Darren & Associates
 

We Service Practice team provides our services clients with better, faster advice on their key people issues domestically and internationally. Since its foundation, the Services Practice has expanded steadily. It has become a truly global Practice, reflecting the market-shaping forces and industry segments in which our consultants are active.

Today, our services consultants operate as a single, seamless global team. All team members conduct a significant number of related assignments each year, keeping their expertise in each industry sector and its changing environment constantly up to date. This approach gives the Services Practice a deep understanding of the critical strategic and competitive challenges facing services enterprises and the associated leadership issues in this rapidly expanding sector.

Although services industries differ in product offering and organization, we have found they generally share a common set of business challenges: to manage volume, create a service experience and build loyalty.

We appreciate that different service sectors and individual companies may rank the importance of these challenges differently, and so deliver value differently, depending on whether goods or people are being moved, or whether businesses or consumers are being served. To reflect our knowledge and sensitivity to sustainable value creation issues, the Services Practice is organized to serve clients according to the six segments below:


Supply Chain Services - Logistics Services/Outsourcing, Parcel Couriers, Distribution, Freight Forwarding, Trucking, Shipping, Harbours, Railways, Public Transport

Transport & Travel Services - Airlines, Airports, Tour Operators, Travel Services, Car Rental

Hospitality & Leisure - Hotels, Resorts, Cruise Lines, Casinos, Cinemas, Theme Parks, Restaurant Chains, Pubs & Bars

Facility Services - Facilities Services, Catering Services, Staffing Agencies, Business Process Outsourcing

Real Estate Services - Real Estate Development, Commercial Real Estate Operation

Professional Services - Consulting, Accountancy, Law Firms, Higher Education


The global supply chain or logistics network is a vast system of companies and organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. Supply chain activities transform natural resources, raw materials and components into a finished product that is delivered to the end customer. In sophisticated supply chain systems, used products may re-enter the supply chain at any point where residual value is recyclable. Supply chains link value chains.

As global markets become ever more connected, companies offering supply chain services face multiple challenges and opportunities as an outcome of changing economic dynamics. The ability to make insightful decisions about talent in the supply chain industry's domain is today's most enduring source of competitive advantage and also a management challenge.

Darren & Associates has in-depth experience across all key segments of the global supply chain sector, including shipping, ports and harbor services, logistics service outsourcing, parcel couriers, distribution, freight forwarding, trucking and rail cargo. We concentrate on helping clients develop their competitive advantage through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional knowledge and experience in the supply chain sector.

Our ability to leverage our global Supply Chain Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise in the supply chain industry, enables us to assemble a global team that assures our clients' the best possible solution.

Passenger mobility is both a strategic success factor and an environmental challenge for our global economy. Managements throughout the transportation and travel services industries face a similar set of business challenges. Although strategic challenges and economies differ by sub-sector and geography, transportation and travel services companies generally operate on low margins against strongly increasing competition. All companies welcome large groups of customers on a daily basis and strive to make their travel experience essentially faultless while exceeding their expectations. Intense day-to-day competition requires a strong focus on tactical management, more so than in many other industries. Regular price and capacity adjustments require daily operational management skills that are highly numbers-driven.

Transportation and travel services are based on “origin and destination” logic. As network businesses, the sub-sectors share many of the management issues of key functions like corporate strategy, finance, marketing, sales, and operations. For example, network planning, schedule design, and yield management required by railways, regional bus operators, and airlines all need similar functional management talent.

Some of the major sub-sectors, like the aviation industry, have been facing deregulation for many years now, whereas others, like railways or urban transit operators in Europe, are at the beginning of such a process of privatization and/or liberalization. Executive talent from more advanced sub-sectors often switch to sub-sectors in the process of deregulation, transferring their transformation expertise from other sub-sectors.

For a number of critical functional areas, companies providing transportation and travel services may prefer to seek best-practice knowledge from outside the industry. We believe that the need to hire functional talent from well established FMCG, automotive or other players will continue. In particular, transportation and travel Services companies may wish to consider key aspects such as corporate sales, customer relationship management, innovation management, risk management, strategic purchasing, lean operations, and lean maintenance.

Although the cyclicality of the industry varies by sector, passenger growth is strongly linked to overall GDP development and other fundamental factors. These fluctuations, which are particularly evident in the aviation industry, mean that organizations need to be highly flexible, and ready to quickly adjust or remove capacities as required. Strong operational talent is key in this sector.

A new wave of consolidation has started in the airline sector, and current moves in the European railway industry indicate a similar trend for the future. At present, the focus seems to be on consolidating regional market positions. However, we expect that there will ultimately be a limited number of truly global mainline carriers.

Darren & Associates' Transportation & Travel Services Practice builds on an extensive experience in working with our clients in airlines, airports, rent-a-car, travel services, tour operators, passenger railways, regional bus and urban transit.

The ability to make insightful decisions about talent in the transportation and travel industry is today's most enduring source of competitive advantage, and also a management challenge. We concentrate on helping clients achieve this advantage through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional knowledge of the transportation and travel sector. As companies grow in size, complexity and international reach, the competence profiles required from management talent will change substantially in the future.

Our ability to leverage our Transportation and Travel Services Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise and interest in these businesses, enables us to assemble a global team which assures our clients of the best possible solution.

Globally the hospitality and leisure sector is facing a volatile set of challenges and opportunities as an outcome of changing economic dynamics. The speed with which business has slowed down compared to a year ago has come as a surprise to many. In some cases, revenue per available room (RevPAR) has shown double-digit reductions. Business travel has suffered under corporate spending cuts. In this environment, extending loyalty programs has proven to be an important tactic in countering more intense price competition.

Working intensively with firms across the hospitality and leisure sector, we have found that within the sector, management talent shares similar qualifications and competencies.

The ability to make insightful decisions about talent in the hospitality and leisure domain is today's most enduring source of competitive advantage, and also a management challenge.

Our global Hospitality and Leisure Practice builds on extensive experience working with clients in hotels, resorts, cruise lines, casinos, cinemas, theme parks, restaurant chains, pubs and bars. We believe the common thread in these categories is about the consumer “guest” experience, which requires a high degree of operational complexity.

We have in-depth experience across all key segments of the hospitality and leisure value chain. We concentrate on helping clients develop their competitive advantage through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional potential for the hospitality and leisure sector.

Our ability to leverage our Global Hospitality & Leisure Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise in the industry, enables us to assemble a global team that assures our clients of the best possible solution.

Facility Services covers a category of companies with a typical business-to-business service character. The category is best known for companies that provide catering services, cleaning services and security in and around commercial properties. The scope of these businesses is, however, broader than this. The essence of the service that these companies offer is to take over non-core business processes and run them professionally. The client's direct benefit lies in the reduction of non-core management capacity, and hence reduced complexity and lower costs.

Facility Services is very much a people business, with extended organizations of employees performing well-defined repetitive tasks. The challenge lies in organizing relatively large and decentralized organizations to work as a team and achieve great results. Employee training, coaching and management are essential characteristics of successful Facility Services organizations

Working intensively with companies in the Facility Services sector, we have found that management talent shares similar qualifications and competencies. The ability to make insightful decisions about talent in the Facility Services domain is an enduring source of competitive advantage and also a management challenge.

Our global Facility Services Practice has worked with a wide range of successful companies, from staffing agencies and security providers to companies that handle private patient files for hospitals. We concentrate on helping clients develop their competitive advantage through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional knowledge of the Facility Services sector.

We have in-depth experience across all key segments of the Facility Services value chain. Our ability to leverage our global Facility Services Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise in the industry, enables us to assemble a global team that assures our clients the best possible solution.

The global real estate industry is in flux. In recent years significant investment capital found its way to the industry, on the basis of optimistic global growth projections. In 2008 the investment climate for both residential and commercial real estate experienced a dramatic change. All real estate is local but for the first time we are seeing global trends working though to local markets. Real estate has become a more dynamic and challenging industry. As a result global real estate companies need leaders with a new set of skills to cope with the new set of circumstances.

Executives who will thrive in the new environment will complement exceptional knowledge of the real estate market with risk management skills and contingency planning experience. A forward-thinking perspective with scenario planning will allow executives to structure large deals that will maintain viability and profitability in dynamic, fluid markets.

Darren & Associates' global Real Estate Practice has in-depth experience across the key segments of the real estate value chain. Our experience and expertise enable us to support clients across the whole spectrum of real estate activities, including property developers, real estate advisors and managers, asset management firms/institutional real estate investors, private equity funds/REITS, hedge funds/real estate fund of funds, investment/corporate banks, infrastructure developers and investors, and property-intensive companies such as retailers, resort and hospitality developers.

We concentrate on helping clients through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional knowledge of the real estate sector.

Our ability to leverage our global Real Estate Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise in real estate, enables us to assemble a global team which assures our clients of the best possible solution.

There can hardly be a more challenging business climate than the time we live in. The globalization trend of the 1990s and the beginning of the current century resulted in a global system of wealth creation in which production was strongly concentrated in Asia, whose citizens are keen savers. Production was targeted at export to the mature economies, which indulged in debt-driven consumption based on asset price appreciations. The system was stimulated to the limit, with apparent imbalances being obscured through monetary policy and financial engineering. The recent economic shocks to the financial markets have spilled over into the real economy, resulting in a global recession and slowing economic activity across the globe, to a degree never before experienced in post-war history. In these times good counsel and advice is in high demand from businesses as well as public institutions. Professional services firms provide advice and assistance to businesses and other organizations on management issues, such as strategic and organizational planning, restructuring and cost reduction, post-merger integration, financial auditing and tax advice.

Professional services is very much a people business, with the analysis and judgements offered by the consultants directly determining the quality of the service provided. The ability to make insightful decisions about talent in the professional services sector is an enduring source of competitive advantage, and also a management challenge. We concentrate on helping clients achieve this advantage through the identification, Expert Network and recruitment of talented professionals with exceptional potential and motivation for the sector.

We have worked with various professional service companies ranging from international strategic consulting firms and accounting companies to smaller boutique firms and sophisticated education providers. Through our experience we have found that within the professional services sector, successful recruitment hinges on assessing measurable competencies as well as judging the cultural fit between an individual and a consulting firm. Analytical skills, problem-solving and a certain intellectual tenacity are qualities often sought after by top consulting firms, but the personal “click” between a candidate and an organization is equally important for a successful recruitment.

We have extensive experience of working with professional services firms. Our ability to leverage our global Professional Services Practice, which includes consultants with primary expertise in consulting, enables us to assemble a global team that assures our clients the optimum solution.

The private capital sector has been seriously affected by the current period of turmoil. This is not just the result of a crisis of both financing and profitability, but also a reflection of deep structural issues affecting the core beliefs of the segment.

The private capital landscape is undergoing significant change, caused by huge market losses at funds, substantial write-downs on portfolio companies and the virtual inexistence of new investments over the past 12 months, except for special asset classes at the distressed end of the spectrum. The traditional exit routes for investments are blocked. Investors in private capital, like large pension funds, are suffering liquidity issues of their own and, in consequence, have all but stopped funding the private capital sector. In addition, the sector is confronted with increased regulatory interventions. With all these factors driving change, the end-game is not yet apparent.

As an immediate consequence, the private equity industry is now focusing its resources on managing portfolio companies – which often means a fight for survival. The current market situation has forced many private equity companies to move quickly to implement financial and operational changes in their portfolio companies that will allow them to preserve value.

However, the longer-term outlook for the sector is not entirely gloomy:

A need clearly remains for private capital to play an important role in the overall economy

Private capital funds with a stable investor base, sufficient capital to invest and adequate performance are poised to prevail

Private capital investors will use the demonstrated performance of funds in the current difficult times to decide where to place their bets in the future

Market turmoil is beginning to depress prices for new investments to historically low levels – which represents an excellent opportunity for a new vintage of successful investments

Sooner or later, leverage funding will return.

To stay ahead in the game, private equity companies need to ensure that they have access to the most highly skilled staff available, both at investment and financing level and in the management teams of portfolio companies. Most private capital teams have successful, experienced investment professionals – only a few have built capable resources in investment management.

The issue is not only one of recruiting top-quality skill, but also a structural one: how to combine transactional and operative professionals efficiently and effectively, jointly aligned in one team? How to organize the relevant processes and communication? As simple as these questions seem, they have proven no less difficult to answer when it comes to the crucial details. Darren & Associates' global Private Capital Practice segment consists of a highly professional team around the world who partner with senior executives of organizations in all sectors of the private capital industry to address hiring needs and assist with the Expert Network of existing management competencies, and to support advisory boards. The management of high-performance teams with the varied technical backgrounds needed to steer companies safely through the crisis poses particular leadership challenges in strategic, talent and human resources management. Combining our extensive global experience, we bring advice to the table on what works and what doesn't, what experience has been gathered by others, and how differences in individual markets play out. In many of our close client relationships, we play an important advisory role on structural and organizational issues, and even provide support for the design of market strategies – which subsequently transforms into searches for professional talent.

Our unique one-firm approach, which facilitates collaboration across geographical and practice boundaries, enables us to bring highly skilled and experienced teams to the table, with proven expertise tailored to meet the needs of clients, and to achieve credibility with candidates and opinion leaders around the world. By focusing on people and skills management in the context of a specific strategy, we help private equity companies to rethink their organizations and their winning value propositions.