Former ITW employee, James Adams, is making a return to the catering equipment market alongside two fellow MBA graduates to offer academic-backed consultancy solutions, after leaving Foster Refrigerator just 2 months ago.
The new business, Akcela, offers a range of management consultancy solutions including process redesign and implementation, market segmentation and strategy execution, sales process development and training, brand development and organisational change.
Adams spent 8 years of his career at Foster and has a wide range of experience within the catering equipment industry, holding roles in the distributor-facing side as well as managing global key accounts such as starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds before moving to head up the refrigerator specialist’s service and spares department.
He is joined at the consultancy firm by fellow MBA graduates and business owners Mark Merrywest and Kate Yarbo.
Merrywest, who supports Akcela as a management consultant, is also the MD of Norwich-based marketing agency Flocc, whose clients include MTV, Onoto and the NHS. His specialisms are brand, marketing and system design strategy.
Yarbo is supporting the new company with organisational alignment, change management and has experience in working through business turnarounds.
The management consultancy industry is unregulated, and Adams believes that Akcela offers a differentiated solution in this respect. “When we were discussing the differentiation that Akcela offers, one of the clearest elements for us was the consultancy focused MBAs we had all completed,” he said.
“An MBA is one thing, but we all hold a post-graduate level DiPC, which is recognised and supported by the Institute of Consulting. Consultancy should be about marrying technical concepts to real world solutions and most importantly executing upon them. There is no point in showing someone a solution, if you can’t support in carrying it out.”
Whilst he believes that understanding the nuances of the catering equipment industry is important, he also feels that bringing an outside influence can be beneficial, commenting: “The catering equipment industry is so extremely competitive today and that’s the same whether you are on the manufacturing side, or the distributor side.
“Being immersed in this world for so long, you see how that extra 1–2% of improvement can translate to tangible benefit. Good consultancy works to drive that improvement to the bottom line and for us, it’s so important to demonstrate that line of sight for the client, to say this is the cost, but this is the value.
“What we have at Akcela that I am so proud of, is thought leadership from within the industry and from outside of it. When we discuss an opportunity for improvement, I have my world view and Kate and Mark have theirs.
“Of course all three of us aren’t constantly on a project together, that wouldn’t be economical, but when we are together we bounce those ideas around, or align to the client at that time of focus. I’d love to say I had all the answers all of the time, and whilst I am always learning, the truth is to deliver true value, we need that diverse set of skills and experiences in the right place, at the right time.”
One way that Akcela can start to support businesses is through consultative conversations, a free one hour discussion around a specific problem.
Adams detailed: “A really good friend of mine joined me for a meeting a while back when we were in the city for lunch, and I casually asked if he wanted to come along. His reply was: ‘Sure, I am always interested in meeting interesting people.’ That openness to learn and willingness to get involved resonated with me and that’s when I thought of offering that conversation for free, but putting the Akcela spin on it.”
He concluded: “Of course, there is an opportunity for work, but the conversation itself drives benefit for both parties. At the end, there is a write up of the conversation with some suggested next steps, again reinforcing the Akcela focus on outcomes, not just abstract ideas.
“We don’t quote for works after or hound you to close a sale, that isn’t our style. For Akcela, the benefit is to keep up to date with other real business situations and engage that consultancy mindset, even if it’s in micro-bursts over macro-projects.”