OvationXL offers bespoke 1:1 leadership and business performance mentoring plus group strategy sessions, operating primarily within five business sectors: Law, Energy, Global Food Distribution, PR/Communications, and Education. It has recently been voted Best Leadership Mentoring and Coaching Provider 2023 – UK in the SME Business Elite Awards. Following this we had a chance to catch up with CEO Robin Johnson to find out a little more.
First and foremost, Robin believes in making running a business fun again as happy teams are profitable teams. OvationXL is in the business of enhancing soft skills, although it is the first to admit that they are anything but soft. Quite the contrary in fact, as oftentimes an organisation’s growth and profitability can hinge on its clear communications plus creating truly distinctive service offerings – and that’s not as easy as you might at first believe. We all need to present ourselves in ways that make it easy for our prospects to pigeonhole us so they remember us whenever there’s a need. Whilst professional senior and middle level business performance mentoring generates a reliable Return on Investment within any sector, OvationXL, chooses to focus. As Robin points out to us, it’s important that organisations don’t sow their seeds too thinly; advice he both offers and lives by. For example, he brings 20+ years’ experience supporting law firms in leadership, strategic and commercial thinking, focused rainmaking to streamline the attraction and conversion of profitable new business from the right types of client, teambuilding, public speaking, and much more to boot.
Aside from law, OvationXL actively supports four other sectors. Each of these is critically important to society and the economy and all benefit from the hard-hitting, evidence-based leadership development that OvationXL provides. Every one of a candidate’s eight bespoke mentoring themes is measured against 470+ other leaders, allowing you to identify your true potential and how to get there. It’s exciting, tough, and laser-focused, so not for the fainthearted. It stretches you well beyond your natural comfort zone. The fast-paced initiative might cover motivational leadership ‘behaviours’, self-belief, negotiation and delegation techniques, advanced communication skills (something we all should have learnt about years ago), enhanced self-awareness combined with the awareness of others, plus something it calls ‘waste of time management’. Perhaps none of us realise how much time is really wasted in a day, so this topic is often a real eye-opener. The ideas help us all move forward from unproductive ‘busyness’.
OvationXL might also cover advice on how to hold those difficult conversations that Robin has renamed ‘Solution-Focused Conversations’ that are easier to do, and much harder to put off and put off. In combination, the effect of OvationXL’s services magically fuse to help its business clients achieve greater efficiency and increased profitability. Valued long-time client David Pryce, the Managing Director of Fenchurch Law, even describes Robin as a ‘magician’.
“I can’t recommend Robin highly enough as a law firm leadership coach. He knows his market really well, and is highly effective at helping to bring clarity to difficult situations. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t benefit from his insights, and his unique and structured approach to coaching. He’s a magician.”
David Pryce, MD Fenchurch Law
OvationXL follows a number of guidelines or ‘rules’ when it comes to promoting its own business to the wider market, and when advising clients on making improvements. The first of these is to take a narrow focus by not spreading yourself too thinly. Robin has witnessed too many companies taking a kind of scattergun approach to sales, wanting to be all things to all people and they usually miss their target. This is not an efficient way to work, and instead Robin uses the metaphor of becoming a sniper. He uses this line a lot during new business presentations and came unstuck just once when pitching to the Ministry of Defence. “It resulted in a deathly silence, but we still won the contract”, Robin quipped.
The second important factor is to strive to be the very best on at least one aspect of what you do. Robin supplements his business knowledge by spending an inordinate amount of time reading books on business management, and researching the latest trends. This is how to stay ahead of the curve and succeed. The third rule for Ovation XL means carrying a fairer share of the risks for your clients. Appointing new providers takes guts, so he does everything he can to ease the decision. For example, in addition to the eight hours of paid for mentoring that Robin and his team provide over three or four months, OvationXL offers ongoing advice for the next five years at no further cost – something that is surely unique in the mentoring industry. “None of our competitors would ever dare match this crazy promise that we have offered for more than 15 years”, Robin added. This winning approach not only proves OvationXL’s confidence in its ability to genuinely make a tangible difference to its candidates, but it provides a rich stream of high quality onwards referrals from delighted customers.
Linked to the above is the need to know your subject inside out. To this end, Robin has written a 1,500-page manual capturing hundreds of issues brought forth by many of his 470+ candidates. This manual helps to provide well-structured mentoring sessions, and offers many different solutions for problems presented by current candidates. The fourth rule concerns bringing real world commercial experience to the table as a professional coach/mentor. This is essential to being taken seriously, as clients don’t want textbook learning, they value real life lessons. Robin himself used to run a multi-million-pound corporate communications agency in central London, and learned many lessons along the way that have stood him in good stead. The final rule is to mimic chameleons. Knowing that different buyers have different needs requires an agile approach, and makes interventions fun and interesting.
OvationXL’s team often notice that executives are often working round the clock and yet failing to turn a profit and sometimes struggling with their health. It likens this working practice to a continuous pounding of the treadmill, that leads to devastating burnout, which isn’t what running a successful business should be about. In its experience of helping to turn businesses around, changes are almost invariably needed across multiple areas. Perhaps the ‘leaking bucket effect’ needs to be repaired, personnel conflicts addressed directly, or maybe the sales team are wasting inordinate amounts of time chasing prospects who are never ever going to buy from them, or falling headfirst into the auto-discounting bear trap. Almost invariably it is the combination of changes that are required to move the needle.
OvationXL’s popular 1:1 in person mentoring service is invariably booked up for two months in advance which is a terrific and enviable position to be in. Of course, during the recent COVID-19 pandemic all work both within the UK and further afield had to be conducted via TEAMS or ZOOM, but now the company is back up again to 91% in-person support. This is usually preferable for both the candidate and the mentor/coach as it allows non-verbal signals to be detected more easily. With such a high client demand, it is gratifying to hear that Stephanie Boyce, the immediate past President of the Law Society of England and Wales, has just joined the OvationXL leadership mentoring team. Accomplished public speaker Stephanie provides services in change management, diversity & inclusion, executive coaching, and legal consulting. She is undoubtedly to be a tremendous asset to the busy team. Stephanie is to join forces with Robin and Linda Duberley. Linda began her career as a journalist on national newspapers before moving to Sky News as a presenter, Fox News as a foreign correspondent and ITV as a current affairs/consumer presenter. During her tenure at Sky News she moved across to the SMT to re-structure and run the broadcaster’s communications department.
Finally, three months ago OvationXL launched a set of six economic training videos aimed at bringing on the skills of Heads of Department – one of OvationXL’s sweet spots. Several clients have taken out whole year licences and love them with several already re-booking for second years. The most popular video package includes one in-person two-hour presentation with Robin or one of his senior team so that particular challenges and opportunities can be discussed with the experts.
As the world of business is changing under our feet, Robin feels that entrepreneurs have to be tenacious, and not let go in the face of initial failure. There are going to be bumps in the road, but when something isn’t working it is vital to behave differently. Otherwise, of course, you’re just going to get the same results. Whilst working with OvationXL is often described as tough, fast-paced and stretching, it is frequently described as being ‘results driven’, ‘transformative’, and ‘great fun’ – so hardly surprising that they picked up the prestigious Best Leadership Mentoring and Coaching Provider 2023 – UK in SME’s Business Elite Awards.
For business enquiries, contact Robin Johnson from OvationXL on their website – www.OvationXL.com and