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Interview Quint's CEO Maurice Boon: Daring to be different

In Amsterdam’s old city, the last remaining gunpowder factory stands from the 1700s, a testament to flourishing times hundreds of years ago when the mill manufactured explosives to arm naval ships in Holland in battle against the Spanish, English and Portuguese.  It is here where Maurice Boon chose to establish the headquarters for leading global consulting firm Quint Wellington Redwood several years back. Perhaps the red-brick building with its beaconing tower appealed to Boon’s past 10-year history as a marine officer in the Royal Netherlands Navy. 

Quint-CEO-Maurice-BoonBut it also speaks to the identity Quint sees for itself over the next decade as an independent boutique advisory firm that isn’t afraid to take risks and be open, while remaining tight-knit and true to its 264 employees – known as “Quinters.” Where it’s situated also tells employees and customers this is a different type of firm that embodies its mission of “Dare to Challenge.”Quint’s niche identity as a boutique firm versus a large corporate is something Boon fought to maintain against two prior shareholders who wanted to grow through acquisitions and opening new country offices. These differences in where Quint was headed led to a management buyout that resulted in Boon being named CEO in November 2013. The ‘new’ Quint is dedicated to expanding its consultancy portfolio and international position with an emphasis on delivering added value. And being named top of this year’s World’s Best Advisor List validates that strategy for Boon, who shared with Pulse what he’s learned at the helm, who inspired him and how he sees himself running a ‘family business.’ 

What does being ranked #1 on the World’s Best Advisors mean to Quint?

It is an honor and an important acknowledgment that Quint is on track and seen by the market as a thought leader and best advisor on Sourcing and Sourcing Governance. It is an important step for the further globalization of Quint.

How does it feel to be CEO?

It feels great. It opens new doors to our customers and it gives me the opportunity to build a company according to our professional standards, which are focus, transparent, dedication and being people and customer centric.

Tell me about the management buyout.

In early 2013, we had some differences in the company about the strategy and positioning of Quint. At that time, the CEO and some shareholders were more in the volume game. The consulting part of the business said: “We want to stay in our niche. We want to grow and we have an ambition. Our purpose is to not just go for the volume. It’s to go for the value.”

How did it change things?

For most of our employees and customers the Management Buy Out process itself was not on top of mind or even known. For them, 2013 was ‘business as usual.’ The MBO process led to only a few managers leaving Quint. What was more important and also within the minds of our employees and some of our customers were questions about the strategy and positioning of Quint.

How has your strategy changed?

First, we have refocused Quint as an independent boutique advisory firm. Like a boutique shop, we have a highly specialized portfolio of services focusing on six practice areas: Sourcing Advisory, Sourcing & IT Governance, Lean IT, Service Management, Benchmarking, and Architecture & Security. We have extensive knowledge and experience in the IT services providers but we don’t deliver IT services ourselves. Also related to this independency is that we see outsourcing as just one of the potential instruments to speed-up time to market, to reduce costs, to improve customer satisfaction, etc. In some cases we do advise our customers not to outsource and to use other available instruments like Lean IT to realize their goals.

Second, we are focusing on thought leadership on a global scale instead of country by country. Starting this year, our consulting practices are being managed from a global point of view. This allows us to build and share knowledge and best practices. It also makes sense because we see so many new initiatives and client cases that are supported by consultants all over the world (in Asia, U.S., North of Europe, South of Europe and even in Japan). We have identified seven global accounts in the Netherlands, U.S., Spain, Asia and Italy that will bring us to the next step. One example is Mapfre, a large insurance company in Spain covering the U.S. and Latin America, where Quint is working with the COO/CIO to build a lean practice. This is great example of a launching customer for us for globalization.  Third, we have a people-centric approach and are focused on developing and involving our staff. We want to run our business as a family business with open, direct communications with more focus on leadership than on the management structure.

Tell me about how outsourcing fits into your practices.

Our sourcing advisory practice includes outsourcing, insourcing, co-sourcing, right-sourcing, etc. Sourcing and Sourcing Governance are important practice areas for us. These practices have grown since they started 12 years ago, around the same time as the first outsourcing initiatives in Europe. Now it accounts for half our business at Quint. Even during the financial crisis, our sourcing consulting grew year over year. All our Certified Outsourcing Professionals (COP) work in these practices as experts.

What have you learned about being CEO?

The CEO position to me is all about communication and inspiration to our employees and our customers. Quint is in a people business internally and externally so I see the taking care of our employees and our customers as my most important focus areas. People need to have a clear view on why they work for or with Quint. What do they see as the main differentiators of Quint as employer or as advisor? And specifically for our employees:  What is the impact of the MBO on me?

How have you communicated to employees about the MBO?

The last five months, I have been on the road to tell the story behind the MBO, the story about our ambition and the story about what do we expect from them and what they can expect from us as a leadership team.

Tell me about how you select your employees.

There’s a strong culture at Quint. Before we hire someone, he or she has to present to a group of about 10 people and have an open discussion about their personal and professional lives and their ambitions. Then, they are hired by a thumbs up or thumbs down. So people are not just hired by management, they are hired by Quint or Quinters. We invite them to be part of the family. This is the best selection model we’ve had for the last 15 years and it works.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud that a small group of management team members managed to start living our dream to build Quint the way we want it to be. It was some kind of a no guts, no glory adventure. This was all about teamwork and personal commitment.

Tell me what your “Dare to Challenge” tagline means.

Dare to Challenge is what differentiates Quint and our consultant from other companies. It’s about challenging and improving not only our own employees and the company but also our clients to implement changes that deliver true results, outperform the competition and create a measurable return on investment. About 60 to 80 percent of our contracts are based on a result-driven approach. We put our fees at risk and commit ourselves to the improvements that we tell our customers we can manage for them - it can be cost savings, productivity gains, improved time to market, innovation, etc.

Who are your role models?

Roelof Douwstra, who is one of the founders of Quint 22 years ago and is still a main shareholder, said “if you can’t share, you can’t multiply.” This means - if you start sharing success and sharing knowledge, you can create a group, a company and family and all together you will grow much faster. If you sit around a table with a few guys and you have a small cake, everyone is thinking of their part only. You should first think about growing the cake because dividing a big cake is much easier than dividing a small cake.From Gerdy Harteveld, a former Managing Director of mine at PinkRoccade, I learned the “customer is always the highest priority.”

John van Dalsum, a sergeant major in the Naval marines, taught me the most important lesson: If you take care of your Marines (or people), they will take care of you. In the Naval Academy, I learned the basics of leadership and how to work in small professional teams, to be people centric, committed to results and get the competitive edge. As an officer, you don’t go to the officer’s mess and have a coffee there, you work with your people and have coffee with them.

How is that applied at Quint?

We are building a people business and a people business is built on leadership and not a management structure. I know most of our employees by name and by hand. If I visit a country, I don’t go for a day. I visit for a few weeks, work at the office with the people and visit customers with them. Earlier this year, I traveled to see our employees in Japan, India, Southern Europe, Middle East, U.S. and Asia. You have to keep in mind the different cultures and it’s not always easy. But transparency, open communication, professionalism and teamwork are values we want present in all our countries.

What are your favorite things to read?

Tom Clancy kind of books

What do you like to eat on the road and at home?

Italian and Asian food

Source: IAOP Pulse Magazine

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