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Thought-provoking keynotes on management, business and mentoring

Colin Coulson Thomas Speaker

Colin Coulson-Thomas

travels from UK

Entrepreneur, professor, author and adviser on business development who has spoken at more than 200 conferences

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About Colin

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Professor and keynote speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas is an international authority on winning business, director, board and business development, corporate transformation and future organisation - and founder director of start-up companies.  He is the best selling author of over 40 books and reports. He has appeared on radio and TV and spoken at over 200 national and international conferences in over 40 countries.

Author of ‘Winning Companies; Winning People”

Dr Colin Coulson-Thomas is Chairman of Bryok Systems, Cotoco, Adaptation and Policy Publications, and Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee of Peterborough PCT. An adviser on business development and corporate direction he has helped over 100 boards to improve board and corporate performance and reviewed processes and practices for winning business of over 100 companies. He is an Investors in People and CMI Ambassador; a business school academic at the University of Greenwich; has served on the ACCA Corporate Governance and Risk Management Committee; and has spoken at over 200 national and international conferences in 40 countries.

From 1994-97 he was Willmott Dixon Professor of Corporate Transformation, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Head of Putteridge Bury at the University of Luton and a Senior Associate at the Judge Institute of Cambridge University. He was Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor, McMaster University, Canada in 1995, and a Visiting Professor, East China University of Science & Technology, Shanghai in 1996; and at the Management Development Institute, Delhi 1997-2000 and University of Bedfordshire 2006-9. He is also formerly Professor of Competitiveness/Head of the Centre for Competitiveness at the University of Luton and Professor of Direction and Leadership, University of Lincoln. He served on Institute of Directors committees for 20 years.

Formerly chairman of the Judges for the e-Business Innovations Awards; and chairman of ASK Europe plc for eight years, he served for ten years on the Board of Moorfields Eye Hospital, and for six years as Deputy Chairman of the London Electricity Consultative Council. He served two terms on the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine, nine years on the National Biological Standards Board, five years on the Council of the Foundation for Science and Technology and four years as Corporate Affairs Adviser to the British Institute of Management. He is a past Chairman of the Crossbencher parliamentary liaison programme, past Chairman of the Bow Group, past Chairman and President of the Focus Group, and a former Team Europe member.

Colin has served on various corporate boards and governing bodies of representative, professional, learned, and voluntary institutes, societies and associations, including as chairman and president. He led the European Commission’s COBRA initiative which examined restructuring across Europe, was the principal author and co-presenter of the ‘employment and training’ module of the ‘CBI Initiative 1992’, and is principal author of the ‘Induction Package for New TEC Directors’.

Colin has led various change management, re-engineering and transformation projects and surveys of entrepreneurial/boardroom issues, attitudes and practice for the Institute of Directors, Institute of Management, Institute of Personnel Management, Government Departments and the NHS. Practical lessons derived from his surveys and work with entrepreneurs and boards are summarised in books from ‘Creating Excellence in the Boardroom’ (McGraw-Hill, 1993) to ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’ (Kogan Page, 2003), ‘Winning Companies: Winning People, making it easy for average performers to adopt winning behaviours’ (Policy Publications, 2007) and ‘Developing Directors, A Handbook for Building an Effective Boardroom Team’ (Policy Publications, 2007)

His other publications include ‘Creating the Global Company: Successful Internationalisation’ (McGraw-Hill, 1992), ‘Transforming the Company’ (Kogan Page, 1992, revised edition 2002), ‘The Future of the Organisation: Achieving Excellence through Business Transformation’ (Kogan Page, 1997/8), ‘Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy’ (Policy Publications, 1999), ‘Individuals and Enterprise’ (Blackhall Publishing, 1999), ‘The Information Entrepreneur’ (3Com, 2000), ‘Shaping Things to Come’ (Blackhall Publishing 2001) and ‘Pricing for Profit’ (Policy Publications, 2002).  He is the editor of ‘Business Process Re-engineering: Myth & Reality’ (Kogan Page, 1994), and executive editor (all Policy Publications) of ‘The Responsive Organisation: Re-engineering new patterns of work’ (1995), ‘The Competitive Network’ (1996), ‘Winning Major Bids’ (1997), ‘Developing Strategic Customers & Key Accounts’ (1998), and the ‘Winning new Business in ….’ series of reports (1999-).

Colin was educated at the LSE (Trevennon Exhibitioner), London Business School, EAESP – Fundacao Getulio Vargas (Brasilian Government Scholar), and the Universities of Aston, Chicago (Deans List) and Southern California (Graduate School Distinction).  He obtained first place prizes in final examinations of three professions.

See keynotes with Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Talent management

    • Current approaches to talent management are missing opportunities to benefit people and organisations by capturing and sharing what high performers do differently.
    • Talented people can be expensive to hire, difficult to manage and may not excel at everything.
    • An approach based upon Colin’s work enables other people wherever they might be to emulate the superior approaches of high performers whose lives and performance is also enhanced.
    • Pioneer adopters have obtained huge returns on investment of over 20, 30 or 70 times in six months to one year.
    • Advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and mini case studies can be shown.
    • The approach advocated by CCT is set out in his book Winning Companies; Winning People.


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas


    • Traditional approaches to mentoring are expensive, time consuming, and because they require physical meetings can often only be offered to a few high fliers.
    • People who mentor may be good at some things and hopeless at others.
    • An approach based upon Colin’s work enables everyone wherever they are to receive mentoring help wherever they are 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
    • Advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and mini case studies can be shown.
    • CCT is author of Developing Directors and has helped over 100 boards to improve director, board and corporate performance.


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Corporate transformation and change management

    • Many change and transformation programmes are hugely expensive, take years to implement and fail to deliver.
    • In the meantime the requirement can change.
    • An approach based upon Colin’s work enables people to quickly obtain multiple benefits for both people and organisations.
    • Advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and mini case studies can be shown.
    • CCT has been the process vision holder of complex and successful transformation programmes and was the world’s first professor of corporate transformation. His books include Transforming the Company described by The Times as a “classic of the genre”


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Transforming the performance of key workgroups (in a recession)

    • Colin Coulson-Thomas shows what high performers do differently and how leading companies are equipping people to do difficult jobs in a winning way.
    • He covers how to increase performance by helping average performers to do difficult jobs like superstars.


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Creating a Winning Board

    • Prof. Coulson-Thomas shows how to develop more competent directors and more effective boards – very relevant given recent conduct of many financial institution boards.
    • He covers what effective boards do differently and how to create a more effective board.


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Winning New Business or Winning More Business

    • Prof. Coulson-Thomas shows how to be more effective at winning bids and building key account relationships.
    • He covers what the most successful people and organisations do differently to win business.
    • Related benchmarking is also available to interested companies and professional firms (seven professions covered).


    Keynote by Speaker Colin Coulson-Thomas

    Winners – what high performers do differently (in a recession)

    • This is all about the differing approaches of high performers in areas that are critical to corporate success.
    • Colin Coulson-Thomas summarises the differing approaches of winners and losers as summarised in the book ‘winning companies, winning people’, selecting areas of findings most relevant to a particular audience.

Interview with Colin Coulson-Thomas

Can you share a bit about your background and how you have become an authority on developing companies and talent?

I am Cornish by birth and family background. After graduating from the London School of Economics I qualified as a chartered accountant to get an opportunity to visit a wide range of businesses in various fields before going to the LondonBusinessSchool to broaden my business education. After a period in consulting, general management and marketing roles with ‘blue chip’ market leaders I started to establish a number of businesses – generally with one, two or three colleagues.

Successful businesses of which I was the founder chairman have won awards at national and international level. In parallel, I have held public sector board appointments at national and local level, and professorial roles at Universities in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China.

I have an international outlook and experience, and have helped over 100 boards at home and abroad to improve director, board and corporate performance. I have spoken at over 300 corporate events and national and international conferences, congresses and summits in over 40 countries and delivered courses based upon my work in locations from Canada to China and from South Africa to Siberia.

I led a pan-European project funded by the European Commission to produce a new approach to restructuring, re-engineering and the introduction of new ways of working, and was the world’s first Professor of Corporate Transformation. I have also been the process vision holder or change management lead or adviser on some of the largest and most complex transformation programmes ever undertaken.

While these projects were successful and delivered on time, my surveys have shown this is a rare experience. Far too many organisations initiate costly, time consuming and disruptive corporate initiatives that fail to deliver. Hence my search in recent years for the quicker and more affordable, flexible and sustainable routes to high performance organisations and transformation which I set out in my latest reports.

If you were to start a new company today, what would be the first thing you would do?

I would start by focusing upon potential customers and their issues and priorities. Business is about customers, winning them and keeping them by finding profitable ways of helping them to address their problems and seize or create opportunities that will help them to achieve their aspirations.

I would pick a group or category of customers that I would want to help and that I would enjoy interacting with and serving. I learned in a war zone that very day is precious. I would not waste a second of my life looking at an area that did not interest me however lucrative it might be.

If you relate to your prospects, you can explore with them their frustrations and what would interest and excite them. I would aim to develop offerings that give people new options and choices. I would avoid duplicating something that already exists. Differentiation is vital for standing out and making an impact.

Success is usually a bi-product of what you do for others. Other people’s time is also precious to them. I would adopt approaches I have developed and/or championed to make it easy for people to help themselves.

It is difficult to become a market leader by copying other people. At some point you need to go out in front and explore, pioneer and discover. I believe you owe it to people you employ and/or work with to enable them to deliver offerings and achieve a purpose that is unique, special or different.

How should you go about finding the best people to hire for your company?

As we go through life we learn to distinguish between posers and deliverers, those who are smooth and those who are sound. I would avoid those who are overly self-important and self-centered in favour of those to whom customers would relate and who obtain satisfaction from helping others

In today’s world I would put a premium upon open-mindedness, flexibility and a willingness to learn. I prefer people with some passion and who question and challenge. I would avoid crawlers and bootlickers.

I would also avoid arrogant and expensive ‘high fliers’ who put their own careers first, and who demand favourable treatment and expect to be fast-tracked. In an uncertain world one may or may not need them in future.

Instead, I would go for those who put customers and the business first, those who excel at activities that are vital for customers, prospects and performance today, and who roll up their sleeves and deliver value.

It helps if you can get on with people, and if customers and colleagues are happy to interact with them in ways that are mutually beneficial. Where I would look for and hope to find the people I needed would depend upon the business I was setting up and customer requirements.

I would probably need fewer people than competitors as approaches I have developed and/or champion in my books and reports make it very easy for people to emulate what high performers do differently and to excel at difficult tasks. These approaches are affordable and quickly deliver multiple benefits and are ideal for supporting customers and helping them to help themselves.

I would help my own people as well as my customers. I see lots of people being trained for the top-down leadership, motivation and management of others. The ‘new leadership’ I champion is all about helping people and it delivers benefits for them and the environment as well as employing organisations.

Can you share some information as to what high performers do differently than the rest of us?

It all depends upon the activity or task. The results of my work on what high performers do differently in areas that are vital for corporate success are set out in over 40 books and reports. Areas I have examined include winning business, building customer relationships, purchasing, pricing and creating and exploiting corporate know-how.

The crirical success factors in each area studied vary from those in others, which is why generic lists of competences for managers and the generalisations set out in ’quick read’ books found at airport bookshops usually miss a key point. One can be hopeless at a whole range of things that people try to be good at, but excel in a few areas that are vital for success in a small number of critical jobs that lead to success.

Much training and development, a great deal of what is learned at business schools, and most of what the majority of people do in large organisations today is completely irrelevant to success in the key front-line jobs I have examined and for interactions with customers. Large amounts of management time, money and consultancy are devoted to activities that neither benefit customers nor differentiate.

In the area of winning business some 20 research reports based upon investigations I have led have been produced by Policy Publications setting out critical success factors in particular sectors and professions. Most of them can be quickly adopted. I have reviewed the processes and practices for winning business of over 100 companies and professional practices where the adoption of additional critical successn factors have boosted performance.

Each organisation and work-group will vary in terms of the critical success factors that it needs to focus upon. Encouragingly, even the most successful businesses in the top quartile of achievement are only very effective at less than half of the critical success factors. Every organisation that has ever participated in every survey could quickly improve performance by adopting additional critical success factors.

Required changes can be communicated quickly, built into processes and the performance support delivered to key work groups wherever they are, including when on the move. In my recent reports I set out how 24/7 support to enable ordinary people to excel at crucial and difficult jobs can be cost-effectively provided. For a large international company, or major public service, the cost of helping front-line staff to excel and stay current and vital can be cheaper than giving them a cup of tea.

See keynotes with Colin Coulson-Thomas
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Keynote topics with Colin Coulson-Thomas