February 17, 2014

Farmington consultant develops global alliances

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Strategic Asset Management Inc.’s Jim Davis (pictured third from left) accepts an award during the 2012 MaintCon conference in the Gulf Region, which is organized and conducted by maintenance and reliability professionals throughout the world. 
Mark Broussard, CEO, SAMI

A Farmington management consulting firm has found a way to compete in the global market by forging international partnerships to better understand foreign business culture and clients.

Founded in 1996, Strategic Asset Management Inc., or SAMI, helps companies increase production and decrease expenses by focusing on performance culture, which involves realigning company attitude and strategy to maximize efficiency and profitability.

SAMI has four local employees and another 24 worldwide spread across offices in Europe, Asia, India, South America, Australia and the Middle East. The company specializes in the oil and gas industry and contracts with more than 100 consultants in various countries.

The hardest part of any performance culture transformation, says SAMI CEO Mark Broussard, is "getting senior leadership to understand they need to change."

"It's the trickle-down effect," he said. "The executives want change, the field operators want change, but the mass of middle management can be stubborn."

By focusing on people and performance, SAMI tries to help clients increase production, on average by 2-5 percent, and reduce operating expenses up to 25 percent, Broussard said.

The realignment also aims to improve employee satisfaction and customer return rate.

SAMI, however, faces a stiff challenge of operating in a global and increasingly competitive consulting industry, said Jack Veale, former board member of the U.S. Institute of Management Consultants.

High unemployment has led more people to join the consulting field in recent years, Veale said, and firms survive on their ability to network and build relationships in their markets.

"When you're about to have heart surgery, you trust a doctor you know, not just the closest one at the time," said Veale.

SAMI most recently grew its presence in the United Kingdom by forging an international alliance with Jonathan Burton Consulting of Scotland, something that doesn't always happen between competing consulting firms, said JBC owner Jonathan Burton.

Since both companies focus on people in consulting strategies, the two made a good fit, Burton said. JBC focuses on changes in management while SAMI looks at total performance culture.

The alliance gives SAMI an understanding of how companies operate in the United Kingdom and how the consulting firm can cater its services to the unique needs of the region, Broussard said.

"One of the biggest challenges facing SAMI … was not the ability to provide highly skilled people to the job, it was their ability to empathize and understand the nuances of working in the U.K.," Burton said.

Balancing cultural sensitivity with guaranteed functional results is no small feat, Broussard said. It's a particular challenge for consultants who aspire to compete on the international stage.

You can't, after all, advise a company on how to improve its performance, if you don't understand the cultural norms of its employees.

In the Middle East, for example, clients often have religious obligations that differentiate their daily behavior from someone working in the West. In South America, there is less emphasis on timeliness, compared to the imminent sense of urgency in North American workplaces.

This poses challenges for SAMI's team to convey production losses as a result of downtime in relation to the importance of speed on machinery, said Broussard.

SAMI consultants remain cognitive of cultural differences by immersing themselves into new settings, while still optimizing cost structures and improving production volume, Broussard said.

Saudi Arabian oil company SHARQ hired SAMI to make the firm more efficient and enhance its maintenance processes after it expanded in 2009.

SAMI worked with the company to create a workforce culture that was more proactive in solving problems and identifying new market opportunities, said Mohammed Al-Wadaey, the president of SHARQ at the time.

One of the key ways SAMI helped, Al-Wadaey said, was by changing people who had already developed personal practices. Teaching old dogs new tricks is often difficult for many companies looking to be more innovative, he said.

"After implementation, all stakeholders have realized the benefits of making their activities smoother and more efficient. In fact it is now the way of life at SHARQ," said Al-Wadaey.

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