Phil Lotter, CEO of Piilo Group
Phil Lötter is the CEO and founder of the Piilo Group, with offices in Canada and South Africa. He has more than 25 years’ international experience in business management and consulting. Phil started his career as a lecturer in Economics and then joined Accenture where he worked across industries in Africa, Europe, Middle East and North America. He was responsible for delivering major change initiatives in corporates driven by strategy and technology. After Accenture, Phil started the Piilo Group to focus on business change and transformation of corporations and governments. He and his team work with executives to define business strategies which is then translated into actionable transformation programs with the aim to drive change within their organizations or to create a step change in their operations to achieve significant and impactful business results. Phil holds a post graduate degree in Economics and completed various international studies. Phil serves on management committees of major corporations and provide advisory services to key executives.
What's your industry?
Professional services and technology
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I completed a post graduate degree in Economics and lectured micro and macroeconomics for 2 years. I then started my career in business consulting at Accenture which provided me with the opportunity to work across industries and countries. After 7 years and considerable amount of international traveling with Accenture, I wanted to create something that I enjoy while giving me the ability to have a better work-life balance. And that is how Piilo was born.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
As a business owner, I am involved across the business. Overall I ensure we follow our defined business strategy while being involved in daily operations. At this stage my major focus is on:
1. Business growth and development
We are focused on growth in North America which is taking considerable effort and time.
2. Client delivery and relationship management
I am involved in guiding project delivery and managing key client relationships. Some of our clients have been around for +7 years. I understand their businesses and engage their executives frequently to ensure we support them in the correct manner.
3. Product development
We are launching new products this year and I am involved in the development and review of the solutions.
4. Financial management
I manage the finances of the company and I like to be on top of this.
5. Employee management
I work with employees on a daily basis from marketing to client delivery. Also need to ensure people are happy and deal with career activities.
6. Community involvement
I am a member of non profit organizations and engage on various topics around this.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The business and IT consulting industry has always been a major driver of new ideas and change across industries. The main reason why companies use external consultants is to enact and drive change in their organizations. With business automation driven by AI, robotics, other technologies and thinking (innovation in process and people practices), the consulting industry is at the forefront of driving this. We experiment with "new thinking" to understand how it can bring value. What excites me is the constant evolution of our industry as we are forced to be at the forefront.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
As you get older you realize some universal truths. Best advice I can share is: Stay true to yourself. In business, often when people start their careers, they try to emulate others who they think are role models or successful. This a wonderful strategy if you want to become a clone. However, if you stay true to who you are, you will succeed in your own way and where you are suppose to. We all have different journeys.
What's the most challenging project or situation you've overcome to date?
I'll share two different challenges. First, failure in business. I created a software division which ended in disaster. We spent a substantial amount of money and effort to develop a software-as-a-service solution. We had delivery issues with the outsource provider, software was technically unstable, and our entry market immature which lead to dismal sales. I closed the doors 2 years after we started, letting staff go and mothballing the development. It is a terrible feeling to deal with failure. During this time, I got distracted from our core business and had to put significant energy in to get us back on track. As we made good money the company was back on its feet in a short time.
Second, on a personal level, competing in the iron man. This was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. It is not about athletic ability, it is about resilience. People who finish are those who persevere when they feel like giving up. Float when you can't swim and walk when you can't cycle and shuffle when you can't run. Like life, it is a race against yourself, not others.
Are you using any AI tools right now to help grow your business or, if not, do you plan to use any this year?
Yes, we are exploring the application of AI to support business change and transformation.
In transformation projects, there are often a need to automate or drive operational efficiencies to increase production or reduce costs. We see AI in process automation as a solution to fast track benefits realization.
We are also in the starting phase of engaging AI and robotics providers. In business transformation programs, solutions for business automation can drive significant value and our aim is to partner with key providers to support our delivery.
Overall, do you see AI as a good thing for business?
Yes. If you have a longterm business strategy to stay competitive and relevant in the market it is unavoidable. The question on most executives' minds are how their businesses should apply AI within their current operating models, what the impacts are and how they manage this. At a high level, I see AI's benefit for business under the following categories:
AI will bring companies closer to their customers by driving individualization in engagement and product/service delivery.
AI will increase product evolution rates and reduce product development life cycle times and costs.
AI will drive process and operational efficiencies while reducing back office costs. AI will naturally continuously improve as part of its way of working.
4. Data intelligence
AI makes data more valuable by providing insights at the point of consumption while allowing businesses to adapt faster to changing market conditions.
AI will work with employees to make them more productive and effective in their jobs by enhancing their skill sets.
AI can work 24x7, increasing productivity of assets and ROI in industries such as manufacturing.
I can list more, but I believe if AI is applied correctly in business it can add incredible value to businesses, consumers and employees.
Overall, do you see AI as a threat or an opportunity in business?
Opportunity, AI is a reality and the next step in our evolution. AI might threaten our current way of thinking and being, but it opens up opportunities to an exciting future.
Is AI overall a treat or opportunity?
This really depends on your industry and change adaptability. If you are a retailer, I would see this as an opportunity to use technology to increase my customer engagement and sales. If I am in Oil and Gas or Mining, I would apply AI to become more operational effective to drive down costs. If I am in process outsourcing, capturing and managing data, I would be concerned as my business is clearly sitting with a dying operating model. So the questions is what next or how to adapt. Similar, for customer service and other service related industries.
As with the introduction of new technologies over the years, some industries will flourish and others will definitely die. But we will see the rise of new industries and jobs.
The impact on humans is a very interesting topic, which needs to be explored.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I would wish for prosperous markets with greater opportunities!