Lead interview: Steve Revill

Managing Director, Rickard Luckin

Our lead interview in the TEAMWORK issue of Essex Director business magazine is Steve Revill.

Published in UK Director Magazines Spring 24

Reaching for the Stars

“I’ve always wanted us to be a world-class organisation for employee engagement – that means you’re listening to your people and you’re working together as a team to improve their whole experience.”

Interview:  Sue Wilcock / Anna-Marie Casas Pictures: Warren Page

Steve Revill talks to Essex Director

When Rickard Luckin MD Steve Revill stepped up to the podium to collect a ‘Best Companies’ award, it marked another milestone in the company’s journey to achieve the utmost excellence.

The prestigious recognition at the tail end of 2023 was testament to concerted efforts to make the Essex accountancy and tax advice firm an industry leader and an employer of choice.

Awards and Recognition

Lead interview: Steve Revill 1

Rickard Luckin has now been ranked: 3rd Best Accountancy Firm in the UK; 27th Best Company in the East of England; and 42nd Best Mid-Sized Company to work for in the UK.

It follows two-star accreditation from Best Companies – which helps organisations measure and improve their employee engagement – earlier in 2023. The UK business world’s equivalent of the culinary Michelin rating system, Rickard Luckin is now eyeing up a third star – the ultimate recognition for workforce excellence.

“I’ve always wanted us to be a world-class organisation for employee engagement – that means you’re listening to your people and you’re working together as a team to improve their whole experience,” says Steve.

“Without happy, engaged and motivated people, you can’t have happy, satisfied clients who are willing to recommend us, and without those we don’t have a business.”

Steve became MD of Rickard Luckin, which has offices in Basildon, Chelmsford, and Southend-on-Sea, in 2020.

“It’s always been a great place to work,” he reflects. “The brilliant culture and working environment that exists has been built up over many decades. But what needed to happen was for that to be evidenced, recognised and benchmarked.”

Early Aspirations

Born in 1971, Steve was the youngest of six boys growing up in a council house in Nottingham.

“My dad was in the Merchant Navy and then the Royal Navy…then he was a baker, a postman and a coal miner. Mum had her hands full with us – there was a 20-year age gap between me and the oldest.”

Steve’s twin brothers ended up moving to New Zealand and the US, while the three eldest remained in the Midlands following careers in mechanics and engineering.

“I wanted to be a truck mechanic because my brother, Keith, owned a haulage business – I used to help out on a Saturday and got to work on trucks at a very early age. But he talked me out of it. He said stripping parts down, fixing them and putting them back together was not going to be the way in the future – everything was going to be in sealed units – and he was right.”

Banking on Success

It was while studying A levels that Steve came across an opportunity that would lay the foundations for a career that began in banking. As part of a former Midland Bank scheme, Steve set up and ran a school bank, opening accounts and taking deposits from pupils.

Spotting a Yorkshire Bank advert for its management development scheme on the sixth form notice board, he applied and was successful, spending the next four years working his way up from counter assistant to balancing the branch’s cash. Thinking this was a career for life, his parents were surprised when he decided to follow a different path.

“We’d got taken over by National Australia Bank who were making some changes that I couldn’t make sense of, and I’d always had an itch to go to university – I just wasn’t mature enough at 18,” he reflects.

“My parents said I was throwing away my career. They finally came to realise that I was taking a calculated risk.”

Lead interview: Steve Revill 5

A Business Diversion

At 22, Steve secured a full grant and took up a place at Manchester Metropolitan to study a BSc in Business – the first person in his family to go to university. “My work experience at the bank helped me massively. I was learning stuff that made sense of the previous four years.”

In the third year of his four-year sandwich course, Steve undertook a one-year placement at Hewlett-Packard in nearby Cheadle Heath, working in the marketing team of its Chemical Analysis Group, which manufactured laboratory equipment. “I learnt so much about high-value business to business marketing,” he notes.

On finishing his degree, he joined HP’s graduate scheme, working in the internal support services division in Bracknell, Berkshire. However, London life was soon beckoning.

“One of my best friends (who became my Best Man almost a decade later) was also working for HP, so we shared a flat. However, 18 months on, we realised Bracknell was quite a sleepy place for someone in their 20s, so I decided to look towards London for my next business-to-business marketing role.”

Steve landed a job in Barclays’ business banking marketing team, where he spent two-and-a-half years, loving city life and embracing the ‘work hard, play hard’ culture at that time.

Things changed in 2001 when there was a restructure.

“I went for a new internal job but didn’t get it. However, the person they offered it to didn’t want it, so they said it was mine and I was denied redundancy. I didn’t want to be the ‘also-ran’, so I decided it was time to move on.”

The Ups and Downs of RBS

Meanwhile, another city banking giant was hoovering up talent from its competitors; Steve joined the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2002 where he remained for eight years. It was here that he met his wife-to-be, Hark, who also worked for RBS at the time.

Initially working as marketing project manager in the corporate banking and financial markets division, Steve worked his way up to director of strategic marketing for the RBS Invoice Finance division, a business with c.1,000 people and a £280 million revenue line.

“I considered myself to be a very commercially-minded marketer, always looking for the return on investment,” he observes. However, this senior leadership role set a new bar for accountability.

“My boss made me remove the word ‘influence’ from the revenue target in my objectives and said I was accountable for ‘generating’ the revenue, even though I had no salespeople under my direct reporting line. He told me I’d find a way, and I did, learning sales management skills for the first time! My telemarketing team would put qualified opportunities in the diaries of business development managers, and I would drive the progression of those precious leads through every stage of the pipeline through to conversion to sale.”

“That taught me everything about high-value B2B marketing and the structure of decision making in larger corporates – how important it is to have a measurable outcome, not just an output.”

Steve’s time at the bank straddled the RBS crisis – pre and post-crash. In spite of the shock and ensuing uncertainty the near-collapse caused, with the bank eventually being bailed out by the UK government, Steve took the disaster as an opportunity to learn.

“I remember saying to my team, ‘you can’t go to Harvard and learn this, so just try and take this experience as the best education in crisis management you can get’”.

Lead interview: Steve Revill 9

New Horizons

Steve was introduced by a mutual contact to Mark Valentine, a senior sales and marketing leader at accountancy firm, BDO. He was subsequently offered a role as the firm’s senior marketing manager for national campaigns, reporting directly to Mark.

Working for a partnership instead of a PLC presented a new business structure, culture and challenges.

“It was very different and yet in some ways similar. Obviously, the ownership structure is very different, but managing senior stakeholders is something I’d been doing my whole career. Fortunately, Mark invested the time to help me navigate this new world – he was (and still is to this day) a brilliant mentor and guide.”

Steve was at BDO just over a year before a restructure presented an opportunity to take some redundancy money and ‘scratch an itch’ he’d had for a while to do his own thing.

“I’d been learning a huge amount from a guy called Matt Crabtree and his team at Positive Momentum, the management consultants I’d worked with at RBS. I told him what I was thinking of doing and he said, ‘why don’t you come and do it with us?’.

“So, that’s what I did for the next four years (followed by three more on my own), learning how to build a pipeline and deliver high value consulting services for clients around the world across a broad range of industry sectors including Technology, FinTech, Financial Services and Professional Services.”

Joining Rickard Luckin

It was at this time that Steve was introduced to Bird Luckin (before its merger with Rickard Keen which created Rickard Luckin) where he was approached to provide his management consultancy expertise after the marketing director retired.

“The board were undecided on what to do next, so I made some recommendations. Fast forward to after their merger and they asked me to come back and help execute the original plan on a consultancy basis.”

Following what Steve describes as a “12-week, two-way job interview that neither of us knew we were having”, he was asked if he would like to stay on. He agreed and took up the newly created position of commercial director in July 2018, leading on the firm’s marketing and business development while advising on communication and strategy.

“I was keen to get back into an in-house role – I enjoyed being an extension of my clients’ team, but it’s not the same. I wanted to feel part of a team, part of something where I could make an impact over a longer term than a consultancy project.”

“In the summer of 2019, the shareholding group agreed to have a more corporate structure with an executive board, which included myself, separating the ownership from the day-to-day running of the business, which would be more efficient and effective,” he explains.

As part of the new structure, it was also agreed that the firm was now of such a size and complexity that the MD role should be a full-time role, with no client portfolio.

But just a few weeks after the new executive board came into effect in January 2020, Covid struck, and Steve’s crisis management and communications skills came to the fore.

Lead interview: Steve Revill 13

Leading the Way

During the first lockdown summer of 2020, Steve was invited to apply for the role of managing director.

“I was asked what my vision was for the firm and what I could bring to the role, and that’s when I talked about the importance of having three interdependent goals that were equally important: people goals, client goals and business goals.”

Steve set out his stall for engaging with employees and his ambitious goal for Rickard Luckin to have ‘world-class’ levels of employee engagement. He began working closely with the people director to implement Best Companies’ ‘b-Heard’ employee engagement  survey.

“Unless you truly understand how your people feel about your business, you don’t know how happy and engaged they are. We harness the insight to ensure our team know that not only do they have a voice, but that we will listen and act on what they tell us.”

Taking Action

Since its 2022 survey results, efforts have focused on improving scores for ‘giving something back’ to the community and ‘fair deal’ for salaries and benefits packages.

“We have an Essex Community Fund, a volunteering policy, and a fund-matching scheme for charity contributions. We did all these things, but maybe we didn’t tell people about them well enough, so we’re making sure we communicate about it effectively.”

To improve the ‘fair deal’ rating from employees, Rickard Luckin externally benchmarked and re-baselined salaries to remain competitive, compressed the annual appraisal process and brought forward backdated pay rises to October 2022 instead of waiting until January to “give as much as we could, as early as we could in view of the impending cost of living crisis”, adds Steve.

“Wellbeing has to be at the heart of our post-pandemic recovery – we have to look after our team. That’s always been in the DNA of the firm.”

The approach is paying dividends: as a result, the survey scores for 2023 shot up and are well on track to achieve 3-star, ‘world class’ levels of employee engagement.

Team Culture

As a business built on successful relationships, Rickard Luckin is fully committed to a holistic approach to team development and launched a ‘Work Well, Live Well’ cultural programme towards the end of 2023.

“By providing stimulating work, looking after the individual, and providing opportunities to flourish, we believe that the business benefits will follow. We want every team member to feel valued, supported, and motivated to perform at their best, so that we can play to our collective strengths. It’s about working smarter, not harder.”

In tandem with this, Rickard Luckin’s social committee organises events throughout the year to bring colleagues together outside of work. The highlight of the firm’s social calendar is their summer social which last year also included a ‘crystal challenge’ teambuilding exercise.

“Well over 100 of us competed in teams to solve mental and physical challenges. Teams were randomly generated so it meant that we were working with people that we wouldn’t necessarily work alongside on a day-to-day basis. It really brought people together and we had a lot of fun too.”

Lead interview: Steve Revill 17

Photo above shows from L-R: Ellie Pallett, Steve Revill, Maka Dangare, Tiana Grotti, Svedha Rajan, Sam Cotgrove. Photography By Charlotte C

The firm also believes it’s essential to bring everyone together in person to present the highlights of the last 12 months and outline what the year ahead holds. As part of their annual business planning meeting they take the time to celebrate the outstanding achievements of team members.

“The RL Awards have become a real highlight where we get to say a public thank you for some truly exceptional contributions. We have four categories that are centred around our values Passionate, Personal, Professional as well as the RL Star award. Nominations are encouraged across the team and as MD I feel so proud of the stories that we uncover and the difference those efforts are making to our clients and colleagues.”

Aiming High

“I have that third star in our sights. We will continue to invest in the employee proposition to ensure we attract and retain the best talent. We’ve got some great people here, and the potential is almost limitless.

“There’s so much opportunity within Essex to help clients realise their potential and achieve their aims. The depth and breadth of our capability is fantastic and the opportunities for us are huge.”

On a personal level, the Nottingham Forest season ticket holder enjoys spending time at the World-Famous City Ground with his oldest brother, Pete. “After a break of 23 years, it has been great to see Forest return to the Premier League – let’s hope we can consolidate our position and one day add a third star to our club crest!”

This summer, Steve and Hark plan to visit Yellowstone National Park in the US. It’s a great place for stargazing. Hopefully, by then, Rickard Luckin will have three shining stars of its own.

Lead interview: Steve Revill 21

Share This

Sign up for your free copy of the magazine

Sign up to receive your free hard copy or E-Copy of the magazine by post or email.