Retention Strategies: Garrath Rosslee

Retention Strategies: Garrath Rosslee


The business

Garrath Rosslee works as an independent consultant, specialising in the people-related aspects of change management. Highly qualified with more than 20 years’ experience working with individuals, groups and organisations in South Africa, the Gulf, the USA and France, Rosslee draws on a broad repository of professional knowledge.

With an MCom in strategy, an MA in Industrial Psychology and an MPhil in Business Ethics, he specialises in how culture can be used as a lever to facilitate change in distressed organisations, and the role of leadership and management practices in facilitating change.

Rosslee has been published in Turnaround Management Perspectives (Wits Business School) and the South African Journal of Industrial Psychology, and has lectured on the UNISA Open University MBA programme.

“What I do relates to my interest in change and how strategy, leadership and culture can be integrated to interface with productivity and effectiveness,” he explains.

Going it alone

Having worked for an industrial psychologist for two years, Rosslee joined a global consulting firm through which he was afforded the opportunity to work on international projects.

“As much as I enjoyed working in such a dynamic company, I found that I wanted to express myself in different ways. When you’re part of an organisation, you have to do things their way and I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to apply my skills in different and creative ways,” he says of his decision to go it alone.

Rosslee also craved the autonomy to choose which assignments he’d like to work on. “I wanted to go where I felt I could make the most impact, not simply to where the work was.”

Overcoming early challenges

Like many independent consultants, Rosslee’s early concerns related to whether he’d have enough business. But this very quickly changed as he faced the challenge of having to manage too much work.

“I started growing my practice but I really didn’t enjoy it. I was spending a lot of time selling and managing and not enough time doing what I loved. Initially I had always used associates but as things got busier I started employing people. All of a sudden I had this business that needed all my time and energy, and there was nothing left over to do what I had set out to do,” he explains.

In an environment in which growth is considered the entrepreneurial holy grail, it’s difficult to admit that you don’t want to build and grow a business. Rosslee took the decision to scale back. “Growing a business wasn’t my journey.

Having made the decision, it just felt right and I haven’t looked back,” he says. He learnt to be selective, taking on only those assignments that resonated with him, and choosing to work with people and companies with whom he felt a common purpose.

Priced right

Being in the enviable position of being able to select the work that he wanted to do meant Rosslee could price himself accordingly.

“The range of pricing in the industry is broad,” he says. “I have an idea of what a big firm will charge someone like me out at, and I’ll come in just above that.”

This means he’s priced above the top consulting firms, but this is intentional. “I want to work on projects where I can have an impact, and for that to happen you need to have people’s buy-in. When people are paying money for something, they listen to you,” he says.

However he adds that pricing needs to be experience-related, and that a similar pricing structure wouldn’t be feasible for a consultant who was just starting out. “The value of what you are offering, and your experience and expertise need to inform how you price yourself as well,” he says.

Setting it apart

Making the decision to downscale his business inadvertently gave Rosslee a differentiator over and above his qualifications and experience.

“When you work with people who you like on projects that challenge you, you  tend to over-deliver because the relationship is so strong and your belief in the project is so powerful,” he says.

He adds, “I really enjoy what I do, and the satisfaction I receive is what the client sees. They don’t buy the tool, they buy the enthusiasm and belief in what you’re doing. That’s what makes it work.”

Lessons you can learn

  • Manage expectations. If something needs to be done and you can’t do it, make that known upfront.
  • Always do more than what’s expected but don’t oversell on something you can’t deliver.
  • Always look for other opportunities to make a positive impact on the assignment.
  •  Behave in an ethical manner. Do the right thing.
  • Manage the client’s business as if it’s your own so they can see you have their interests at heart.
  • Nurture and protect relationships.
  • Think more broadly. South Africans’ skills set and experience makes them flexible and able to work in a range of environments.
  • Stay in touch with your network and follow them when they migrate to other territories. The international work will flow from there.

Vital stats

Player: Garrath Rosslee

Business: Retention Strategies

Launched: 1999

Contact: +27 (0)84 251 2471