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29 May 2012

Tim Young, Consulting Strategist

Tim Young, Consulting Strategist

Tim Young is a Consulting Strategist working in the UK and Middle East.  He has worked with a wide range of businesses and charities, from start-ups (whether social enterprises or multi-hundred million dollar banks) through corporate transformations to mergers and market exits.

Tim is now based in the UK, running For-Benefit Consulting, a firm committed to helping business large or small do a lot more than merely make a profit.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be on God's side.  I didn't really care what the game was going to be.  My godly parents taught me boundaries but not limits.  I grew up seeing the boundaries on the globe but knowing that God regularly expects his people to be crossing those boundaries.  I grew up seeing broken and hurting people helping to transform the lives of other broken and hurting people.  I grew up knowing that God's plan was bigger than anything I could conceive.  He could use a post-room clerk to deliver grace to a whole company or he could make a nobody, the advisor to kings.  I had a vivid imagination as a child, so that I could imagine that God's imagination was even better than mine!

How did you get involved in business?
I studied Physics at university found myself more interested in the complexities of human interactions than the interaction of particles.  I therefore joined the consulting arm of an IT company where I had to analyse and redesign the human and computer systems that made financial institutions work.  

With each project, I found that whilst I could address the problems as presented to me, I always found that errors were always made at a higher, more strategic level.  I became interested in questions like, "How do you help a whole company or industry change?"  "How do you tell what the truly fundamental issues are preventing positive change?"  

I found myself up against ethical issues ("How do you choose between two strategies that cause unemployment either in Scotland or in England?").  I wasn't happy with just going with my conscience or what is good for those nearest me.  I was repeatedly driven to the search the Bible to discern God's heart on business matters.  I found that not only was I involved in business but that God was involved far more than I had imagined.

What exactly is a "consulting strategist" if I were to meet one in the wild?
In the wild is indeed where you are most likely to meet us!  Over the years I have been both a consultant, (giving advice on how to achieve something) and an in-house strategist (working out how particular organisation can thrive and grow and then helping the rest of the management team make it happen).  I found that either role was distinctly limited.  Consultants mostly have to wait for a client to request a report and then they have to wait for the client to implement the report.  In-house strategists are tied to the success of their current employer.  So many issues in the world are larger than one company and require more dedication and risk-taking than a consultant can afford.  

A consulting strategist will be looking at the systemic issues in a society or economy and then working out which players and resources need to be involved to bring about positive change.  A consulting strategist will look for ways to help the relevant players choose to deploy their resources to bring about the change.  So if you were to meet a consulting strategist, it would be when someone has come alongside and is gently trying to help your company see the world in a new way so that it can make a difference.

Who has challenged your thinking most?
Many people, but one particular Muslim colleague certainly had a major impact.  He said something like, "If what you are telling me is good news for me personally then I am not interested but if it is big enough to be good news for me, my friends, my family, my whole society, then carry on!"  

Do I have news that will not only transform the lives of individuals but transform relationships, communities and even businesses?

What has saddened you in business?
I have helped establish or transform a number of businesses over the years so that they have been full of life and grace.  In the early days even some of the businesses not run by Christians have behaved with the character of Christ. Employees, customers and suppliers have smelt the Kingdom and sought out those who smelt the same. Yet time and again, I have had to watch from a distance as the company experiences the Fall for itself.  Temptation comes in, a small compromise is made and the aroma of Christ is slowly overwhelmed by other smells.  Businesses that were made for glorious exploits live out their days by the sweat of their brow and wonder what happened to those days of life and grace.  They try to keep within the law and they try to find the new business rules for success.  Eventually they convince themselves that the freshness of those early days was just the naivety of youth and that now they are grown up and just have to make those grown up decisions.

What really saddens me?  That there is no one to tell them that Law will never work and that they really need to look for a true source of grace in order to live, thrive and be the company of stature they hope to be.

What has saddened you in the church?
We are often good at loving and helping individuals and families.  Some church communities are even good at helping individuals who are in business. But a community is more than the individuals within it.

Business people understand that there is more to the business than the individuals in the business.  Those individuals are very important but so are the relationships between those individuals, the policies and procedures that influence those relationships, the tools and activities. 

I long for the church to truly see community again and to relearn how to disciple not only individuals and families but also groups, communities and yes, even businesses.  I long for the church to grasp that an organised, discipled community full of the character of Christ can have an impact on other, even larger, communities when mere individuals could only play at the edges.  I am all for doing a little weeding with trowel but some jobs just call for a back-hoe!

Tell us a joke
How many Consulting Strategists does it take to change a light bulb?
One but are you sure that what you need is a light bulb?