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How to build a strong team: Part 2

Published on: 12 Jan 2018

Optimis Consulting [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

Optimis Consulting

Optimis is a small planning consultancy based in Bedford. Its “highly professional and dynamic” team helped it to victory in the Small Consultancy of the Year category at the 2017 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence.

Cultivating the right company-wide ethos has been the key to success at Optimis, says managing director Justin Wickersham. “We aim for working practices that are flexible, promote professional development and allow staff to celebrate success both individually and as a team. This is a powerful approach, because the team want to come to work and they want to succeed, and I think our clients respect us for that.”

Building a close-knit team has benefited both staff and clients, says Wickersham. 

“We’ve found that if individual experiences are shared and we incorporate a range of unique approaches and skills from across the team, we can provide an improved service to our clients. Moreover, our minimal hierarchy empowers each of us to develop, and this benefits the business as a whole.

Working as a compact team is not without its challenges, however. “As a small team based in Bedford, attracting the right people was difficult at first. We approached this by innovating and offering services that other consultancies do not, and investing time and resources into our staff to help them become better planners. This has helped instil a sense of camaraderie where our staff see the business as an extension of their friendship group, which has really helped the business to thrive.”

Finding the funding to expand has been challenging for Optimis, but the consultancy is now in a strong financial position. “We’ve not been afraid to take risks in order to grow and achieve financial stability,” says Wickersham. 


  • Focus on the health, happiness and well-being of your team

  • Incentivise the team and celebrate success

  • Provide time, funding and support for CPD

What the judges said

“The team at Optimis are dynamic and highly professional, and offer a strong service to clients,” said Raynsford. “Their unpaid work with community groups on planning-related matters reflects their willingness to give back. We were impressed by their continuing professional development sessions for staff to develop their expertise and provide additional value to clients.”