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28 September 2013

In Memoriam Laurie Young

Tag(s): People, In Memoriam
Last week I attended the Institute of Directors Annual Convention at the Royal Albert Hall as a guest of Laurie Young. The Convention was excellent with a range of entrepreneurial speakers including the great Jack Welch, our own Sir Richard Branson and several up and coming entrepreneurs all doing well by disrupting the status quo. I had intended to blog about the convention and may still do so but then at another function this week I learnt the shocking and tragic news that Laurie had died of a massive heart attack that same day. I had been with him all day until 5pm when the convention ended and I had waved goodbye saying that I would see him at a Marketors’ dinner next month. I must have been one of the last people to speak to him.

 Laurie Young MBA, Dip M, FCIM was an international specialist in the marketing and selling of services whose career had been focused primarily in the professional services and technology sectors. One of the few independent advisers to the professions who has himself been a partner in a leading firm, as a global marketing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Laurie’s career also included senior positions with BT and Unisys. He also founded, built and sold his own consultancy company.

Laurie had been dividing his time between consultancy work (including teaching on the Executive Education Programme of Wharton Business School, USA), public speaking and writing. As an adviser to senior executives and marketing professionals, he provided guidance with the resolution of strategic marketing issues, brand strategy, new service design and client care programmes. Amongst Laurie’s recent assignments he chaired Fujitsu's Customer Experience Management panel and was one of two external members of the innovation board of Allen & Overy, a senior group reporting to the chairman on change initiatives in this global law firm. Over the years his clients also included Russell Reynolds Associates, Deloitte, Philips, Hitachi, Motorola, Lucent, Clifford Chance, Ericsson, Ingersoll Rand, Microsoft, the BBC, Cable & Wireless, American Express, NatWest, Gartmore, Nokia and BDO Stoy Hayward.

 A popular presenter, Laurie used to speak at a range of events every year from in-company seminars to larger international conferences. He also enjoyed writing and, in addition to contributing articles and expert comment in the national press, Laurie had over a hundred articles on service marketing published in various trade journals. He was very proud of the fact that over a million of his words had been published. These were all about business and marketing but he had also  started to write a novel. He used to research his subjects meticulously and took great joy in debunking the myths of management. He wrote chapters for edited books on the IT industry and had eight books published to date with one in the pipeline. These included:
Laurie's fifth book, From Products to Services: Insights and experience from companies which have embraced the service economy (Wiley, 2008), written with Beverley Burgess, draws on case studies of many leading international companies to trace the steps manufacturing businesses go through to become successful service providers. His next book, "Marketing Technology as a Service: Proven techniques that create value" was published in April 2010, attracting widespread interest in Europe, the US and in Asia. With the growth of interest in the service economy of the region as a whole, and particularly in China, Laurie was approached to speak at events in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing, and a Chinese language edition of From Products to Services is now available. Laurie once told me that a Chinese businessman Mr Zhang Ruimin, CEO and Chairman, Haier Group, Beijing had contacted him about the book and ordered copies for every one of his staff.  Encouraged by the book Haier accelerated its changeover from a traditional product-driven to a more customer-centric company.

Marketing Technology as a Service (Wiley 2010) also written with Beverley Burgess, was considered another major contribution to technology companies for the cultivation of service. My friend Rae Sedel, MD, Global Technology Practice, Russell Reynolds Associates said “Young and Burgess describe a shift in mind set and pragmatic techniques needs worldwide that are quite doable.”

The Marketer's Handbook (Wiley 2011) reassesses well known marketing techniques for today's businesses, unveiling the truths and misconceptions behind such techniques. His latest book Thought Leadership is about to be published. He offered me a pre-production copy last week but I said I had ordered it direct from the publisher and so I lost the chance to receive a signed copy from him.

Laurie Young was a specialist in the marketing and selling of services. His management career was primarily in the technology and professional services sectors where he became well-known and respected.  His career included a number of jobs which required marketing skills to be applied to companies in the midst of dramatic change. For instance, in 1984/5 he was Executive Assistant to the then Deputy Chairman of British Telecom, Deryk Van der Weyer, the director in charge of BT’s privatisation. Later, as Director of Service Marketing at Unisys, Laurie was responsible for marketing and repackaging a range of services after a collapse of product margins in the worldwide computer industry. In 1999 Laurie was invited to be the global marketing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ $2 billion Corporate Finance division when it was considering disinvestment as a result of radical regulatory change. Laurie also founded, built and sold his own professional service company specialising in services marketing. This grew to a vibrant mid-sized boutique with offices in London, Paris and Stockholm, without borrowings or acquisition. It was bought by Ogilvy & Mather, on behalf of WPP.

Over the years Laurie advised a range of high profile firms on different aspects of service marketing. Laurie was a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the world’s largest professional institute for marketers, held its Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing and served on its international board of trustees. He held an MBA in Strategic Marketing from the University of Hull and taught service marketing on MBA programmes at Hull and at ESSEC in Paris as well as on the joint Professional Services Marketing Group / Cambridge Marketing College CIM accredited Diploma in Marketing for the Professional Services Industry. Laurie was a contributor to the Oxford College of Marketing's Marketing Video library on Marketing Professional Services and Corporate Communication and following interest in his From Products To Services book in 2009 Laurie was asked to teach on the Executive Education Programme of Wharton Business School, USA.

Laurie was also a member of the advisory board of Rethinking Legal Business and a judge on both the Information Technology Services Marketing Association annual awards and the International Dairy Federation marketing awards. He was a Fellow and Trustee of the Strategic Planning Society.

 Laurie was asked to undertake a wide variety of consultancy projects for leading public companies and for professional partnerships. These included Allen & Overy and David Morley, their Managing Partner said of Laurie: “Allen & Overy LLP is one of the world's leading law firms offering a wide range of legal services to clients in 19 different countries. The departure of our global marketing leader gave us the opportunity to reassess our global BD and marketing function in the light of our changing strategic ambitions and the appetite of our 460 partners. With an impressive efficiency and good humour, Laurie interviewed a wide range of partners, specialists and clients, in order to create a clear, practical route map. This enabled me to create a consensus around the characteristics of the new global leader we needed and the direction we should take with the entire function.”

Last year I sat next to Laurie at his first formal event with the Worshipful Company of Marketors to which he had just been admitted as a Freeman. He admitted to me that he was a somewhat reluctant recruit having finally given into pressure from senior members of the Company. He was not impressed by the traditions of the Livery movement. I set out to convince him of the values of the our Livery Company which, while respectful of ancient traditions, is dedicated to promoting the profession of marketing, to giving of its time and money to good causes, and to the fellowship of its members. I recommended him as a member of a Think Tank, highly unusual for a new member. He subsequently was a speaker at an excellent panel event on measuring marketing effectiveness. I also asked him to direct an event visiting the Guildhall Library. Knowing his passion for the long history of branding I thought he would take to this with enthusiasm and he exceeded my expectations.

After Jack Welch spoke to the convention Laurie and I debated what kind of leader he had been. We both respected him but wondered whether he had presided over a hire and fire culture. We then exchanged anecdotes about some of the worst excesses of such firms. I told him the story of National Cash Register whose behaviour back in the 1920s had been nothing short of criminal. He was sceptical and so when I got home I looked it up and found the story in a book I have, Think by William Rodgers, [i]which tells the story of IBM and was written “with the active non-cooperation of the company”. I was contemplating how to bring this to Laurie’s attention when I heard the tragic news.

He will be sorely missed by both friends and companies alike.

[1] Think; a biography of the Watsons and IBM William Rodgers Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1970

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