Interview: The double life of Lynton Barker

Lynton Barker heads up two organisations, has two offices, has worked for both a large and a small firm, and most important of all, is torn between his allegiances for two football clubs.

‘My pals supported Burnley but my father and his brother were Manchester United supporters so I went to Turf Moor one week and, against my wishes, Old Trafford with my dad the next.’

The newly crowned president of the Management Consultancies Association learned to deal with duality when he was a child, but even though he has difficulty choosing which team to cheer on, it is clear that this has laid the foundations for his MCArole.

Barker has come a long way since his days on the Turf Moor terraces but still has to carefully divide his time between two slightly less conflicting organisations, Hedra, where he is executive chairman and as the president of the MCA.

While Hedra is his day job, he is proud of his achievement in becoming president of the 48-year-old association that counts 28,000 consultants, with a combined annual fee income of £4.7bn, among its list of member firms.

‘In previous years, the leaders of the consulting firms were really careful about who they wanted to see as president and in some senses still are, but it makes you feel pretty good when you have both large and small firms wanting you to take on the role’, he says.

Barker recognises the role as both representative and advisory. This is ideal for a man whose experience has come full circle from four years as head of UK consulting at PwC Consulting to his role at Hedra.

‘It’s really a representative position, not like the presidency of some institutions when people dream of getting there for years and when they get there they have to change their lives for 12 months’, he says.

‘It’s light touch compared to some of the other presidential positions, although if you’ve been fighting the big names in the consulting industry on issues tooth and nail for 20 years and then these same people turn around and say we want you to be president of the MCA, it’s something special.’

Barker’s specialist subject is the public sector and his appointment comes as no surprise with the public sector increasingly investing more in consulting.

‘Rather than get in the position of having an election manifesto, members have a chat among themselves and discuss what issues are coming up in the next 12 months,’ says Barker. ‘It very much depends on the flavour of the year and the public sector is a huge area. As president, you have to capture the real essence of what the issues are for all the member firms and you have to constantly keep your eye on those issues for 12 months.’

Through his vast industry knowledge, passion and commitment, as well as his marked approachability, Barker fields many calls asking for his personal opinion and advice.

‘The number of questions I’ve been asked has grown enormously. These have ranged from the Chartered Management Institute and the Institute of Management Consultancy merger, the sensitivity of a particular client on a service a firm’s been providing, and the fact that we need to move out of our current MCA premises.’

Although Barker has only held the position for less than two months, both he and the industry are more than pleased with his selection, especially as he has sat on both sides of the fence.

‘Members feel comfortable with my appointment because I have worked for both a small firm and a big firm. This sits well with the big strategic changes that have taken and are taking place in the industry. At one time the structure was based on accounting firms but it has now moved to a very small number of firms that have grown. The proliferation of smaller firms now means they are just as important as their larger counterparts.’

Barker seems more than happy for his ‘double life’ to continue. However, he has recently discovered a hobby that may be able to relieve some of the pressure ð learning to play the piano.

Fortunately for Barker, the industry and the member firms he represents are more than confident he will be able to carry on hitting the right notes.

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