One on One with L.E.K. Consulting's Robert Rourke

Robert Rourke is no stranger to strong growth. A more than 20-year veteran of L.E.K., Rourke previously oversaw the firm's Chicago office as it doubled…

| January 17, 2019

Robert Rourke is no stranger to strong growth. A more than 20-year veteran of L.E.K., Rourke previously oversaw the firm's Chicago office as it doubled in size. More recently, Rourke led the firm's Americas Building Products & Materials practice, which he helped propel into a market leadership position. Rourke has now been appointed to lead the L.E.K.'s Americas Region, where growth will once again be on the agenda. We caught up with Rourke to talk about his new role, his vision for the firm, and how the firm will continue its growth track.

Consulting: What's been keeping you busiest so far in your new role?

Rourke: A lot of it has been internal management and communication of the vision, the transition, and listening to priorities of my partners and making sure the professional services support teams are aligned, on board and have their agenda and priorities listened to as well. It's been a lot of internal consensus building at this point. I'm going to visit all of our offices in the Americas in the first 45 days of the new year, which will be a good opportunity to do some more face-to-face. Everybody works very hard, so it's important people feel a connection to leadership and understand the vision and what's the next chapter for L.E.K in the U.S.

Consulting: Is it safe to say you'll be looking at growth opportunities?

Rourke: Growth is very important. Not just because we want to be more and more ambitious, but it also is the engine that creates opportunity for the next generation of leaders. It's not lost on us that growth is an important remit that I have that we've got to deliver against. I think growth can take on multiple flavors. I think it will be continued emphasis in and support of our sectors. I think the more we can bring domain expertise and industry knowledge and insight to our clients the more effective partner we can be to them. Enabling, encouraging and investing in that will be important. Some of that will be strengthening existing sectors for us that are already strong like consumer, industrial and our healthcare verticals. I think in some cases it will be getting the next generation of sectors that are up and coming, like our tech and digital practices, to reach their full potential. My hope is we'll launch a few others along the way. We're going to be purposeful, we're cautious, conservative and very thoughtful about these things. For the longest time we've pursued a strategy of organic growth. I think in the years ahead organic growth will continue to be important but don't be surprised if we make some inorganic moves as well.

Consulting: What's your overall strategic vision for region?

Rourke: When I think about L.E.K., I think about a firm which has got great share of wallet with our existing clients. We have loyal clients we do a lot of work for, but we're not a ubiquitous name in the consulting industry. Obviously that's changed and evolved over the years and I expect it to continue. A lot of it is about continuing to increase awareness of our firm, our capabilities and the good work we do and take marketshare through that. My expectation is 5 years from now our presence in the Americas will be twice what it is now. We'll do that by entering new verticals, growing a pipeline of internal talent and capabilities, doing some inorganic things and strengthening and broadening the offering of what we take to our clients.

Consulting: What are some of your first-year goals for the region?

Rourke: I think the first year is one of change management, to be perfectly blunt. Whenever there's a new senior leader that comes into any organization they have to communicate their vision, get buy-in to that vision and make sure at the same time it's not terribly disruptive. We are fortunately in a fantastic position. We've been very strong, we had a record year in 2018, so it's not like my assumption of this role is one where I'll have to fix things. Because of that, the rocking the boat part is something I want to avoid. But at the same time, I want to be ambitious. I want us to all collectively aim higher. I think part of the first year is giving us the confidence and conviction and swagger, if you will, to all see that goal. And in the years ahead, let's go out and collectively execute against it. We have a fantastic team of partners throughout the Americas and beyond, but we also have a great team of staff, and I want people to realize that and see what that translates to in terms of their own opportunity and footprint in the world. My hope is to really create a sense of passion, energy and excitement around not just who we are today but where we're going.

Consulting: It's a new year, so what are some emerging challenges and opportunities you're seeing from a consulting standpoint?

Rourke: As a firm that's focused on growth strategy and issues around corporate development, there is a dynamic where our business and those types of problems beyond our business have M&A cycle exposure. The market has been white-hot for a while now, so of course we'll be from a challenge point of view trying to keep a watchful eye out around any sort of recession risk. We've always fared very well through recessions and I think that would continue to be the case. I think our type of consulting services add value to our clients irrespective of the cycle, but it might be a different business environment and we need to be attentive to that and help our clients navigate that.

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