A major pile-up on the M1 delayed my arrival, on Sunday evening, to a Socitm Consulting Conference held at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Birmingham.

This was the first consultants' get together in quite a while. Apart from the networking opportunity, the event was arranged to consider how the business will be taken forward in the future and, in particular:

  • To identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current model.
  • To identify options for the future ownership, management and governance of Consulting.
  • To begin to evaluate these options and arrive at a short list of those that should be considered further, with a view to reaching a decision later in 2009 as to the future direction of the business.

Adrian, David Houston and I attended from Socitm Limited, as we were keen to demonstrate our support and offer input on behalf of the Society. (Also, the Society co-funded the event!) A "core team" of 50ish consultants were invited to the event, most of whom (45) were able to attend. (Socitm Consulting has around 150 consultants in total.)

The evening started with a drinks reception, but we had to do some work to earn our Sunday dinner. Doug presented an overview of the business, and then each table was asked to consider what improvements in the Consulting operation were required and what worked well and certainly should not be changed. Communications came-in for some stick; it always does on such occasions!

However, a number of opportunities for improvement were identified. We also discovered that some of our correspondence was being blocked in the spam filter of the 1&1 system used by some consultants, which is centrally managed! The things that consultants decided should not change were the Consulting brand, ethos and quality.

Monday was given over to a mixture of break-out sessions and feedbacks considering questions such as -

  • Who should own the business?
  • Who should direct the business?
  • How could we create a structure that Socitm can engage with on a long-term basis? (The current agreement is to a three-year contract.) · How should the consultant roles be structured?

Over the course of the day, the wish for a symbiotic relationship with Socitm was confirmed. A majority of consultants favoured participation in the ownership in the business, and a majority also favoured greater participation in the management of the business.

Eighteen people volunteered to work with Doug and Vikki to develop how these objectives could be achieved. One of the issues for us both (Socitm and Socitm Consulting) to consider is whether/ how to raise capital to invest in growing the business.

A great many other issues were covered but, as I'm sure you can appreciate a lot of our discussion was "commercial in confidence".

We finished just before 5.00 pm, and a small group of us went off in search of real ale, rather than join the throng at the hotel bar. We were taken to "The Wellington", which for proper beer drinkers is an experience not to be missed! Then, back to the hotel for dinner and a competition between the tables for the most amusing tale of past experience. Chatham House rules, of course!

I was up at 4.30 am on Tuesday for the drive back to London, a quick catch-up and the day's meetings.