At which time do you wake up in the morning?
The alarm is set for 7 am for me and my partner.
What is the first thing you do?
I take a look at my phone to see what’s my day looks like, get up and head out to the gym. If it wasn’t for my partner’s disciplined approach, I’d be sleeping an hour longer instead. Exercise is the best start of the day.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
It will be CNN, BBC News, The Economist and NRC (one of the dailies in the Netherlands). I also look at my LinkedIn feed and regularly listen to the NY Times podcast ‘’The Daily’’.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I am behind my desk by 9 am on a normal day. Sometimes earlier when I have a call with someone in a time-zone far to the East of the Hague.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Too often! I try to have two to four one-hour slots per day to get work done without interruption. That only works when I close outlook and put my phone away.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
Client meetings always come first at a time that suits the client. Internal meetings with my only member of staff and my developer are a weekly affair. Then I often have ‘Get-To-Know-You’ meetings with new contacts to add to my network. Those I plan on Fridays.
How do you take notes?
I use a black Moleskin notebook for my notes. Deborah, a consultant I worked with nearly 20 years ago, suggested to fold the page in two: list the actions on the left and the results on the right. I am still trying!
What is your relationship to Excel?
Excel and I are old friends. We were very close at the start of my career when I built financial models to support investment decisions. Lately, I have been neglecting our friendship a bit, but I am sure we could pick up where we left off.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Almost none unless I am with the client. I prefer meeting over a coffee.
Which time do you go to bed?
Lights out between 23:00 and 24:00 hrs.
How do you keep learning about the Public Affairs profession?
I look at PA from a process and performance perspective. I ask PA practitioners about the recurring and systemic challenges they experience and learn from their answers. I co-authored a chapter that describes the evolution of the PA profession with two amazing PA professionals this year which taught me a lot. Then we are framing a research project with Wageningen University that should give us data and insights about PA as a differentiator in the energy industry. That work will teach me new things about PA and what levers to pull to improve performance. Finally, I hope to be teaching Executive MBA students at Groningen University early 2023 about PA and how to ensure the function adds the value it can. The process of preparing the lectures is a learning experience in its own right!
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
Choose work that you don’t mind doing on a Sunday. Easier said than done. There are always administrative tasks that need attention and feel like real work. For those, my advice is to keep it as simple as you can or get help.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
I am preparing my generic client pitch (again), which needs to be much shorter and to the point than it is now. Thankfully, I have someone who knows the specific client we will be pitching to. To have this objective clear and this person giving me brutally honest feedback helps. The quality of the pitch is improving.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
I see four myths that keep the PA professional from adding the value that they can. Myth One: ‘’The external challenges we face are getting more complex, but it is nothing we can’t handle by hiring smart people and working harder’’. Myth Two: ‘’Every situation is so unique that there is no benefit from process standardization, optimization, or automation’’. Myth Three: ‘’Any attempt to measure performance adds no value and gets in the way of delivering top-notch performance itself’’. Myth Four: ‘’The expectations the business has of Public Affairs are accurate, timely and complete and if they are not, they just don’t get it’’. Such beliefs stand in the way of achieving break-through performance and becoming the trusted advisor of the CEO or Board.
Name a PA pro in the industry you admire and why
There is a long list of professionals that inspire me. Xenia Wicket is someone who continues to do so. She facilitates C-suite leaders and others to get to the geopolitical insights they need. I met her only once in Oxford. And I like the way she shares her own journey as a consultant, facilitator and coach on LinkedIn. Always learning….
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
Yes, I do. There can always be an important client request to attend to.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I have not kicked the bad habit of reading multiple books at the same time. ‘’Good strategy, bad strategy’’ by Richard Rummelt is a feast of recognition and a great source of inspiration. I also love ‘’Thinking, Fast and Slow’’ by Daniel Kahneman for the same reasons. Both are to be finished still. Ian McEwan is my favorite non-fiction writer.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
Externally driven uncertainties and risks come at today’s businesses from so many directions and at such speed that it can be hard to ‘’see the forest through the trees’’. To make sense of it all, strategic thinking and scenario planning skills will be in increasing demand. For the PA function to join the C-suite and become a second co-pilot (together with the CFO), PA pros need to acquire systems thinking and financial evaluation skills. Finally, it takes world-class leadership skills to be humble enough to continuously ask oneself where performance can improve and continuously improve how PA delivers value to the organization.
How many staff does your firm employ?
GR-IQ is a management consulting firm supporting businesses that have a desire to improve PA performance and add more value to the company at lower cost and risk. The core team comprises only two employees. We have codified much of our best-practice expertise to allow us to do a fast and accurate assessment without a need for additional staff. The same applies to the strategy advice we provide. When it comes to transformation projects or programs, we collaborate with experienced consultants, the client’s staff and service providers to deliver the transformation projects.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
It depends on the issues that PA needs to work and how central they are to the organization’s performance. The more challenging the issues (or opportunities) and the more relevant they are to those things that drive the value of the business, the closer you want PA to operate in sync with senior decision makers in the hierarchy. For example, companies that have a desire to disrupt an industry (i.e. technology) would prefer to have PA report into the business development director. But companies facing tenuous and detailed compliance requirements (i.e. banks) may prefer the Legal function to own the PA agenda.
About Paul Beijer
Paul Beijer is a Founder & Managing Director at GR-IQ BV. He is a former VP of Government Relations at Shell. With GR-IQ, he helps government relations and public affairs teams maximize the value they add to the business.