an interview Phil Burns, Managing Director at Frontier Economics

Scaling company culture – how to maintain culture in a fast-growing business.

The business is growing and thriving, everyone seems happy – company culture doesn’t really matter, does it? Yes, it really does! Company culture is essential to the success of any business as it has a profound impact on your employees and reputation. Defining your culture can become your competitive strength as the business grows.

Frontier Economics is a consultancy that specialises in the fields of competition policy, regulation, dispute support, public policy, and business strategy. We spoke to Frontier’s Managing Director, Phil Burns, to share his experience about scaling their business internationally without breaking their core culture.

This blog is a quick-read summary from our TIG Culture magazine article, ‘Scaling cultures without breaking them,’ which you are welcome to download here.

Doing Things Differently – scaling company culture the smart way

Frontier Economics was founded in 1999 by a team of economists who wanted to create a sustainable business, working entrepreneurially to provide economic advice and support, that was tailored to a client’s problems. The 1990s had seen a constant cycle of collapse, break-up, and failed sales of many professional service firms, which some of the founders personally experienced.

Frontier Economics wanted to approach things differently and so the business is owned entirely by the staff, there are no shareholders and no external investors. The business promotes its positive core values of being open, interesting, profitable, and fun.

“We were hell-bent on making sure Frontier was different. Major energy went into thinking how we could grow into a sustainable and high-performing company where we could all flourish.”

Phil Burns, Managing Director

Power To Your People

People liked what Frontier did, and the business has grown to be one of the largest economic consultancies in Europe. But how do you define, develop and maintain culture in a fast-growing company without losing sight of the original vision?

Frontier encourages a trust-based framework rather than a transaction-based model. This means leadership power is given to its practices and business management teams, which encourages personal responsibility, entrepreneurialism, innovation, creativity, collaboration, teamwork, and respect. This is how they scaled a company culture that worked for everyone.

“Critically we saw growth as a function of how successful we were in living our values in building a strong culture, brand, and reputation. We never set a growth target – we felt that we would get the growth we deserved, and that we would trust ourselves to manage our business smartly to adapt ourselves for the growth we thought we might be able to achieve.”

Phil Burns

The central leadership ensures that the devolved leadership aligns with the core values and purpose. But a self-managing company, that gives people the power to make their own decisions, doesn’t mean everyone can do what they want. Frontier Economics aims to avoid swinging between extremes by following three important principles – learn more about these in the full interview with Phil Burns here.

Go Global – Think Local

As Frontier Economics continues to expand it expects the devolved leadership to nurture an authentic local culture that respects the local environment, clients and people, yet still also strongly relates to the whole-firm culture.

Giving devolved managers the responsibility to own a task means it is much easier to evaluate if they have accomplished what they have promised. If things haven’t quite gone to plan it also allows us to discover why. The Frontier team takes care to do this in an open and fair way that avoids blame culture. A business can thrive if you empower people with supported learning by doing, without judgement. This is the heart of Frontier Economics’ core values.

The Final Frontier

Frontier Economics’ Phil Burns has seen time and again how culture can make or break an organisation. It definitely isn’t something that you should ignore as it becomes almost impossible to fix once your business begins to grow. A successful company culture needs to be managed and designed. When your values are clear, making decisions becomes easier.

Find out more about Frontier Economics and its successful approach to scaling company culture.

Frontier Economics is a consultancy that specialises in the fields of competition policy, regulation, dispute support, public policy, and business strategy. Founded in 1999, with just a few economists in a tiny London office, they now have almost five hundred staff and seven offices across Europe. Offering economic advisory across major strategic, regulatory and policy issues, their clients are diverse and include global organisations, regulatory agencies, and government departments. Sector agnostic, Frontier is known for its work in energy, technology and digital, telecoms, financial services, retail, transport, water, health, and education. Discover more about Frontier Economics here.

Unlocked: Culture

Share this:

Continue reading