Views of a Fairgrove Founder
Paddy Woods Ballard
Paddy reveals the origin of the Fairgrove name, his favourite memories at the firm, and the top three books any budding strategy enthusiast should read.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Before co-founding Fairgrove in 2013, I had two previous roles. I spent 9 years at LEK Consulting doing strategy consulting, including some time out to do an MBA at INSEAD. I had always had an interest in investing and entrepreneurialism, so left to join the private equity arm of Octopus Investments, a rapidly growing fund manager. I had an incredible experience at Octopus as it grew from 20 to over 200 people over the time I was there. I then met Patrick – we had lunch together and found out we had an eerily large amount in common and decided to form a consulting firm together. It wasn’t just the similarities in our names (and common interest in strategy consulting), but we also enjoyed playing a variety of sports (especially tennis), had both been to Trinity College Cambridge (although at different times), both lived on the same railway line, both had similarly aged children and both ordered the same food off the menu! We formed Fairgrove and the rest, as they say, is history….
How has Fairgrove’s leadership team developed since that initial meeting?
The senior team has evolved significantly, benefiting from bringing in senior hires from other strategy consulting firms, but also from home grown talent stepping up into more senior roles. We now have 10 (and counting) Partners, Directors, Principals and Senior Managers. This has not only helped us to bolster our sector specialisms at the senior level but has also allowed us to considerably increase the amount of business development activities.
Why did you choose the name Fairgrove? What does this reflect about the firm and the work we do?
Fairgrove is a combination of “Mayfair”, as we originally located our office there, and “Grove”, as in “a small planting of woods” (which plays on the founders’ surnames of Woods Ballard and Woodrow). The Fairgrove tree logo refers to “seeing the wood for the trees” and getting the bigger picture. It also refers to business growth, a key goal in our work.
What is your best memory from your time at Fairgrove?
Many happy memories. I take huge pleasure in seeing new joiners evolve into strategy experts through a combination of training and on the job experience. I also think it’s great when one of the team comes up with an idea to improve things and we make it happen – whether that be a better way of solving a client problem or improving a firm activity like training or marketing. And, of course, I love it when we deliver excellent work for clients and they give us great feedback!
What are the three books you think everyone in the business world should read?
I am a great believer in books which are good at distilling lots of information into a succinct executive summary (“the wood from the trees”)! As such, I would recommend the FT Guide to Strategy by Richard Koch which covers all the main strategic frameworks, and a potted history of development of strategic thinking. On the topic of building growth businesses, I like Scaling Up: How A Few Companies Make It….And Why The Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish. I also liked Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, which provides an interesting take on finding untapped opportunities in markets.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What would your perfect day involve?
My perfect day would usually involve some form of physical activity followed by a nice meal. A particularly happy memory was taking my family paddle boarding out to Scolt Head Island in Norfolk, then having dinner at the White Horse, a local pub.
Three words to describe Fairgrove:
Happy, Friendly, Growing