Perspective interviews interim manager, Mark Brooks-Belcher
Mark, firstly can you tell us a bit about your career to date and what projects you have undertaken in an Interim capacity?
For 20 years I worked at Thomson Reuters, the multinational media and information firm. My time there included roles in every sales function; from inside sales to Global Sales Director. I also worked in cross functional departments including time as Head of Operations. Since leaving, I have undertaken two interim engagements; the first lasted for 18 months and was focused on sales & marketing performance along with change management; the other I’m still currently doing.
What do you consider to be your core specialisms?
My main specialisms centre around account management and sales management. I have a highly successful personal track record and am experienced in managing local and remote teams across all industry sectors and geographies. In terms of individual skill-sets, I focus on sales performance; driving sales & marketing efficiencies; marketing & communication; change management; Global Trade Management Assessment; managing matrix environments - not only across functions but geographies and functions; along with operational efficiencies
How has sales and marketing specifically evolved as a discipline over the past 10 years?
Like most areas in business it has evolved hugely over the past decade. The move from commoditised to value propositions has been huge as has the growing popularity of managed service providers – both are reshaping the way we do business. Also, international markets are becoming far more accessible which means we have the ability to provide greater support - both globally and locally.
On the communications side, strides in digital marketing and social media have revolutionised how businesses engage with their customers and promote brand awareness. This means clients and prospects are better informed thanks to greater market and industry knowledge. Finally, companies and organisations are the most cost consciousness they’ve ever been and many are sweating their assets in order to increase efficiencies. These kinds of trends are here to stay so it’s essential to understand, embrace and drive them forward.
You work internationally so what are the main challenges you face when working across multiple territories?
There are, of course, many – but time zones and the ability to work with them (not against them) take centre stage. You need to get over the inconvenience quickly as there’s no way around them! Cultural differences are another issue which can make or break a working relationship. It’s not just on a personal level as there are vastly difference etiquettes and accepted ways of doing business around the world. Once you make a mistake or faux-pas, you tend not to do it again!
It’s great that we live in a digital world and the benefits of emails, WebEx and Skype are all well and good. But in my opinion you still need to see the people you’re working with in order to be able to create an effective partnership. Time spent travelling and taking the time to see the whites of someone’s eyes can lead to a far longer and stronger working relationship.
Which of your skills are most in demand at the moment?
For the reasons stated above, driving sales & marketing performances; change management; and the creation of process/protocol and operational efficiencies are all at the top of most clients’/ businesses’ lists of needs.
What factors are driving the need for change management in particular?
There are varying factors depending on the individual business that are broadly similar across all industries. For example, they could be in growth, financially underperforming or needing to fundamentally change the way they do things to ensure they remain competitive and agile.
What are the most common cultural changes that come about after a change management programme?
The main outcomes I witness tend to be about positivity, collegiality and community. An effective change management programme should instil more focus and passion which in turn stimulates revitalisation with the ultimate outcome being better results.
Have you seen a shift in attitudes over the past few years towards interims and the value they can add?
There’s definitely more of an acceptance for an interim’s core skills & competencies when they come from outside of a particular industry. There’s also less reluctance to want to follow the same tried and tested path and to take a calculated risk. As Albert Einstein said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Finally, any words of advice for readers of Perspective who may be thinking of becoming an Interim?
Do it! It will give you the opportunity to use skills that you may have neglected or forgotten you had. The sense of getting excited again about going to work is infectious. Where else could you have the chance to potentially work in different industries and different geographies and help a company realise its true potential?
The best CEO I ever worked for once said to me: “Great leaders ask why; exceptional leaders ask why not?”
So, why not?