Leader – Euro chiefs go on the record

How can you know what your clients want unless you ask them? Clients’ strategies, fears and hopes will directly drive the work that you will undertake in the coming year. In the final months of 1998, PwC conducted a survey among 250 European chief executives from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK as part of a larger global study. The report, published this month, reveals some surprising differences of opinion.

Most of your major clients will have already made major strides in trying to globalise their business. But individual country concerns remain diverse.

Generally, CEOs throughout Europe are optimistic about growth prospects over the next three years. The Germans are the most bullish while we are perhaps the most apprehensive. About 15 percent of UK chiefs describe themselves as being “somewhat pessimistic about growth”.

While corporate goal setting seems to take up most of the CEOs’ time, it was surprising to discover that less than 20 percent of UK CEOs said that contacting key customers merited much personal attention. The rest of Europe doesn’t exactly set an example with only Germany making much of a mark on its customer base.

Work undertaken for merger and acquisition projects is on the rise, with the British and the Dutch the most active in this area. E-business is also burgeoning, with the British spearheading projects in Europe. Surprisingly the French and the Germans tail far behind in the enthusiasm stakes.

However there is one area that all of Europe can agree on. Knowledge management is acknowledged as being one of the biggest challenges that European companies face. As one CEO from Spain puts it: “There will be more information at a CEO’s fingertips in the future, and the challenge will be in synthesising it effectively and not getting lost in the detail”.

Knowledge management has always been important to consultants’ work and it looks set to be firmly entrenched at the heart of what they provide.

It should be. It’s what the clients want.

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