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CultureJul 28, 2020

The DMW Group and Credera CEOs Talk About Joining Forces: Behind the Scenes With Chris Dean and Justin Bell

Sarah Barber

It’s an exciting time for both Credera and The DMW Group as these two companies officially join forces and partner together to provide global, boutique consulting services. With the recent announcement that Credera has acquired a majority stake in The DMW Group, we’d like to offer the chance to get to know more about the leaders of both respective organizations.

We sat down with DMW CEO Chris Dean, who will continue to lead that team, and Credera CEO Justin Bell to learn more about their backgrounds and visions for the future of Credera. We also discovered some fun facts about them both along the way!

Meet Chris Dean:

Chief Executive Officer at The DMW Group, London

Tell us a little about your backstory—how did your journey lead you to become the CEO of DMW?

I joined DMW when it was a six-person company in the UK after leaving what is now Accenture in 1989. I was our most junior employee at that point. We had a small, low-rent office in a suburb of London, above a video rental shop (remember them?). When I joined, we had a month or so of what was probably slightly cool weather in Texas. To us it was a heatwave. There was no air conditioning in the office, and everyone wore suits and ties in those days. I would describe the initial experience as entrepreneurial and sweaty.

The company grew a little and we moved to the centre of London. Then the senior management of the firm suddenly left the business to do other things. The handful of us who were left really loved small firm consulting and didn’t want to give up the dream, so we decided to see if we could run the firm. We were junior and didn’t have many sales contacts, so it was risky. We got lucky, however, and sold a few projects and built the business up gradually. We had no leader of the firm until 1996 when we had a vote to pick one. Nobody volunteered because we all wanted to focus on client work so it was like seeing who would have to do the forfeit in a game of Farkle*. I lost and became the Managing Director, but thankfully managed to keep doing some client work. I have to say, it has been an exciting journey that I’m really proud to have been a part of.

*If you’re from DMW and you don’t understand this reference, I’ll let the Credera folks explain.

How would you describe your approach to leadership?

I think it’s about three things:

  1. Enabling people to trust the business, be proud of it, and enjoy working here.

  2. Focusing on helping clear anything that gets in the way of people doing the thing they love and are good at.

  3. Having a clear and simple view of where the business is going and help get everyone on the same journey. Then it’s just a matter of making sure the small decisions are consistent with the agreed direction.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at work?

I have been married to Nicky for 30 years and we have three grown children who keep me busy and make life wonderful.

I run and cycle and I play the flute, clarinet, and a bit of saxophone. The following adverbs apply to the way I do all of them: slowly, badly, but enthusiastically.

Chris and wife, Nicky

Chris and his three kids – Sarah, Cathy, and Adam

What has running a business taught you about yourself?

I’ve learned that I like working with people who are highly motivated and smarter than me. It turns out I don’t get jealous of their brilliance. Instead, I get to celebrate their successes as if they were my own.

Chris, what made you realize Credera was the right fit for DMW?

I’m going to go for another list of three things:

  1. Most importantly the cultural fit is surprisingly good. The people focus, the humility, the business ethics are strongly aligned. Talk is cheap on these topics, but we have seen that Credera really values what we value and works the way we do.

  2. DMW’s management board has got to know the senior folks at Credera and we have built a great deal of trust in Justin Bell, Scott Covington, Andrew Warden and all of the people we have met.

  3. Lastly our ambitions are strongly aligned. Before we met Credera, we set our goal at being a ‘global boutique.’ We see ourselves doing very similar things for the same type of clients.

Oh, and we really want to see a rodeo.

Meet Justin Bell:

Chief Executive Officer at Credera, Dallas

Tell us a little about your background—how did your journey lead you to become the CEO of Credera?

I was the 10th employee of Credera back in 2004 and became CEO just by waiting the rest of them out. In all seriousness, I’ve just crossed the 20-year mark of my career in consulting and am very thankful that I joined Credera back then. I started out at the manager level and it has been an incredible experience throughout the entire journey. I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people who are both great at their craft and great people. I’ve been fortunate enough to take on many different roles over the years. It’s always been challenging and provided growth opportunities, but I’ve also always had the proper support to be successful.

How would you describe your approach to leadership?

Generally, I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am and put them in position to do amazing things. We’ve got a talented and committed team, so leadership here is pretty straight forward. I’m very transparent and try not to ask anyone on our team to do something that I’m not personally willing to do.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at work?

My wife Karla and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary and we have a 15-year-old son named Grady and a 12-year-old daughter named Riley. We lead a full and rich life, love to travel, eat and drink great food and wine and we love to host friends and family. I like to run and have been enjoying training with my son as he is getting ready for cross country season. During this work from home season, we have been playing a ton of board games. A few of our favorites right now are 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan.

Justin and Family

What has running a business taught you about yourself?

A lot actually. In many ways I’ve kind of “grown up” here at Credera and so many of the things I’ve learned from other Credera leaders have really influenced my broader life and, I think, really helped me to be a better leader for my wider family and friend groups.

One thing that I’ve really noticed the past few years is how my joy largely comes now by helping others to get the same type of great opportunities I’ve gotten here. I find that really fulfilling and believe it will be my primary focus for the rest of my career.

JB, what made you realize DMW was the right fit for Credera?

It was their accents… (says the guy from Oklahoma)

No, it was actually that I was just really impressed with Chris and then later Simon Greenhalgh, Helen Kilvington, Matthew Neale, and Marius Rubin. And everyone else I’ve met with has been incredible, talented, and energetic. This is a people business and the only way this sort of thing could work is if you find a great group of people with a similar vision, similar values, similar talent and quality bar, and enough humility to recognize that we might actually be better together than alone. I’m extremely confident in our ability to do great things together and make an oversized impact on our people, our clients, and the communities we live and work in.

And, I do like their accents…

We look forward to learning more from these two incredible leaders. For additional information about Credera and DMW, please visit our About Credera or About DMW pages.