Tom Peters speaks at our inaugural Global Symposium

There was a packed room at Cass Business School to hear Tom Peters, famed for his ‘In Search of Excellence’ and many subsequent widely read business books speak at the inaugural Global Symposium of the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence. He started by giving a powerful endorsement of the Centre: management consultancy like all other activities demands excellence, and he applauded the establishment of a Centre to promote this.

He gave the audience of members and distinguished guests an amusing and insightful account of how he came to write his first book after being stimulated by a wonderful display of ballet dancing.

His key message was simple – look after your people and they will look after you. He quoted Gary Hamel – strategy in six words ‘Hard is soft; soft is hard!’; in other words, anyone can fiddle the numbers to get a budget to agree, it takes real skill to find, look after, and keep the best people you can find on your team.

His told us that it’s the medium size firm that will show innovation and growth especially when you look at the longer-term return on assets employed. He also offered a few suggestions on who you want as members of your board. With ten directors, have at least three women – they are better leaders and do most of the buying. Have at least one successful non-business individual – an artist or writer. Make sure you have a couple of people under thirty (and no-one over sixty!). Have a spreadsheet whizz but don’t let them make the decisions and keep the MBA’s to a minimum.

Our co-host, Marianne Lewis, Dean of Cass Business School who had helped arrange Tom’s visit took all this with a twinkle in her eye but promised to review the school’s MBA programme. We had a lively question and answer session followed by extended animated conversations over refreshments.