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How to build a strong team: Part 1

Published on: 5 Jan 2018

Indigo Planning at the RTPI Awards [square]Teamwork is an essential ingredient for success in planning. At the 2017 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence three organisations were recognised for their exemplary team building. Matt Moody asked them how they did it

Indigo Planning
Founded 30 years ago with a team of just three people, Indigo has grown into one of the UK’s largest independent planning consultancies. It was crowned Planning Consultancy of the Year at the 2017 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence.

“We aim to keep staff motivated by talking to them – I think by being open with people it’s a lot easier for them to buy into our ethos,” says Phil Villars, Indigo’s managing director.

“We’re very open about our financial performance, almost on a weekly basis. Everyone here owns shares in the business and that’s important for making sure we all feel part of one single entity.”

This focus on communication is useful when it comes to clients, too. 
“To achieve the kind of successful development our clients are looking for, we work with a wide range of people, including local communities, planning authorities, interest groups, and more. Good connections are important, so our training has a real focus on communication skills – face-to-face, as well as online.”

As a large-sized consultancy that now operates from four offices across the UK, maintaining cohesiveness has presented a challenge for Indigo.

“It’s really important to keep a singular ethos across the business even as it has grown,” says Villars. “We get our staff together as a single business between offices as often as we can, whether it’s for social events or large projects. As the managing director, I try and make sure people at each of the offices know me.”

Maintaining that culture requires an organic approach to recruitment, says Villars. “We’ve brought in people almost on a one-by-one basis, rather than the ‘bolt-on’ style of recruitment you see sometimes when businesses are trying to meet new demands. We’ve always been ambitious, but we do it in a very purposeful way”.


• Make sure staff feel responsible for their work
• Be open and inclusive
• Make coming to work as enjoyable as possible

What the judges said
“Indigo’s enthusiasm and commitment to planning, people and places shines out, especially their innovation in communication and use of social media for community engagement,” said Nick Raynsford, chair of the RTPI Awards judging panel. “Their work builds on and goes beyond the positive contribution that planning makes to communities. We were impressed by their innovative practice and engagement with clients, stakeholders and the community.”