When the consultants come…

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

Tough times prompt tough questions and I received a few of those this week. Our parent holding company has been spending a few quid on consultants to take a look at the shape of its portfolio and my division has fallen under the microscope.

Along with other members of the management team, I have been required to supply the strategy consultants with a whole host of financial and operational information relating to our brands. We have been told by the powers that be to drop everything, clear our diaries and to prioritise giving the consultants everything they may ask for.

Much of the information the consultants have requested already exists and is regularly sent to our group head office, so I spent much of the week slightly bemused that it chooses to pay an army of outsiders to inform them again about what it already knows. I have never been a management consultant but I do get to see their invoices and can only admire the consultancy business model. For the record, I am not bitter and I do begrudgingly accept that their Powerpoint charts are sometimes quite pretty.

At this time of year, when the office rumour mill is usually dominated by tales of the Christmas party, the gossip this week has been all about the sudden appearance of the consultancy hit squad. Santa may be relied on once a year, but these type of consultants only come down the chimney when something major is going on.

Like most UK PLCs, our balance sheet is a little more geared than it should be. Word on the street is that one or more of our brands may be on several people’s Christmas shopping list and could be sacrificed as we seek to pay off our credit card bill. This, of course, remains pure speculation, but the last week has certainly had a whiff of corporate due diligence as opposed to a seasonal strategy review.

I suspect that little will happen until the January sales, but it will be sad if one of my brands is forced to leave the stable. It is a timely reminder that despite my relative seniority, I am ultimately still a brand manager rather than brand owner. The year ahead promises to be another incredibly tough one and I suspect there will be a few special resolutions along the way.

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