Twenty years on and counting!

It was back in 2002 that James Dow, Jon Schofield and Mark Watts established Dow Schofield Watts. Now a challenger brand with a unique licensing model, we ask James Dow for his reflections on the past 20 years together with his thoughts on what makes DSW different.

James Dow - Twenty Years on and counting

What have been the high points?

Launching the business and gaining control of our destiny and identity was clearly high, but at the time we were just focused on getting on with it. We had a clear sense of autonomy, independence and shared values, and we were all clearly aligned as a team. It really was a classic case of three very capable people at the right time and in the right place – Manchester.

Bringing in new people to start their own business under our wing is always a personal high, followed by the admission to AIM of DSW Capital plc in 2021. It was the culmination of how we’d wanted to work differently but also the opportunity it provided to establish a long-term platform to move forward from.

In striving to establish your business model over the years, how have you differentiated DSW from the ‘Big Four’?

In some ways, we’re not different to the Big Four. We work on complex assignments, have a very similar collegiate way of working and have the same sort of clients and people. But our key difference is that we think differently, we are a people-centric business, not client-centric. This is important, we are a people business. Our partners are very client-centric because they are empowered as business owners to act collegiately, entrepreneurially and focused on the long term. DSW’s role is to help them be the best they can be.

What are the benefits of the model to DSW’s business owners?

Our business owners are empowered to make all operational decisions, this is the key to great client experiences too. Our partners build their own businesses; define their culture, set their own salaries, bonuses, and promotions, charge out rates, recruit their own people and which clients they choose to work with. They can choose to work on pro bono assignments or issues of technical or societal interest to them. They determine the business they want to build – we want them to think and act as owners.

DSW provides the infrastructure including finance, back-office support, marketing, compliance etc, for them to create their own potential – and this empowerment and being in charge of their own destiny is where we are very different to the ‘Big Four’. We’re people-centric.

We firmly believe it’s time for a change in the profession and our business model offers greater choice for professionals and clients alike.