Mark Lim, CEO, Magnetic Alliance

Mark Lim: A Fearless Spirit Leading in the Business Consulting Space  

Management consulting is a challenging prospect for most organisations. On the one hand, it requires in-depth knowledge of the client’s domain, and on the other hand it requires value-addition to their business with a keen eye for details and thorough examination of their business models.

To an untrained eye, management consulting simply offers an outsider’s perspective. However, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Management consultants can provide an original, independent, and expert insight, which is unparalleled in its weight to carry a business to new heights.

Being a management consultant requires an insight ingrained in rich experience. It also requires years of experience in people management, business model analysis, and a fearless spirit to guide the future of a business.

On the quest to find such eminent leaders in the management consulting space, Insights Success met up with Mark Lim, the Founder and CEO of Magnetic Alliance, a promising venture in the management business consulting space. Mark delivers a rare insight and wisdom from the industry in his conversation below.  

Give us a brief overview of your journey as the Founder and CEO of Magnetic Alliance, and also tell us what inspired you to venture into the management/business consulting space.

I used to work in the corporate world and used to work on projects in conjunction with big firms in the management/business consulting space like McKinsey & Co, Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, KPMG, Accenture, and the like, and I really liked the aspect of an independent third party coming to have a look at how the business could do things differently to improve.

The teams came from the best schools and companies around the world, but I saw a big gap in that the consultants I worked with struggled a lot with bridging the gap between theory and the real world. They had good ideas but little grasp on whether those ideas could be implemented. They also came in, did a project, and left, often leaving staff not knowing what to do, so a lot of things don’t get followed through until completion.

And finally, they were so expensive, only very large corporations could really afford them. Since I had a very good grounding in the commercial and operational side of the business, I combined this experience with the strategic side, which gave birth to the idea of Magnetic Alliance. Where strategy meets implementation, and we hang around to see results come through for small to medium business owners. 

Tell us more about Magnetic Alliance, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the consulting niche.

We’ve just recently updated our mission and vision, which is “To Power Your Business, Fuel Your Lifestyle and Help Make Your Dreams Come True” with a vision of “Our vision is to move humanity forward by helping entrepreneurs achieve their ultimate potential and take life to higher dimensions.”

Everything we do revolves around our mission and vision. It’s our guiding light, our true North. I haven’t really looked at any other competitors or what others are doing in the consulting niche. I hear about a lot of things, but I am not really concerned about what anyone else is doing. We have a path that works beautifully between business owners and us, and that’s all that matters.

We are more collaborative rather than competitive. Yes, we have won Australia’s #1 Firm for business growth three years in a row, but that’s without worrying about what anyone else is doing. We do our thing; it works. It helps people; we love what we do, and that’s all that matters. 

From a leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the pandemic on businesses, and how did you overcome the challenges rooting from the pandemic?

I personally think that the pandemic, or more so, “the response to it”, with lockdowns and restrictions that change the playing field, require a higher level of leadership. It has the potential to not only sink businesses but entire industries. But where there is change, there is opportunity.

It allows those who are willing to step up to rethink what they are doing and how they are doing it. It forces people to become more creative at solving problems. It requires us to really take a good hard look at our future rather than do what we’ve always done.

The way we thrived during this crisis is to step up. To help more people and diversify our business to be pandemic proof. Businesses need to stop thinking in terms of ‘what they do’, i.e. I have a barbershop, we cut people’s hair… and start thinking in terms of “what business(es) should I be in”?

Diversity is critical. This challenge shows us that we can’t just do what we’re comfortable with; we can’t just rely on our past experience and technical skills but really take ownership of our future. This means that we may have to take on things that we have never done before, learn skills that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for us. 

What is your opinion on the necessity for companies to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving customer preferences?

Technology isn’t going away. There are challenges, and there are opportunities. There are more threats, like cyberattacks which are invading the small and medium business space. Whether people are comfortable with this or not, they need to address it. There are advancements in technology that will require us to be more responsible for our own lives, such as the blockchain. It provides us with the opportunity to become our own banks but requires knowledge and upskilling.

Not many people understand the blockchain now, but I don’t think it’s reserved for cryptocurrency traders. I think a lot of things will take place on blockchain and quantum technologies going forward. Small businesses may need to provide payment options that involve cryptocurrency in the not-too-distant future as more people begin using it for payments. 

What efforts did you and your team at Magnetic Alliance take during the pandemic to sustain operations and ensure the safety of your employees?

The first thing that we did was to protect our team. To make sure that we retained 100% of our staff and didn’t have to let anyone go. We understood that each team member had families, mortgages, and bills to pay, and we had to stick by them through these challenges, and we were successful with that. We moved everything online so everyone could work from home and provided emotional support, security, and certainty more than anything.

We helped our clients and community with free workshops, forecasting which industries we think will suffer and which industries to focus on because they will do well. Then we implemented our own advice as per usual. In 2020, we ended up partnering or acquiring five businesses. The only thing that would slow us down was not the pandemic; it would be the set-up and restructure of all these new ventures, setting up systems, teams, and the foundations to create future platforms for growth. 

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the business ecosystem in Australia?

I think it’s already quite well known that Australia has really cutting-edge talent but not so bullish when it comes to funding. Many projects need international funding because our home-grown investors seem to be more risk-averse. I believe that if the government was more active in creating a hub for investment, as well as moving tech to the commercialisation stage, then we would do much better.

The business ecosystem could also do with a lot less red tape. I feel that all our rules and regulations can get a bit over the top and choke smaller businesses rather than encourage them to thrive. Too many rules and hoops to jump through, also too many taxes and penalties. We need simpler compliance, so business owners can focus on growth.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the consulting space?

You have to be good at what you do and be able to walk the talk. The last thing that businesses need right now is another mouthpiece telling everyone what to do, but not really having done it themselves.

Loving what you do also shines through. If you are just doing it for the money, I don’t see it as long-term success. And you need to add value. If you don’t add value, you’re just another cost. Do those things, and that will get you a really good start. 

How do you envision scaling Magnetic Alliance and its offerings in 2021?

2021 is actually a year of consolidation for us, but it’s like pruning back a tree to prepare for fresh growth. We are actively consolidating in every area of our business, whether it’s eliminating things that we started that doesn’t fit with our objective anymore or streamlining and integrating systems and processes with our team. We have grown for eight years in a row, and it’s time to let the concrete dry, so we can build on a stronger platform for the future.

It seems counter-intuitive to scale back just a little bit, tie up loose ends and free up resources and funding to take the next step, but it just makes sense and is in harmony with how the universe works. It’s like a controlled burn to make way for new life.

The next stage of growth is exciting though. We believe that by doing this, the next 12-18 months of growth will exceed the growth that has taken eight years to build up. We have a lot to look forward to!