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Setting a standard in consultancy

By Ian Katusiime

Amos Bagumire is the managing director of ABS Consulting Group, which recently won a World Confederation of Business (WOCOB) award in Las Vegas, USA. He spoke to Ian Katusiime about the consultancy industry in Uganda.

What is the background of ABS Consulting Group?

ABS Consulting Group is a Ugandan management consulting firm that offers advisory services in the areas of risk, financial, human resources and other business advisory solutions to a diverse clientele throughout Uganda and the entire East African region. ABS was incorporated in 2011 by Moses Ssebugwawo and I.

How did you go into consultancy?

Moses and I had been in consulting for a long time with Ernst & Young both at country, regional and global levels. As seasoned professionals therefore, it was an opportune time for us to step out and make our contribution in the professional business world. It was a dream and passion that we had nurtured for a while and was finally brought to birth in 2011.

What shapes your leadership philosophy as a manager?

Honesty, accountability and trustworthiness are at the heart of my leadership style. This is coupled with passion to inspire others to excel, which compels me to lead by example at all times.

What is your assessment of the consultancy industry in Uganda currently?

The industry is still young and growing and cannot compete on a global scene. While many consultant firms in Uganda describe themselves as capable of helping their clients to grow their businesses, expand into new markets, improve operational efficiencies to reduce costs, very few of them have the capability, knowledge and tools due to limited international exposure.

In addition, many international organizations prefer to bring international consultants with a big reputation and this takes away the opportunities for local consultants to grow.

How is managing a consultancy firm different from managing conventional companies?

The principles are majorly the same except that in consultancy firms, one has to invest heavily in building strong and trusted relationships on top of managing human capital well. One has to provide value at all times otherwise you cannot sustain your business.  You must be an authentic leader who should constantly be aware of your actions and inactions and how the society looks at you in terms of leading and being value-driven.

Now, your company has been honored at the international level, how did it happen?

This is not the first time our company has been recognized at an international forum. In 2014, the International World Quality Commitment (BID) in Paris, France recognized ABS Consulting Group for commitment to quality, leadership, technology and innovation.

Although the firm is locally based, we the directors have been providing consultancy services globally. We created our own global brand while working with international reputable firms and wherever we go people recognize us. We also serve international global clients who have establishments in the East African region. Clients who are already members of WorldCob recommended us by completing a business excellence questionnaire to a WorldCob panel of experts who then carried out a due diligence on our company mainly through our business associates and other market research tools to assess our products, commitment to quality, managing resources and leadership among others.

What does this award mean to your company specifically and to Uganda generally?

At the time when multinational enterprises are looking at investment opportunities in Uganda and the region, the award gives us the credibility to be identified as business advisors of choice. It is therefore a key milestone for not only ABS Consulting Group, but also serves as a precursor of widening Uganda’s presence in the eyes of potential global investors.

Why are Ugandan companies reluctant to hire consultancy services?

The economy is still small and many companies are still struggling with survival and don’t have much budget for consultancy work. Very few companies appreciate best practices and others are still operating on a small scale where businesses are not at a level that requires or demands consultancy services.

What are some of the challenges consultancy firms face in Uganda?

Challenges are mainly in not having enough knowledge and skills, building relationship and networks; and a narrow clientele base, as few organizations are willing to spend on consulting. To be successful though, one must have a solid base of knowledge and experience in one’s field that once can effectively share with the client to add value to his or her business. And, as time goes on, you must continue to grow and develop your expertise, keeping up to date in your field.

Second, you must have an existing set of relationships that can be transformed into clients or into referrals for clients. These are the people that know you and your capabilities best. They know the value you can add. Enlist their support.

Third, you need a dynamic plan to promote your business and yourself to your target market. Networking will be key to growth. .

What should Ugandan consultants do if they are to reach international standards?

They should update their consulting competencies through continuous learning and keeping abreast with new developments in the business landscape. And also, they have to invest in long-term trusted relationships and; tap into existing relationships for consulting business. Finally, they should practice commitment to excellence and provide value at all times.

Where do you see ABS Consulting Group in the next few years?

In the next five years, we will have a regional presence with at least three offices outside Uganda to efficiently serve our clients across the region.

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