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How to Build a Planning Platform for Individual Excellence

Having worked with me for several years, Stephen Morgan-Hyland has a new role as managing director of Maddox Planning, the company I founded.

As a founder, you want to work with people who share your values and can carry them forwards through the work you undertake.

One of the key values Stephen and I share is the belief in Manchester as a creative city of enormous potential.

This is something we discuss in the conversation that follows. We also talk about our company culture and Maddox Planning as a platform for individuals to achieve their creative potential.


Manchester is a modern, creative city. That’s a widespread perception. After I set up Maddox in London, I could see that there were lots of development opportunities in Manchester but it required a local presence to maximise them.

It was a real opportunity to showcase our brand. You share this view of Manchester as a place for opportunities on the ground, Stephen. You originally approached us about Manchester because you liked the model we had in London.


To be effective in the North West you have to have a presence there because the region is very proud of what it's achieved and is very keen. This goes beyond the boundaries of the Manchester city area. And it includes using locally-based professional services.


There’s a difference between a creative and a commercial city. That pervasive sense of creativity in Manchester was something I felt we could align ourselves with. As planners, we work creatively. This fits the Maddox brand. Therefore, I wanted to go to a city where I could tap into this resource and find the right people, like Stephen.


I've been with Maddox for four years. In my career up until then, I'd worked in a broad range of planning environments, from small, independent consultancies to much larger commercial companies – I'd been a director in a big, corporate, multinational setting.

But on a very personal level, where I felt most at home was in my very first job. This was a small consultancy where I was a partner, similar in size to where Maddox is now. I knew from my professional work to date that this was the type of environment in which I could enjoy the greatest success.

It allows maximum opportunity for individuality and creativity.

I really can't understate how different Maddox is from the norm. I knew a lot about David's business before I approached David. I knew Maddox’s underlying principles of being a platform for town planning professionals to make what they want of their career.

It was the right business and the right time for me.


The business is growing. That’s created a need for somebody who truly understands it to oversee business operations and staff development.

The opportunities within Maddox aren’t limited by a predefined structure. We create them because somebody will have an interest in an area and identify an opportunity or function, a way of resolving something.

Stephen, with his knowledge and understanding of the way the business works, is the best person to oversee this culture.


I’m a custodian. I understand the Maddox platform fully in terms of what David has established. But I want to be part of improving that further.

It's really invigorating to be in a position where I don't have an owner who is telling me that as MD, I should be doing this or I should be saying that, which is the traditional structure that you would expect.

I have a facilitatory role. It follows David’s blueprint for letting individuals within Maddox dictate their own futures. The success of these futures dictates the success of the business.


Right from the outset. I always said I was providing a service to my clients who are effectively my planning directors. I was giving them the platform on which to trade. You don't work for the business, the business works for you. That’s the Maddox culture.

And so, Stephen's MD role isn’t a directorial role or managerial role. It's a support role. Like my role as founder.

We’re there to support the planning directors trading on this platform.


The model works because everyone buys into the culture. This isn’t a business where you would join and expect it to feed you your work in a very structured way. This is a consultancy that’s attractive to people who want a platform in which they can express their talents and their abilities for what they do.

David did the smart thing by choosing to no longer lead a planning team.


You go into the market and you set your market stall up. That's how I saw it for planning professionals. Look, I'll give you your market stall. It's a trading platform. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that you can trade. And that is what Maddox Planning is all about.


I'd like Maddox to be seen as showing a better way in which to run a professional services business and particularly a planning consultancy. I think there is an opportunity for us to showcase how senior people within a business don't need to be frightened about the next generation.

We’re putting a flag in the sand. Along with a successful business, this should be our legacy.

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