Skipp Williamson has over 30 years of experience assisting companies to unleash their potential. She has worked in Australasia, Africa, Europe and North and Latin America, spanning mining and most metals and minerals processing. She worked for five years on strategy and performance at McKinsey and then formed Partners in Performance International in 1996. Her work has spanned volume, safety, costs, procurement, logistics, contractor management, maintenance, and capital.
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Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Skipp Williamson: With over 30 years experience assisting companies to unleash their potential, I have worked in Australasia, Africa, Europe and North and Latin America, spanning mining and most metals and minerals processing. I worked for five years on strategy and performance at McKinsey and then formed Partners in Performance International in 1996. My work has spanned volume, safety, costs, procurement, logistics, contractor management, maintenance, and capital.
Can you tell our readers in what ways you are disrupting your industry?
Skipp Williamson: Twenty-five years ago, I started Partners in Performance with a focus on fully delivered impact that lasts. In order to do that, we’ve had to break free from the traditional consulting model in a few ways:
- Having ‘skin in the game’ with our clients – we’re committed to tangible results and we demonstrate that commitment by being paid for the impact we deliver
- Making changes with clients, not to them. We work alongside our clients throughout the consulting process to develop solutions that work for them
- Working to break the consultant dependency model by ensuring an organisation has the tools, systems and capability to continuously improve on their own, after we’ve finished working with them
For us, it’s been a steady march of improving how we work with our clients, and how to integrate our solutions into their systems, processes and behaviours so our work becomes an owned outcome that actually lasts.
Over time, we have steadily built the digital tools we use to support this ongoing improvement for clients and the industries we serve.
This innovation is manifested in five areas:
- A value-based mindset that asks “What needs to be improved, so that our client doesn’t need to keep hiring consultants to assist with their challenges?” We take the time to understand what the issues are – not just in outcomes, but across the organisation – and then address the root drivers of those issues. We aim to truly drive positive impact and change where it is most needed.
- Much of our work focuses on improving the ‘wiring’ of an organisation. The ‘wiring’ of an organisation is roughly defined by how it behaves and performs. Often, wiring is built unconsciously by companies, leading to mistakes that prevent them from achieving their goals and generating a huge loss of energy for all concerned. Taking a considered and deliberate approach, organisations can successfully hardwire desired employee behaviour by creating a demand for improvement and then defining the right way of working and the path of least resistance.
- We work extensively on coaching and building the right capabilities to help create lasting impact – ensuring that the organisation has the capability to continue to repair and improve processes after our work has ended.
- We set clear expectations, laying out how the organisation is performing upfront and where their desired end state is. This has flow-on effects – the habits, skills and systems of delivery excellence create a major uplift in an organisation’s ability to be focused and deliver what really matters, fully and at pace. Rather than pushing improvements into the organisation, we create a culture within our clients which seeks continual improvement.
- We engage our clients and their people in solution design, ensuring they understand and own the solutions. This accelerates the journey and helps to ensure it lasts. We also work to ensure leadership alignment, to provide clarity from the top down.
Did you become a disruptor by choice or by necessity? Tell us more about the journey.
Skipp Williamson: I was working for a traditional management consulting firm where the focus was on producing excellent recommendations for clients. When I went back to visit my clients, I was concerned to see that many recommendations weren’t implemented or were not working properly. After this experience, I ensured Partners in Performance moved to a model focused on fully delivered impact and committing our fees ,and indeed the way the whole firm is wired, to be dependent on the magnitude of the impact delivered.
I was also a classical diversity story – being female and LGBTI, I had limited mentoring and informal networks to show me how the consulting system worked. I felt I was swimming against the current – so I left. At the time, not being picked up by the stream of the norm was very painful and confusing. In hindsight, it catapulted me into a different world and I am forever grateful for it.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Skipp Williamson: 25 years ago, as a woman you were not considered a real player – the biggest challenge was getting meetings with decision makers and influencers who, at the time, were almost all men. So, the greatest challenge was even getting through the door to get meetings. The consulting world was full of unspoken privilege and rules, so if you weren’t part of the club, you didn’t have that view into what was going on and how the system worked.
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Skipp Williamson: I was lucky enough to have a group of distinguished and connected peers who bought into my purpose and goal of disrupting the traditional consulting model in favour of a client-focused approach that led to real, lasting value. I’m extremely grateful to those people who stuck with us and helped develop the proof of concept that a client-first, true partnership approach is the only way to deliver lasting, high performance.
Once we did get that first big engagement, and we started to see the success in what we were doing, that’s where we really started to develop and improve our methodology. We owe a debt of gratitude to that first client that believed in our philosophy enough to hire us when we were so completely unknown.
How did these lessons shape the way you conduct business today?
Skipp Williamson: The more organisations we worked with, the more we started to peel the onion and really understand what was going on at each layer. It’s been a constant evolution as we have honed our methodology and approach. We’ve learned that true partnership is critical to driving change and making it last.
To this day, our focus as a firm remains on delivering real impact that lasts. Every day, we learn how to make slight improvements, and with ever-changing technologies and emerging frameworks to look at the world, we keep improving the lived experience of our clients.
What advice do you wish you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Skipp Williamson: Winning work is everything. If anyone ever offers to bring you work – reward them handsomely on success. Find those people. Build your network and surround yourself with incredible people who have skills and talents that cover your gaps. I’m lucky to have an amazing team around me who allow us to do what we do, really well.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Skipp Williamson: I love seeing people create something that they’re passionate about, and then driving it further. We have amazing people in our team, and I find it really exciting that people are pushing the boundaries and taking the firm in a different direction, almost every day. For our clients, my proudest moment is seeing their people step up to own and drive change, to see the change it has in their organisation and the people in it. It’s that element of ‘Unleashing Potential’ – coaching people to see their potential and then giving them the tools and skills to reach out and make it a reality.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Skipp Williamson: I am looking forward to when people can physically come back together – while it is easy to maintain high technical performance remotely, it is hard to maintain the strong relationships that are so important for fun and connectedness we all crave from work.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Skipp Williamson: Functionally – I am an avid podcast listener and I also like doing short, six-to-eight-week courses at universities – I find these a great way to open one’s eyes to new topics. I also like to travel and see new things. In sport, yoga seems to have an endless string of new poses and while I know inner peace comes from perfecting the most basic of poses and breathing. I love achieving poses that seem impossible at first.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Skipp Williamson for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Skipp Williamson or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin
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