Aby: You founded Abyrint in 2013. What´s your idea with Abyrint?
Ivar: At the time of course, as much opportunity as it was strategy. Engaging in Fragile States, and in Somalia in particular where we started was in hind-sight a significant start-up risk. I don’t think we fully appreciated at the time how much risk this was; businesswise and in any other way.
We were at the outset determined to build a Firm that works much like a small boutique strategy firm, or a small law firm, the sort that really knows the client well, understands their issues, and are able to do great work consistently and over time.
“Where it matters most” is a slogan that we came up with almost before we started and I still think it captures the gist of what we are trying to do. We have all had the pleasure of working with great businesses and governments around the world, and working with the same diligence and quality in fragile states, feels ultimately more impactful.
Aby: How does one build such a Firm from scratch?
Ivar: When I myself worked at some great institutions, the World Bank and at PwC, I don’t think I appreciated how much thought and hard work that had gone into building the internal workings.
How to create an environment where smart-knowledge-workers get even better, because they work together, and in ways that make them better than if they were alone. So we set out to create a version of this ourselves. And we invested much time and effort to build that.
We had some great and experienced people with us also in the beginning to help. People like Paul Koets, Nita Wink and Karene Melloul were instrumental in establishing much of what we have built on since. And we were really fortunate to recruit some brilliant younger people who also had experience from world class firms and were instrumental in making it work. Ever indebted to Magali van Copppenolle and Stina Haerum.
While we have our share of procedures, rules, technologies and systems, there is clearly a very significant cultural component to management. I think this is a choice that knowledge-intensive firms have, whether to formalize or to manage more by culture. For us it was clear. There is so much tacit knowledge, understanding and communications necessary for our work with clients that requires this. These days, ever more is being automated. For our clients and for our work. We invest a lot in that.
I think we have been able to build some really solid foundations. Our senior staff can work very effectively with the brilliant younger staff we bring onboard. And over time we have nurtured more people who can manage difficult engagements. A Firm like this is a bit like the old apprenticeship models. Perhaps like some great law firms are.
Aby: How will Abyrint evolve from here?
Ivar: We will grow and continue to do great work! The markets we work with are small compared to what typical consulting firms deal with, so there is a constraint to that. More importantly is that the strength of our model is set to grow organically. We ultimately believe that if we are to continue to deliver really insightful and helpful work for our clients, it needs to be nurtured and grown over time to remain solid. It is gardening more than it is hunting.