An upside to mergers and adapting to change

If we were asked to identify trends in the design industry right now one would have to be the tendency towards takeovers and mergers. Euro RSCG is at it, having acquired corporate identity group Ingleton Thomas last week to join an international stable alongside annual reports specialist CGI; north of the border Tayburn has bought back its 13-year-old off-shoot McIlroy Coates; and then, of course, there was the Lloyd Northover Citigate merger last year.

So what, you might say. Mergers have been going on since bad times hit the industry and stronger groups went on the offensive, bailing out floundering creative businesses. But you’d be wrong about this latest flurry of activity. These deals are well considered, struck largely from positions of strength and the desire to develop both the offer and the client base. They hint at an industry in control of itself – at the top end at least – and one which is keen to adapt to change.

Nor are mergers the only device being used by the more astute consultancies. Groups such as The Partners and Wickens Tutt Southgate are going through a period of reassessment – they’ve proved themselves to their peers and clients, but are keen not to become complacent.

Encouragingly, this bid to maximise opportunity ties in nicely with the profile of Tomorrow’s Company outlined in the Royal Society for the Arts report published last week. The emphasis here is on an “inclusive” approach to management, which is about being clear about success, where it comes from and how it can be sustained. The report stresses the importance of relationships and collaboration between investors, management and staff to develop a shared vision, and it finds that innovation – a

key element in success – is more likely born of openness than of regulation.

As the findings of the RSA study hit home in British industry, it is good to know that some design players are already there, grabbing the bit and going for change at a time when standing still is viewed as a downward trend.

Lynda Relph-Knight

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