Lee Cross is the co-founder and Managing Director of Skull Mountain, a digital product consultancy servicing a portfolio of clients comprised of global brands. He is also an associate director of three other professional services companies which specialise in digital brand and marketing (Random Colour Animal) technical engineering delivery (Pretty Technical) and business design consultancy (Rokker)

Lee is a digital product specialist with vast experience of launching and growing new digital businesses, products and services as well as turning around stagnating or plateauing businesses. He has done this for some of the worlds biggest companies, such as News Corporation, Willis Towers Watson and The Football Pools.

Lee founded Skull Mountain to enable businesses to drive actual revenue growth and profit within their digital futures, through in-sourced and outsourced product functions at all levels from CPO down. Their mandate is to push businesses to deliver the right product, to the right customer at the right time and this has ensured a strong track record of driving significant value between boardrooms, customers and delivery capabilities to ensure products are relevant, scalable and profitable across the full product and customer lifecycles.

1. In what shape has your business emerged from Covid-19?

We have come through covid so far in a much stronger position. Initially it was utterly terrifying what was going on in the world of course and we could see a lot of paralysis around us. Our core clients kept going with their projects however as well as progressing new opportunities with us which was important for the stability of our business.

We took time during lockdown to fully reassess our service offering in order to further enhance the value we bring to our clients. This led to an exciting and healthy pivot of our business away from a consultancy model and the overheads that this ultimately carries to our clients towards a product management framework, methodology and toolkit that is far more accessible and focussed. We are already seeing the value this brings to our clients who are now taking our methodologies, support and framework and running with this at pace!

It was also critical for us to adapt to the times as selling consultancy services is very challenging when you need to be establishing face to face relationships to do so. Now that we have productised our offering we are finding that it is much easier for clients to buy this value from us. A win-win.

2. What are the most important and emerging skills to work in the new normal?

It is essential to have consensus across teams and businesses around goals and vision. If you don’t then not only are your best people and teams disparate and remote, they will be unclear and working towards different outcomes. How on earth do you steer that and maintain growth – you can’t. Drive consensus and it shouldn’t matter where and when people work, they will be driving towards successful outcomes for your business and hopefully will be inspired to do so!

In terms of people skills this should manifest into desire of the individuals within a business to get as close as possible to the understanding of where value lies and what is important to drive business growth. It is no longer good enough to just be a good operator or hide behind a process – ask yourself what value are you bringing and how is that leading to measurable growth?

3. What changes have you made in operations and hiring that are here to stay, and what will you lose?

I think the days of lengthy arduous job descriptions are dead – thank god. We have known for years that it is far more important to have people with the right attitude and cultural fit within your organisation, that skills can be taught but mindsets are hard to change. It is more important than ever to have the right fit for your business culture as that culture is extremely hard to maintain outside of an office.

Generally we look to hire based on 3 criteria which are enthusiasm, integrity and a commercial mindset. Typically people with these attributes will bring so many new values to your business that a traditional job description could not possibly capture and would rapidly become outdated for them!

4. What has been your biggest key learning and how will this prepare you for the future?

That you should always be scrutinising your business, with a growth mindset, to truly understand what value it is driving for your clients as well as yourself and your teams. On top of this, don’t ever rest – the world is changing rapidly! It shouldn’t have taken covid for us to do this pivot, but here we are and we are very excited about our future.

5. What has been the biggest surprise to you?

I am shocked, but not surprised, at the number of people whose default attitude in this or any crisis is to hunker down and play safe. People have instantly assumed that there is no opportunity out there and that they should be content with maintaining the status quo. That cannot be further from the truth and I truly believe that with significant change comes enormous opportunity – you just have to work a lot smarter to find it. Don’t give into fear as that will only give you 1 opportunity outcome and that is stagnation into decline. I will caveat that “making it through covid” for some businesses will be an impressive feat in industries like travel and hospitality, but for businesses such as ours and most of our clients we have no excuse but to adapt and grow.

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