The art of Transformation in a rapidly changing world.
Interview of Ferdinand Balfoort by Katy Roberts – Published 7th November TalMix
For an independent consultant to arrive in Poland, armed with just a suitcase and his best intuition and experience, with a remit to set up a new division for Coopers and Lybrand (now PwC), one would think it’s probably do-able. But for that same independent consultant to not only setup, recruit and build the business, but to grow that business to an 85-strong person business and surpass revenue and growth targets, well that takes a special kind of person. Talmix consultant Ferdinand did just that in the rapidly changing environment of Poland in the 1990’s, and shares his take on economic challenges and predictions for 2018 with us.
The road from Sheep and Strawberries to Oil and Gas
“I started my career in New Zealand. My parents had emigrated from the Netherlands, and as a trainee accountant for a country practice doing the books for sheep and strawberry farmers, I gradually started to build my career,” he tells me. And it was when Ferdinand decided to enlarge his career prospects through an undergraduate degree in commercial law and marketing while at the same time studying to complete his professional accounting qualifications, that Ferdinand realised he was on the path to accomplish great things. “After a while, I realised that I needed to move my career towards internal auditing and that’s when I got a job with Mobil Oil in Wellington (Now Exxon Mobil) – where my career prospects offered me more than the countryside did, at the time.” He accredits his time with Mobil Oil as the start of a truly international, and successful career. “While at Mobil, I received the best training, and understanding of policies and procedures and corporate governance frameworks– which formed my strong grounding in Accounting and corporate governance,” he says. And from that point, Ferdinand’s career has seen him set up a consulting practice in Cambodia, covering projects in Saigon and working with larger, global, organisations.
Having worked across industry, including Telecoms, Logistics, Cleantech, MedTech and more, Ferdinand has been in the driving seat for many corporate turnarounds and growth initiatives – which places him perfectly in strategic seat to gauge economic developments and pitfalls from a numbers but also operational and restructuring perspective.
Picking the right team strategy that sees you into the future
“A big part of my current role is rooted in corporate finance and impact advisory,” he tells me. “The most important thing about any challenge that a company is facing, is having the right team in place to do a job – regardless of where you are in the process. Sometimes, when companies start out on a journey, your focus is growth. And sometimes, in that growth, you make the mistake of picking the wrong team. You pick the team for now, but neglect to pick the team, or have the right team strategy, that will serve you today, and in the long run. As a result, your team dynamics end up suffering,” he tells me. “The other issue that many organisations face is the lack of ability to prepare sufficient documentation and develop effective processes. We have a world of information overload – but yet, there are very few professionals who are able to capture and interpret the key learnings of that information and translate it into something that feeds back into the strategy and transformation of a business. Take a look at impact reports – not having these, or an accurate interpretation of these, could absolutely serve as the difference between success and failure,” he says. Ferdinand believes that the lack of good project management skills is something he sees in almost every business he works with. “The art of successful project management is having the ability to be a strategic thinker as well as being detail-orientated,” which is exactly where Ferdinand excels – thanks to his years of experience of having built and delivered successful business growth and transformation strategies.
And what about the future?
I ask Ferdinand what his predictions for 2018 are, and he doesn’t hesitate to tell me. “We’re going to see a huge acceleration of cognitive learning and AI solutions coming into the market. This change is going to be exponential. Cognitive learning will be disrupting the professional employment market – and we already see it happening with EY’s announcement that they’re implementing AI and Cognitive Learning in place to replace certain aspects of their repeatable Audit processes. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the larger organisations starting this tidal wave, it’s just a matter of time before others follow to remain competitive,” he shares. Ferdinand tells me that the market is being driven by consumer demand. And where a solution may be more expensive, if it gives the consumer a quicker, more efficient and effective experience, they are more likely to select the automated option. “The other thing to consider is that the market itself is transforming rapidly. Companies don’t have as much top line profitability growth anymore – which means that they’re getting their growth from reducing their costs. And for many, that means automation. So, to them, the biggest item on the agenda is not necessarily embracing tech or automation – they already know they need to do that – but rather, the harmonising and standardising of workforce systems and process for financial reporting practices. As more and more companies are falling foul of corporate scandals, they are going to want to automate more – to avoid any nasty surprises and ensure consistency in compliance.”
Ferdinand is an experienced and long-term driver for growth and excellence in financial reporting practices and corporate transformations. For your opportunity to work with him, get in touch with your Talmix representative today.
About the Author
Katy is an independent marketing consultant and founded Fresh Brew Marketing out of her love for the cuppa. A seasoned marketer, Katy writes for several global publications and provides outsourced marketing services to businesses throughout the UK. She is a keen geocacher and rates running around in city centres dressed in Christmas lights as one of her most successful Social Media campaigns to date.