The Next Phase for Sullivan & Stanley – Digital Detox Reflections

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At the end of last year, I took a break from my normal routine and embraced a digital detox. This gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey as the Founder and CEO of Sullivan & Stanley (S&S) over the past seven years. During that time, I’ve always remained committed to helping S&S grow from a start-up to a scaled business with a strong team, strategy and infrastructure.

But being an entrepreneur can be all-consuming, and I found myself overly focused on the internal aspects of the business, such as hiring and coaching, at the expense of what truly excites me: collaborating with clients and partners to find creative solutions to their business problems.

As a business leader, I’ve had to face the same external challenges we all have from the macroeconomic impacts of the COVID pandemic and European wars to economic recession. Couple that with family tragedy and other issues in my personal life and I felt burnt out heading into the holidays.

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I made a resolution to focus more on my own personal growth as a leader. I was reminded of the concept of The Gap & the Gain by Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach, which I re-read to gain a new perspective on my frustration and shift my mindset from scarcity to abundance. Reflecting on Sullivan & Stanley’s journey, I realised what an amazing experience it has been. As the business enters its seventh year, I wanted to share my insights and lessons learned…

🚀 The world of executive Interims has changed and evolved. Back in 2016, I started writing my first book, The Interim Revolution, which took a deep-dive into the trend where senior business leaders were stepping away from a job for life towards flexible working engagements that businesses can leverage to deliver transformative innovation on an as-needed basis. Not only was this model suited to organisations grappling with the capability and speed gaps that were widening daily, but it allowed them to tap into top talent with ease and better plan for the future. Fast forward seven years and I’m soon to publish my second book on how this ‘gig economy’ continues to change to more of a portfolio lifestyle for senior knowledge workers and executives.

🚀 S&S was born to spark a global interim revolution and create a Teams capability on demand to challenge the larger consulting firms. We had to lead with content and event-driven marketing to help flip the narrative that many execs continued to believe – “you don’t get fired for hiring <insert large consultancy>.” I’m really pleased to see how our people-centred approach has warmed the market to be open to a more boutique service from challenger brands. The industry as a whole is changing for the better.

🚀 One of my proudest achievements was winning “Transformation Team of the Year” alongside one of our blue-chip clients at the International Customer Experience Awards. Not only did it celebrate the achievements of our blended team and showcase their success, but the transformation methodology we established continues to drive success for us, especially in the Middle East where businesses in the region are looking for more innovative consulting and delivery partners to realise value from their digital investments having become disillusioned with the offerings from their traditional consulting firms. We have several clients finishing with us where we have helped them solve some serious issues, change their businesses and thrive. I expect to see more customer success (and awards) coming through!

🚀 We’ve adopted a Hub operating model, opening offices in Manchester in the UK and Dubai in the Middle East to future-proof our business and enable us to deliver our world-class services to clients on a more local level.

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🚀 I really believe that you have to love every day and have the right balance between your work life and your personal life, otherwise what’s the point? In a previous life, I bought the T-shirt many times chasing EBIT and headcount targets and quite honestly, it just felt soulless. As Richard Branson always championed – ‘put your people first and the rest flows.’ Sullivan & Stanley’s people-first mindset has come into its own as we’ve doubled-down on our people experience and talent strategy. We have invested in personal and professional development training programmes across all talent levels, helping our teams to become the best versions of themselves. What’s more we were awarded SME business of the year at the UK Employee Experience Awards and accredited as a Great Place to Work, recognising us as a leading employer of choice inspiring the future of work. We still have lots of work to do here of course, but we’re proud of the journey we’ve been on so far.

🚀 We’ve got past the point where we are too big to be considered a small company, but still too small to be considered big. Silicon Valley calls this period ‘Death Valley’ and it’s sadly where a lot of businesses fail. Despite a backdrop of very uncertain macroeconomic conditions, S&S has crossed this desert. We are now heading into our performance years – my favourite part of the journey. I believe that we are perfectly positioned to deliver ongoing value to our clients and will continue to reinvest our profits into best serving them, and our people. Bring it on!

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to be doing several digital detoxes a year as burnout isn’t much fun, and I’ll take moments to reflect and focus on the gain rather than the gap. I hope that by sharing Sullivan & Stanley’s journey, I can inspire and encourage other entrepreneurs to keep going and to put people – both clients and employees – at the heart of their business. My focus as a leader now is to create the most resilient organisation that I can, with a laser focus on customer success, as this decade and the next continues to throw challenges our way. As my business mentor always says: “Control the controllables.”


First published on LinkedIn

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Written by Pat Lynes
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