Could you share a little bit about who you are and what you do here at OML Consulting?
Paul: I’m a management consultant with 15 years’ experience in management consulting. My time in consulting includes a stint with the Boston Consulting Group in Australia, and with A.T. Kearney in Australia and South East Asia.
For the last seven years or so, I’ve been working with Liang Tan, the CEO of OML Consulting, on various projects prior to OML Consulting’s launch, and now with OML Consulting. I am primarily involved in strategy which includes business strategy for corporate clients, as well as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) projects for private equity and corporate clients. I also assist OML Consulting in a range of ways, including proposals, internal strategy and policy, and providing input for decisions on key topics.
I got my start in management consulting in Australia in 1994. Between then and now, I went to the Melbourne Business School, worked with Boston Consulting Group and A.T. Kearney, spent some time working in the entertainment industry, moved to Singapore about 10 years ago, and after about a year and a half there, moved to Thailand. I’ve been here for quite a while now and represent OML Consulting in Thailand. However, I contribute to projects outside of Thailand as well.
What are the two most interesting projects that you have worked on?
Paul: That’s quite a hard question because I’ve done a lot of projects and that’s like saying: “What are your two most interesting children?”, or “Which child do you love the most?”, which is quite a difficult question to answer. But I can give you a couple of examples of interesting projects.
One of them was a large project for a university in Australia. That was an organisational transformation and included process reengineering, headcount reduction, and procurement optimisation. We had a fairly large team — I managed a team of about 10 consultants, plus 3 additional team members contributed by the client. It covered a broad range of non-academic departments and their associated headcount in the university. So you’re looking at things like finance, IT, maintenance, procurement, and some other functions.
Another category of projects I do a lot of work in is strategy projects. One that was very interesting was a strategy project for a satellite company that spans most of Asia and Australia. We did strategy work for them, looking at 11 markets, and doing a deep dive into certain markets to really understand the details for those key markets. That took me to three different countries travelling on that project, and there were also other team members travelling to other countries that were in scope. So that one was a full strategy piece in the sense that we did the market assessment, the competitive analysis, gained an understanding of the company’s capabilities and situation, and then developed the strategy for the company to enter new markets and to grow within the markets they were already in.
That project was actually a fairly long one compared to the relatively short projects that I’ve worked on like the M&A due diligence projects that I’ve led for private equity firms. Those ones are typically tight, intense, three-week projects where you do a lot of the same work that is in a typical strategy project. However, the main focus is to assess the acquisition target and to determine whether there are any red flags or issues that the potential acquirer should know about, which could lead to them calling off the transaction or could change the valuation that they offer to the seller to acquire the company.
The similarities with major strategy projects are that you look at the market and competitive situation, and you understand the target. The main difference is that you don’t really have to develop a full strategy for entering a new market or growing the business. You might think of high-level ideas or initiatives that might be implemented post-acquisition, but primarily, you’re looking at understanding the target or asset to help recommend whether the potential acquirer should continue with its acquisition process.
What is one mistake that organisations make when trying to enter a new market? How can they alleviate the consequences of that?
Paul: I think a lot of organisations don’t really want to budget adequate market assessment, market analysis, and competitive landscape research before they go into the market. It appears that many companies want to hit the ground running and start selling. What happens is that they may actually spend a lot of money to put resources on the ground, hire people, maybe put an office there, because they are excited about the market. But they haven’t really analysed it in-depth to fully see what they can and should do, whether it’s an attractive market to enter in the first place, or how it compares to other markets they can spend their money on.
So if you look at investments, a company always has a broad range of potential investments that they could consider. Some of them can be new market entry, but some of them can be other things that compete for that investment money like new product development, marketing, investing more within its existing markets such as potentially acquiring a company within existing markets, or moving into adjacent segments or industries. These are just some examples of where investment dollars can be utilised that would compete with putting the money into entering new markets. It’s difficult to analyse the universe of potential options but I think it’s prudent for a company to look at those options and weigh up new market entry versus other potential investments they could make.
You might narrow it down and say: “We have a separate budget for market entry, and a separate budget for product and R&D. We won’t have a mixed investment pool which will have R&D projects competing with new market projects”.
But even if you were to split it off, there are multiple initiatives within the revenue growth category that could be considered, like growing in your existing markets, inorganic growth via acquiring targets, or organic growth into new markets.
If you’re looking at new markets, then you should weigh up which markets you should be investing in and how much in each one. Broadly speaking, you should at least consider a detailed analysis of the market you have a primary interest in, to determine if it is a market that you should enter, and how it compares with other options.
It may sound a little self-serving from a consulting firm’s point of view to say that corporations should hire consultants to help them do this. We’re not saying they must do this in every case. Certainly, some corporations have plenty of internal resources that can be applied to the problem of analysing and selecting the most attractive markets to enter. But if they are stretched for resources, then consulting firms are one option they can look at to assist them with analysing those markets.
Some of the other advantages of consulting firms can be that perhaps they have greater local knowledge. They may have people based on the ground in those countries, whereas the potential client doesn’t — or the consulting firm may have good access to local information that can shore up data gaps.
Could you share some advice to companies looking at entering a new market?
Paul: We would be pleased to have complimentary free discussions with interested parties.We can assist with thinking about investment options, comparing the target market you’re looking at entering to other potential markets that you can enter, and how to allocate adequate internal or external resources to the issue.
About the Author:
Paul Tan has 20 years of professional experience, including over 15 in management consulting. He has previously led numerous engagements for private equity and fund management clients, providing leadership for due diligence and transaction advisory engagements, on both the buy- and sell-side of acquisitions. He has also led a wide range of market entry and growth strategy engagements, market assessments, and organizational transformation projects for major corporates and government-owned entities.
Paul’s experience spans most of Asia and Australia, working with multicultural and cross-functional teams. He has delivered substantial impact for his clients, interacting with senior leadership and key stakeholders, developing valuable knowledge and capabilities over the past two decades of his consulting career.