Andrew has made a career out of injecting energy, ideas and discipline into small- to medium-sized high growth services companies for more than 20 years. He spent more than 11 years as the global COO of Fjord, an international innovation and design agency that was acquired by Accenture in 2013. As COO of Fjord, Andrew worked with the founders to develop the strategic direction for the agency, and oversaw financial and operational performance, investments, IT, HR and international expansion. While at Fjord and Accenture, he grew the agency from 50 FTEs to more than 1,400 FTEs and 36 global studios. He is now focused on helping founders and investors weave together a long-term vision with the right operational targets to produce an efficient and responsive delivery capability that attracts talent, strategic partnerships and fuels business growth.
Why are you so passionate about helping people-based businesses?
I believe there are so many ingenious ideas, products and services that can make the world a better place, which are all fighting to be experienced. Partnering with entrepreneurs to enable those ideas operationally and to build teams that can bring those products and services prime time gives me a natural high. I’m always seeking ways to make every business activity more impactful, and making teams feel more recognized and appreciated motivates me. To me it’s all about people and purpose. I want to give more people the opportunities I’ve had in building companies, to share my experiences and to unleash the next great service or product offering!
While you were at Fjord, you saw the firm grow from a small company to more than 1,400 people in 36+ cities. What were a few surprises for your leadership team during this journey?
The excitement of growing a business will always throw up surprises — both good and bad ! Most were manageable but there were a few that required a great deal of thought. For example, we knew our choice to be acquired by Accenture Interactive was founded on sound principles and business objectives, supported by a collaborative and protective acquiring team. However, I don’t think we fully appreciated the challenges that came with bringing together such different cultures. Navigating those decisions and challenges required more collaboration, communication and education (in both directions) for a longer period than anticipated but the positive results flowed from there.
Another example was experiencing the Peter Principle first-hand. Leading small studios and design teams by designers is cost effective and can work, however, elevating our best designers to lead large studios and countries with non-design demands became increasingly challenging, particularly given the speed of growth and increased client demands. We needed to become more intentional in this over time and we had to find proactive alternatives to our designers’ career aspirations.
When Fjord was acquired by Accenture, you helped lead the integration of the team into Accenture Interactive. What should services execs plan for when bringing a new firm into the fold after an acquisition?
For any acquisition to deliver on its intended purpose, the journey should start well before the deal is inked. It requires active senior leadership support and participation on both sides, a clearly articulated common purpose, and an underlying trust that both parties will seek solutions to every eventuality that wasn’t anticipated.Post-acquisition almost everything rests on authentic, effective and regular communication to the acquired team. Plan for this time and ensure the right people are delivering the messages. So much is assumed at this stage and assumptions often result in misunderstanding, distrust and attrition, which is the single biggest concern when acquiring a people-based business!
You’ve led a very diverse set of teams around the world – people who are technical, operational and creative in nature at startups and extremely large companies. What has that taught you about effective organizational design and how to scale teams and culture?
Peter Drucker infamously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve learned that having a collaboratively structured, well communicated, and empowering culture, will serve as the most important lens through which nearly every decision is made. Within this unique culture, team members need to be bold, generous, collaborative, communicative and always curious. Client engagements need to be fast, flexible, and people-operated. It’s even OK if they are a little unstable, as that ability to experiment without a fear of failure can go a long way. When designing companies, we should think more of a flotilla of multi-disciplined Hobie Cats than a single super-tanker.