Episode 12 – Olly Purnell and Sharon Rice-Oxley – Q5

Olly Purnell - Sharon Rice - Oxley - Q5 - Climb in Consulting Podcast

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“Consulting is about the people and about the relationships you build and if you forget that, you won’t be successful”

Today’s podcast is the first multi-guest episode for Climb in Consulting as I interview two of the co-founders of Q5 to find out all about their journey – from their decision to launch a consultancy in the middle of the recession to how they grew it to become the award winning, global firm it is today.

Having decided he wanted to scratch his own entrepreneurial itch Olly Purnell reached out to Sharon Rice-Oxley and over the course of 2008 they built ‘the band’ that would become the founding team of Q5.

As well as aiming to create a consultancy that delivers high quality Organisational Design work for their clients they set out to build a firm that was genuinely different for those they had worked in previously. This is something they’ve successfully achieved and are renowned for both their unique culture (being named top 20 Times Best Small Companies To Work For 2018) as well as their efforts in maintaining a diverse and vibrant work force (over 40% of their senior leadership are female). 

Olly and Sharon were fantastic guests and it was great to be able to get both of their perspectives on the Q5 journey and their advice to those looking to climb in the industry as well as those thinking of starting their own firms.

In this interview we discuss a whole range of topics including:

Why Olly and Sharon decided to set up a consulting business and the steps they went through to establish the right founding team for Q5

Business planning and what steps they took to set Q5 up for success

Their tough first year in business and how they overcame it

Olly and Sharon’s advice to those thinking of starting their own business, in consulting or otherwise

The unique approach Q5 took to developing their culture and how they’ve maintained it as they’ve grown

How Q5 ensures collaboration amongst the partnership and avoids the common political pitfalls in consultancy firms using their ‘rough justice’ approach to profit sharing

How Q5 have developed such a diverse team and the importance of understanding work in the context of peoples’ wider lives

And much much more!


You can find out more about Olly, Sharon and Q5 at the links below:
Olly’s Linked In –

Sharon’s Linked In – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-rice-oxley-fcipd-144b282/

Q5 – http://www.q5partners.com/  

Specific things we discuss in the show:

Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression and Recovery by Mark Rice-Oxley – http://amzn.eu/fzo9xZv

Switch: how to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath –  http://amzn.eu/09NDkDW

How to be Chief Execitive of your own life by Mike Wilson – To purchase a copy please contact Nicola.davies@sjp.co.uk (£10 from each purchase will go to the SJP Foundation)

The Founder – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4276820/      

The Crazy Gang by Dave Bassett and Wally Downes – http://amzn.eu/dceWhOZ 

What we talk about:

00:03:54 – How and why Olly and Sharon started Q5 and how they found their fellow Co-Founders

00:19:43 – Why Olly and Sharon decided to launch Q5 in the middle of the recession and what they did to set it up for success

00:21:49 – The hard conversations that the Q5 Partners had between themselves and with their ‘life partners’ as part of their decision to launch the business

00:29:43 – The core tenants of the Q5 culture and their unique ‘rough justice’ approach to their Partner appraisal process.

00:43:37 – How Q5 have maintained their award-winning culture as the firm has grown.

00:49:57 – How Q5 have built such a diverse team and maintained this as they’ve grown

00:53:50 – Sharon’s approach to work/life balance

00:58:14 – The mistakes that Sharon and Olly see junior colleagues making that hold them back from progressing

01:01:49 – What the best Q5 consultants do that others don’t

01:08:44 – Sharon and Olly’s book recommendations

01:16:26 – Sharon and Olly’s closing advice for you whether you’re just starting out in Consulting, In the middle grades or approaching Partner level.

01:22:00 – How you can get in touch with Sharon and Olly


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