Q&A: A conversation with Slalom Denver’s Brian Turner
May 13, 2015
Denver’s business landscape is changing, demanding a new level of technical acumen and leadership. With the hire of Managing Director Binh Diep, Slalom Denver is answering the call.
We talked with Slalom Denver General Manager Brian Turner about how our clients’ needs are changing, the investments he’s making to meet those needs, and why curiosity is one of the top qualities he looks for in a consultant.
Slalom is the largest local consulting firm in Denver. How do you think that benefits our clients?
It benefits our clients by giving them the ability to scale to solve their problems. The local firm keeps us small enough to be intimate. We’re able to partner with clients on a whole different level compared to some of the larger companies.
At the same time, being the largest of the local firms gives us the ability to deliver solutions to our clients’ most strategic business challenges. Specifically when it comes to being able to scale across their organizations and bring them cutting-edge technology. We couldn’t do that if we were a 20- or 30-person firm.
You’re making some big investments in Denver’s technology practice. Was that in response to a growing need in the market?
It definitely was. As we’ve earned the strategic seat at the table with our clients, their expectations have increased. They’re expecting knowledge capital; they’re expecting a perspective in the market; they’re expecting an extra layer of value in the types of solutions, the delivery, and the level of dedication.
We’ve always invested heavily in the leadership of Slalom. I think this next level of investment is to not only bring a great group of people and expertise to our clients’ doorsteps, but really bring leadership that understands what they’re trying to accomplish from a business perspective and deliver. So that was a big reason why we brought on a new managing director as we continue to grow our various technology offerings.
What kind of business shifts are you seeing in Denver?
Data is becoming a huge part of every company, across industries. Whether you’re on the analytics or business side, you need to understand how to organize your data from a technology perspective and then connect it to run your business.
That’s a big thing that our clients need: help integrating their data into their business. We bring in expertise across our practice areas, whether it’s technology enablement, systems integrations, or digital. Connecting those business areas and not having them run in silos is absolutely critical.
We’ve been investing in those areas for the last few years, but now we’re really entering as a leader that can integrate across those practices, as well as have the discipline to deliver.
What do you think makes a great consultant? What are some of the qualities that you look for when you’re hiring?
For me, curiosity and accountability. You’ve got to truly be curious and want to help your clients with their problems. You need to truly understand the business value to the clients.
From an accountability perspective, it’s easy to do the job you’re being asked, but it’s about approach, thinking of different items the client may not be thinking of, and applying experience from other projects. If you’re a consultant you have a variety of experiences to pull from, and those are valuable to the client.
Can you tell us about one of your first career mistakes and how you learned from it?
I think my earliest career mistake was that I assumed I needed to know everything—that I needed to have the answer, and if I wasn’t on the front step of knowledge that I needed to do a train-up and be the expert in the room.
I’ve learned to appreciate being a learner, and really dive into every opportunity not just as a way to bring value, but as a way to learn and build knowledge and build relationships. My consulting partnerships became much clearer.
At this point in my career, I’m confident in the value that I bring. Having that confidence gives me the ability to sit back and truly learn and listen at a different level to our clients, which is critical. You’re not going to have all the right answers unless you learn and listen.
What are you most looking forward to at Slalom in the year ahead?
I’ve worked with consulting firms at a variety of stages in their growth. Today at Slalom, I’ve never seen a better base of people, in terms of skill, intelligence, and work ethic. That’s what’s going to help us be a changing force in consulting, along with an extreme awareness of what we don’t want to become just as much as what we do.
So I’m really looking forward to how we change the game of consulting by becoming one of the first companies that keeps its culture and the core of who it is as it grows beyond that billion-dollar mark.
And what do you think we need to do to maintain our culture and keep that solid foundation?
I think we need to stick to our values; always do the right thing for our clients and our people.
And then we’ve got to be honest with ourselves the whole way. Be transparent with our people and with our clients about what our business is and who we’re becoming. You always have to be tending to that and adjusting along the way.