DBK twelve

Human capital consultants online

This module presents a case study of a professional services provider who has built an online business using a variety of digital tools.  The benefits, outcomes and issues are discussed here with Vivianne Arnold, co-founder and CEO of Franklin Phillips, so others in similar businesses can learn how it’s done.

Franklin Phillips – Human capital sector

Franklin Phillips is an executive search and consulting firm specialising in trade finance, payments, digital and transactional banking. They are a global firm with a focus on Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Franklin Phillips  provides retained executive search in their areas of expertise. They also provide consulting services ranging from tailored bank workshops on how to spot a trade opportunity to public relations and conferences around specific trade and payments issues.

You can learn more about Franklin Phillips at www.franklinphillips.com





How Can the Use of Digital tools help your Business?

“The executive recruitment sub-sector of the professional services industry is one that is well established and which has traditionally run very much as a people-to-people networking business. Executive search firms have typically used their offline business networks extensively to connect organisations that are hiring with professionals who are looking for new job opportunities. It is a sub-sector that has been disrupted by a number of more recent online influences.  For example, the rapid growth of the online site LinkedIn, which provides easy access to the work experience and capabilities of potential job candidates, is a key change agent. No longer do you need to collect resumes as an executive recruiter because they are widely available for the vast majority of candidates online. Franklin Phillips is an example of a relatively new business, designed to be highly digitally-enabled from its inception. From the initial creation of their business the Franklin Phillips founders were focused on differentiating their business model from their traditional competitors.

  • Firstly, the business was conceived as being digitally empowered in all aspects of its operations.
  • Secondly, the business was designed to be a very nimble and flexible operation, providing significant flexibility for change and improvement.
  • Thirdly, the business was set up with the concept of being a truly international operation without any operating constraints imposed by geography of staff or clients”.

Vivianne Arnold consistently reinforces that Franklin Phillips was built to be an active and integrated part of the online transformation being experienced in the human capital sector, not just a sideline spectator to it. This means that other online resources like LinkedIn play a key informational component to their strategy and operations. They seek to make their knowledge and capability around online resources a strong positive differentiator, and not a threat to their business.  She sees the firm as a ‘serial digital entrepreneur’ because she and her colleagues are constantly asking themselves ‘is there a better way’ to do this? “In operational terms, Franklin Phillips technology support systems are all cloud based and readily available for staff to use wherever they are located. The company has customised and extended some off-the-shelf cloud based applications to help drive efficiency and effectiveness in their operations. It does not believe in the need for expensive office locations and does not have fixed rent arrangements anywhere where it works”.

How does technology shape the way your business operates?

“Our firm was set up with the concept of being a micro-multinational without any operating constraints imposed by geography. We’re flexible and nimble, with the ability to operate throughout the Asia Pacific and respond quickly to client needs”.

At Franklin Phillips we spend the whole day collaborating through Skype, Google docs, Asana, Nimble, Xero and other cloud-based tools. We very rarely use the telephone. Since our clients travel through Asia Pacific constantly, I take briefs from them via Skype and we occasionally meet at their office, a cafe or even an airline lounge.

These are the sorts of tools the ASR Digital Business Kits teaches small business how to use, and get ahead of their competition.

Our competition has an old school business model based on country P/L structures so they compete internally and across borders for multinational clients and candidates. The dusty little black book of the past simply can’t compete with our digital network, LinkedIn groups and search engine intelligence”.

What role does technology play in how you promote your business or find clients?

“My firm has taken off because of the power of online influence. We doubled our revenue expectations and have yet to spend any money on marketing. Instead we have focused on activities such as developing thought leadership articles for LinkedIn and op-ed pieces in publications such as Singapore’s Business Times. We tweet, post on facebook and actively engage our online global network for candidate referrals and potential clients. I am amazed at how many senior bankers around the globe reach out to me through LinkedIn because of reading an article or post I have written”.

What advice would you give to other businesses interested in embracing a technology-driven business model?

“I think analogue is arrogant. Professional services firms win business based on understanding their clients’ needs and then solving them. As your clients’ need change, you will need to evolve and adapt –

  • Build a culture of wanting to understand and learn the latest business digital technology.
  • Reward and encourage your team and clients to adapt and think differently.
  • Be an informed thought leader for your sector, have a strong voice that is carried throughout your social media network.
  • Don’t just focus on the service you are offering today, listen to your clients and evolve your business”.
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