has been pent-up energy for a number of years now with people sitting on their proverbial hands because they have been hanging on for the right circumstances to make the next big decision.
“But now they are thinking this is as good as it has been for a number of years, it may not get better than this for a while, so let’s crack on.”
If I was CEO Scott Barnes (or Sacha Romanovitch from June) I might have that printed out neatly (could I suggest 200pt Myriad Bold?) and displayed as the new company motto – We’re Grant Thornton. Let’s crack on. GT has certainly been pushing its brand over the last few years, and Andy says awareness of the firm and what it does is as high as it has ever been, which has been good for attracting school-leavers and graduates to start their careers there.
As you would expect, the day-to-day processes for Andy’s team change as the economy shifts, but there are no quiet times. “As some parts of the business change, it gives us a chance to give some of our talented people opportunities in more sectors like reorganisation or forensic accounting where there has been more need.
“We have also been able to make niche acquisitions as a business in particular sectors and geographies. For example there has been a fairly heavy investment in financial services.”
This rolling evolution is what has helped Grant Thornton keep its balance, while the core demands remain.
“People come to us because they want help to unlock their potential for growth and they are looking for a business like ours to help with acquisitions, M&A or whatever it is that suits their needs.
“Companies across Yorkshire know how they want to grow, but we have the experience of doing it and can offer that insight and clarity and give the support and connections they need. The coaching we can offer is really important and can bring people together to share an opportunity or experience.”
Here comes that balance again. There are major issues on top of Grant Thornton’s in-tray, not least the opening up of the audit market with the introduction of the ten-year tendering process, but Andy and his team are still meeting businesses five days a week and finding enough lightbulb moments to power an office block and he can’t stop enjoying it.
“There is still real entrepreneurial spirit in Yorkshire. We work with some fantastically talented charismatic entrepreneurs in growing areas like technology and we enjoy working with people like that – it’s an exciting time.
“If you walk into the city for an event the bars and restaurants are packed and there are cranes everywhere building new offices and residential towers. There is a real buzz and long may it continue.”
Hear, hear. Well said Andy.