The world is changing, and a new economy is throwing the old one off balance. New technologies and trends are transcending traditional business environments – not just in terms of production, but all the links and processes in a company’s value chain. “If we want to be able to support our clients in this new reality, it’s important that we adapt our own strategy, our internal organisation, and our business plan accordingly,” says Gert Maris, Partner and Sales Director BDO Belgium. “This is one of the reasons we no longer approach the market primarily from the perspective of traditional, multidisciplinary ‘vertical’ services – such as ‘finance’, ‘audit’, ‘legal’, etc. – but simultaneously from the perspective of the horizontal operations of the industries.”
Another reason is that the boundaries between traditional services, disciplines and industries are blurring at lightning speed. The private equity sector, for example, has more in common with the transport sector than it might seem at first sight. And vice versa. “Sustainability, for instance, plays a key role in how both industries position and differentiate themselves in the market. Investors want to know how sustainable the haulier works in order to be able to justify their investment decision. And to be compliant with ESG reporting (on the environmental, social and governance consequences of the activities). In other words, you must be able – and not afraid – to look beyond the boundaries of your own sector to understand that developments in other industries can also impact the sector you are operating in.”
Eye-opener and challenger
When you know and understand what is going on in an industry and why, you can ask clients the right questions. Or clients can point out trends or evolutions that have (or will have) an impact on their activities. “Companies and organisations too often focus – subconsciously – primarily on their own day-to-day business,” says Gert from experience. “The input of an independent third party with a cross-business and cross-sector helicopter view is more than welcome as an eye-opener or challenger.”
Even the fact that you, as a consultant, feel the obstacles a company has to tackle day-in and day-out gives confidence. “Besides, if you can explain this knowledge and know-how of the sector in an international context, the opportunities and solutions that you offer take on an extra dimension – while, at the same time, your value as a sparring partner increases.” Also read the article ‘Cross-pollination becomes a lever for growth in the real estate & construction industry’, p. 12.
Moreover, this sector approach is in every company’s interest, regardless of its scale. Local SMEs don’t always have the resources to stay in close touch with what is going on in their sector in the medium- and long-term. They are definitely interested in a sparring partner that will help them decide on the strategic direction to take. In turn, large corporations are looking for partners with broad, in-depth experience with the various aspects of (international) projects within their sector.
Together with Living Tomorrow
In short, the more experience, knowledge and know-how we can accumulate (and substantiate) as a sparring partner or confidential advisor, the stronger our ‘thought leadership’ and services become. The partnership with innovation campus Living Tomorrow fits in perfectly with this story. Gert: “You can either choose to stand on the side-lines and passively undergo it or you can ride the wave of change and turn it to your own good advantage. We must keep in step with a world that is changing much faster than we could have ever imagined, while steering clear of tunnel vision. We must not (and we do not want to) get stuck in the belief that our way is the only way. Essentially, this means that the partnership with Living Tomorrow allows us to consolidate our market position as an innovative player and business challenger.”