Q&A: A conversation with Slalom's Pat Meade, one of Consulting magazine's Top Consultants 2015
Pat Meade, general manager of Slalom’s western region, was named one of Consulting magazine’s Top 25 Consultants in 2015. Pat was selected out of 400 nominations for his commitment to great client service and excellence in leadership. We talked to Pat about what this award means to him, the benefits of aligning Slalom’s seven western markets, and why it’s important to be on the front lines with clients and consultants.
Congratulations on being recognized as one of Consulting magazine’s Top 25 Consultants. How have client expectations changed over the years? What do you think companies need to look for in a consulting partner today?
I think clients want more from their consultants. They’re looking for deep expertise, whether it’s in technical areas, business processes, or new trends in certain industries.
So we need to continue to up our game. We need to continue to evolve. Consulting is becoming more and more of an attractive field for professionals, and it’s only going to continue to be a more competitive marketplace. It’s important that we stay at the forefront, and continue to push ourselves and look for new and innovative ways to serve our clients.
What does great client service mean to you? How do we deliver the best to our clients?
It’s not about being the smartest person in the room. We need to work with our clients to do things together. Communication, honesty, caring—these are all critical attributes that we bring to our clients every day.
People work with people they like. We need to continue to bring a likeable bunch of folks to the mix, day in and day out, and stay true to our core values—things like taking ownership and getting things done, doing what’s right, and staying humble and curious.
You’re the GM for Slalom’s western region of seven markets—it sounds like a big job. Why was there was a need for this role?
We’ve got 17 markets across the world today and are growing. It was becoming difficult for us to stay in sync across the multiple geographies we serve. We also didn’t want to lose our ability to be nimble and make decisions quickly.
So we formed the West to be an incubator of sorts for the rest of the company. We laid out six key reasons for the regional move: to drive growth, eliminate redundancy, provide better management support to our markets, achieve stability, provide more quality control on major initiatives, and strengthen our network.
We’ve had several initiatives to bring more commonalities to how we do business. We’ve really seen a lot of economies of scale by doing that. It allows us to talk the same language and be much more efficient. In the past, all the market leaders have run their businesses similarly, but differently in ways. What we’ve seen by forming the West is that we’re able to put some commonalities in place without crushing that entrepreneurial spirit that we have.
What are some of the biggest challenges of trying to develop those commonalities across seven markets?
I think we were a little worried about what that would look like, going into it. A big reason that men and women come to Slalom is that entrepreneurial spirit: that ability to run your own market, but still be part of a $700 million–dollar organization.
But it’s been very well received, and I think that’s partly because of how we approached it—it’s not heavy handed, dictating that markets do this or that. As an example, we all agreed about why it made sense for us to run and report on our businesses in the same way.
We’ve also done a lot of people sharing between markets. We’ve had our managing directors from all seven markets go to other markets, and we’ve seen great connections. We’ve seen new business come out of it. We’ve seen new ideas come out of it. We’ve built new friendships and figured out better ways for us to work together.
It sounds like the markets were hungry for that common connection.
Yes. I don’t think we knew it … but we were. It’s made our lives better and more efficient. It’s given us more time in the day to be in front of our clients, prospects, and consultants.
What do you think makes a great leader?
Humility is key to a leader’s success. It’s about our team, the outcomes we all want. Not about the individual. It goes back to our philosophy around servant leadership. If you have the mindset that you’re going to help others and put them in positions to be successful—that’s the best way to work in your role and to help people achieve their greatness.
We have a very “doer” approach to leadership at Slalom. I’d like to think we’re not just giving advice; we’re actually on the front lines with our consultants and clients.
What are some of your goals in the year ahead?
First and foremost, for all of the [western] markets to be very healthy, financially and culturally. We started our Phoenix market about nine months ago, and we’ve already achieved profitability, and great things are in store for that market.
[Last year], we took the Bay area market and split it into San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Since that’s happened, we’ve seen amazing success—they’re probably the two best performing markets in the country. We’ve seen tremendous growth that’s created great opportunities for our men and women; attrition has also decreased.
So we intend to mimic that model in Southern California. That’s something that I’m super excited about. We’ve not met our potential in that market yet, and certainly feel like this is one step to do that.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I think it’s really more of a reflection on our company being recognized. I’m proud of what our organization has done. I’m proud of the growth we’ve had. I’m proud of the kind of company we are. I don’t really think of it as a personal highlight.