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30 years of Team Consulting: the journey from 1986 to today

First, let us rewind back to 2011, the year that we began to write Insight magazine and the year we celebrated our 25th anniversary. It felt like the perfect time to start writing comprehensive articles about our knowledge of medical device development.

In the first issue, we shared an article about the ebbs and flows of the company as it had established itself. We told the story of how, on 11 November 1986, five friends and colleagues who were working together at a large technical consultancy, were adamant that they could set up a company which would offer a higher quality, high-end technical service than their employer.

Co-founder, Andy Fry said, ‘As a group we settled on the name “Team Consulting”, as this embodied the aspirational culture we hoped to achieve, one of combined wisdom, teamwork and collective expertise.’

In the five-year period since we shared that ‘brief history of Team’ in issue 1 of Insight, Team has changed quite dramatically. As a company, we have grown from 50 to nearly 100 employees, and we have rapidly developed our capabilities to enable us to work on absolutely life-changing medical devices that embrace cutting-edge technologies.

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Looking back to our beginnings, it is difficult to take in the vast changes that our company, our industry and the world have seen over the last 30 years; especially when we consider what has been made possible today, by huge advances in technology.

1986 was the year that gave us Top Gun (and the great duo of Maverick and Goose); Ferris Bueller had his day off; and IBM launched its first laptop, weighing a totally lap-crunching 13 lbs (5.8 kg) – not that our founders could afford one at the time. And, incredibly, British surgeons performed the world’s first triple transplant (heart, lung and liver) only 20 miles down the road from us at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

For some, it still feels like yesterday, but as Ferris Bueller famously said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’

It is interesting to look back and see how things have changed, and it has been equally fascinating looking back at Team’s journey, which was possible thanks to a great archive kept by Jerry Turner, our chairman and previous Managing Director (from 1991 until 2012).

For over two decades, Jerry has kept a couple of unassuming shelves and boxes at Team stocked up full of company paraphernalia. When I asked him why he had been so meticulous, he told me ‘I’m not usually a nostalgic person, but I chose to keep things over the years to remind us where we came from.’

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An old brochure from Jerry’s archives

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Each style of business card from over the years

As I dug through the materials, there was something quite refreshing to see. Whether it was old project books, case studies, job advertisements, or some of the fun that has gone on here, it was clear how the ethos of teamwork and collective expertise has always been at the forefront of the company.

This was also true right at the bottom of the pile where I found the original typewriter-written business plan. In this, the founders had written their first mission statement for the company, where they aimed to have a ‘tremendous motivation to excel by a team of dedicated engineers and support staff’ that they hoped would be directly involved in the business as directors and shareholders of the company. That is still true today.

“Nowadays, responsibility is spread across the project team” – Sophie Raven

Looking elsewhere around the business, there are many faces that have been with Team for large portions of its history, and they certainly have some stories to tell. Sophie Raven, a senior consultant who has worked here for 18 years now, spoke to me about how, when she joined, laptops were few and far between.

Sophie cast her mind back and told me how, ‘I think when I joined we shared three laptops between about 20 of us. If we were going out to visit a client we would have to book the laptop and the project weeks in advance to make sure it would be free. You would then have to lug the heavy breeze-block sized technology halfway around the world, with strict instructions that they should not go in the airplane hold.’

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I imagine here that they were forming plans to combat the Y2K / Millennium bug

She also recounts how the management of projects has changed, recalling how ‘back in the day, the project manager was the key person in a project. They took all the responsibility and made all the key decisions.’ She went on to say, ‘Nowadays, responsibility is spread across the project team, with a project manager or sometimes two, and technical leads representing the main disciplines. It’s a similar way to how our clients work, and it creates a much more collaborative, one big team feel.’

“Working with suppliers has also become a much more collaborative affair” – Sophie Raven

In a similar way, Sophie reflected that working with suppliers has also become a much more collaborative affair. For example, the costs of stereolithography rapid prototyping, and even prototype moulding, have been significantly reduced; combine this with the fact that turnaround times are only a fraction of what they used to be, and this allows for significant changes. It has not only sped up the development process, but it has allowed clients to put a ‘real’ product into the hands of their senior management and customers at a much earlier stage.

Heading back to Jerry’s archives, I spot something a bit more familiar to me and my time at Team – the most recent memory added. Jerry has saved a collection of photos from late 2016 where we celebrated Team’s 30th birthday together. On the day, Dan Flicos, our CEO, took a moment to reflect back, and look forward to the next chapter of Team, stating that ‘Team’s best years are still ahead of us’; and seeing how things have changed recently, we agree. It is exciting to see what the future will bring!

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