CBO Projects, founded by Philip Smith in 2011, has reached a major milestone in its life as the corporate odometer clicks past 10 years in business. Those years have seen CBO grow to become the local market leader in management consultancy, with a 14-strong team of highly qualified consultants delivering everything from business acquisitions & mergers to systems implementations.
What, who & why?
Philip noticed a project management-shaped gap in the market while working for an IT services provider in 2010 and set about building an organisation to fill that gap.
“I could see projects failing due to some pretty basic management issues and really felt the need to help address that,” he said.
Philip’s deep technical knowledge and relentless drive were well suited to the challenges of starting a new business, and 10 years later they’re still paying dividends.
Joined by Alastair Bisson in 2013, the partners recognised the importance of values, particularly quality and reliability, in developing a Channel Islands business where reputation is critical. Alastair brought nearly 20 years of technology project and programme experience from his client-side time in companies as diverse as M&S, JP Morgan and Royal Mail. Both partners also brought a strong charitable focus, something that has stayed with the company ever since, developing into both individual staff and corporate contributions to Guernsey’s flourishing 3rd sector and charities outside the Bailiwick.
A major catalyst for growth arrived in the form of Ed Gowan in 2015. Ed’s thinking not only aligned very closely with the existing partners, but he also brought with him a wealth of experience in delivering major change programmes to the public sector.
Since 2015, the team has grown steadily, recruiting only the very best professionals available.
‘Our recruitment has always targeted character type,’ said Ed, who is now responsible for all aspects of team performance.
‘Finding people who really understood our DNA, who were genuinely willing to commit to our levels of quality, was incredibly challenging but that effort has been equally rewarding. We’ve worked hard on training, as you would expect, but it’s the underlying qualities of our team members that make this business work.’
Attracting great talent
‘The diversity and quality of, and the depth of our relationships with, our clients undoubtedly plays a key part in how attractive we are to potential recruits,’ said Philip.
‘The high levels of trust, developed through successful delivery of difficult change with our clients, helps the team understand the value they’re bringing. This sense of validation is an incredible motivator, and one that team members have shared with friends and family alike. That has brought some fantastic people our way and we’re privileged to have them as part of our team now.’
Industry changes in the last decade
Project management, as a profession, has seen huge developments since we started.
‘Our national standards bearer, the APM, gained its royal charter in 2016 and that has helped establish our skills, alongside accountancy, law and other professional services, in the minds of our clients. The days of asking staff to deliver projects on top of their day-to-day responsibilities seem to be waning as leaders recognise the benefits of applying a recognised method,’ said Alastair.
Philip has also borne witness to major changes over the years.
‘We’ve seen huge leaps forward in technology, such as cloud computing, mobile working and automation becoming the norm, and we’ve been there to help clients extract the maximum value from those changes, to help them genuinely transform the way they operate for the better,’ he said.
‘Regulation too has been through its own revolution, and we’ve supported businesses through the challenges of FATCA, CRS and GDPR as each requirement has hit the market. Being there for clients to rely on during these uncertain moments has been a huge privilege, and we’ve very much enjoyed rising to these challenges.’
Every single person that has joined the CBO team has brought something new (skills and character) to the team which has helped us grow and improve.
‘It’s always a highlight when you see team members hit a significant milestone outside of work, house moves, new babies, engagements, weddings – we’ve experienced them all at CBO,’ said Philip.
‘The annual CBO Summer Beach Party is another highlight, with clients, the CBO team and all their families enjoying a nice summer’s evening on one of Guernsey’s finest beaches. We’re really looking forward to hosting the next one, post-pandemic, to help celebrate this 10-year anniversary.’
The highlight for Alastair has been the development of the services offered, and the team to deliver them.
‘We started with the intention of being the best project management consultancy in the Channel Islands, but we quickly realised that supplementary services such as business analysis, change management and broader management consultancy were in huge demand locally, with very few skilled providers in the market. Recruiting and developing a skilled team to provide those services has been an amazing journey.’
To mark its 10-year anniversary, CBO has decided to undertake 10 different fundraising initiatives to benefit local charities.
‘We wanted our 10-year anniversary to be about giving back to the community in a meaningful way,’ said Philip, who added that ideas would be discussed in the coming weeks.
‘Since 2014, CBO has had an initiative in place whereby each staff member has an extra five days leave a year to put towards supporting a charity or community initiative of their choice. We wanted to expand on this to mark this milestone in the life of the company.’
The reasons for CBO’s success
Philip attributes CBO’s success to a few key factors.
‘The team has really taken to heart the founding principles of quality, reliability and value, and we feel that our clients see that in how we work. We’ve held onto that concept of doing the basics well since day one, and our team has done an amazing job of ensuring that is applied to every engagement with every client, every day.’
For Alastair it’s also been about the day-to-day application of those principles.
‘We converted our experience as clients, and our understanding of what we wanted from a business such as CBO, into the principles that underpin our business, and quality management was at the very heart of that. We may sound like a scratched record sometimes, but it really is that important to us,’ he said.
And for Ed, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s about the people: ‘We may have worked hard to provide a great home for our team, but it’s nothing compared to the effort our team have put in and the strength they provide as a result.’
CBO continues to grow, even in these challenging times, with its newest recruit joining in March. What the next 10 years will bring remains unknown, but the team looks forward to building CBO locally and internationally, and serving our clients with a growing portfolio of consultancy services.