After sitting down with Active’s Karl Pemberton and Ben Murphy from NECS, our MD Mark recently caught up with SPURR’s Jonathan Lamb at the beautifully restored Zetland Hotel to discuss the importance of aligning brand with business strategy.
Based in Teesside, SPURR are a strategy consulting service that reflects modern business, with a focus on a sustainable competitive advantage and delivering results. With over 20 years’ experience of growing market-leading companies , Jonathan is SPURR’s Managing Director and face of the brand. He talked to Mark about brand investment, their values and plans for future growth.
Tell me a little about SPURR?
Having worked in a number large and medium size businesses for over 20 years, helping them create and execute strategy, I saw a gap.
Many industries have transformed over the past two decades both responding to technology and also adapting to new expectations about how a service should be delivered, but strategy consulting has been slow to respond. I saw that and thought the mid-market deserved something better.
I do this from Teesside and my focus is on North East England and North Yorkshire.
What are SPURR famous for?
The range of services offered to clients can be end to-end strategic planning, help with strategy execution, designing and implementing strategic planning systems, critical strategy reviews and tune-ups.
What is the best thing about your job?
Definitely the variety of people, businesses and challenges faced. When you look around the boardroom and you see the ambition in the eyes of your clients and the opportunity to achieve great things, you can’t help but be excited.
How was the SPURR brand born?
Since 2000 when I did my MDA at Durham University, I had an interest in the consulting industry. I liked the intellectual challenge and had the utmost respect for the achievement of McKinsey’s and Bains. My personal interest has always been in business strategy, I just found it incredible interesting and rewarding. So after much research, as I said, I saw a gap and decided to create SPURR.
The name is a family name which lapsed in use so I wanted to bring it back. It was short, easy to remember and had the connotation of forward movement and being a catalyst.
What role does branding plays in the business?
When I first started the company, the consulting model I introduced was reflective of our values and helped shaped the competitive advantage.
I was pretty clear about values, personality and differential advantage but what I didn’t have was a way of expressing it with internal and external communications. But building the brand from effectively the inside out has allowed our true character to shine through, all while making sure we’re firmly aligned with our industry position, point of difference and vision for the future.
What makes you different and how do you stand out?
There aren’t many pure strategy consultants for the mid-market and there’s a reason for that, it’s hard work. Many people who are interested will probably go and work for the multi-national consultants and that’s fine of course, but what it means is a market not well served.
SPURR’s difference is firstly it provides this cutting-edge consulting services. Secondly it’s personalised, that means driven by the needs of the business and personal motivations of the leaders within the company; and finally we’re responsive which means open, easy to use and agile.
How is your brand influenced by your culture and values?
The way I approach it is that it’s really important that SPURR’s values match that of the client. If they do, the projects will maintain a momentum and focus to deliver results; remember SPURR is here to help businesses achieve great things so it’s not a quick fix – full client commitment is essential.
How is your brand and marketing activity linked to commercial growth?
Integrated communications are key so I always think whether it’s website, social media, networking, events, business cards or proposals, they are all moment of truth–point where clients, suppliers and channels think to themselves ‘is this match what we expected?’. So what I’d say is that the brand is pretty much on PLAN A, but the expression of that plan has been fine-tuned based on direct feedback. For example some of the terminology has changed to be less technical and the use of trusted networks of businesses, shareholders and directors has been key.
How do you measure ROI and what’s been the impact of your brand investment?
While many perceive that investing in defining and creating your brand is intangible, we’ve definitely seen direct and quantifiable results. Metrics such as website traffic and social media reaction are usually a good starting point, but we’ve also heard other feedback like kind comments from clients and partners about our communications activity.
I also wouldn’t underestimate the gut feeling you have from the brand investment, a sense of confidence that your communications represents what you stand for, what you offer and why you stand out.
As your business has continued to grow how important is it that your brand evolves?
Just like business strategy, your brand needs to evolve in some shape or form to remain relevant. There’s a mistaken assumption that a brandmark and the colour values stay untouched from launch, but this is complacent. The market changes and what seems built to last can quickly become redundant. For SPURR the essence will always reflect the values and personality, but the creative execution should and will evolve.
What does the future hold for you and SPURR?
Perhaps rather pretentiously, I wanted SPURR to be a homegrown McKinseys – something market leading based right here in the Tees Valley. That’s still Plan A, but how I am looking to achieve that has changed, especially with regards to working in strategic partnership.
With such ambitious plans brand communications become even more important. As the stakes get higher and multiple stakeholders and interested in your business, it’s essential that you respect each with the right messages, media and consistency.
What are you most proud of and why?
In business, picking up my first SPURR client without a shadow of doubt. Away from business, aside from family of course, probably the first marathon I ran – it was a world record race in Berlin in 2006 and I was only 2 hours 12 minutes behind the winner!