Some words from Emma Watkins, Director of Prospero
Hi Emma, thanks for talking to us. Do you want to kick off by telling us how it all started with Prospero?
I established Prospero in 2012 after becoming frustrated with being part of large and cumbersome organisations. The corporate setup and office politics didn’t enable me to give the best of myself, so I decided to take the plunge and set up my own consultancy. I started Prospero with one client who has retained our services when needed ever since, and now have a team of 5 (and growing) associates working with me, with more requests for support coming through all the time.
What type of opportunities do you offer to Associates?
Most of our work is handling planning applications on behalf of LPAs because that’s often where there’s a capacity issue. We also provide ad-hoc support on planning appeals and have assisted with policy development too. We’re always looking to extend our offer though, and I know that many LPAs need help in almost all areas of planning, so the more Associates we have and the wider the range of skills at our disposal, the greater our offering will be.
So, there’s generally a steady stream of work for your Associates?
Absolutely. That’s been the experience from the past decade, and I’ve currently got more LPAs asking for support than I’ve got Associates to deliver it.
When it comes to growing the Associate team, what kind of person are you searching for to be a Prospero Associate?
Someone who has direct experience in development management and working for an LPA (direct experience in a Welsh context is a big bonus). As much as they might know how to deal with planning applications, they must also bring that LPA knowledge because it’s very different from private consultancy work.
You also need to be adaptable. I’m not asking our Associates to be superhuman, but I do ask that they work with me to be as flexible as possible to the needs of the LPAs we support. If there are times that things need to get done, I’m of the mind that we do them. Where we can we try to offer just that little bit more, as, and when needed, to best support our clients. Which might mean something like rearranging our agreed days to fit in a site meeting request or sharing best practice from our experience of working with multiple LPAs.
What’s the most rewarding part of Prospero’s work?
We had a recent big contract where we worked through a huge backlog of planning applications created by a perfect storm of bad luck for the client. They couldn’t see a way out, so they brought us in for 18 months to clear it all and give the in-house team a chance to breathe and focus on their current caseloads. The project scope evolved as we went along, meaning we also got involved with some process improvement. We made a significant impact, and the client has already been back in touch to see how we might be able to help further, which is terrific.
The most rewarding part of our work for me is building long-term solid relationships with LPAs all over Wales and knowing that we’ve become a valued part of their teams, there for them when they need us.
Thank you so much for your time, Emma. Finally, what advice would you give anyone thinking of becoming a Prospero Associate?
I’d say, please do reach out for an informal, confidential chat with me. You can contact me at email@example.com any time, and we’ll fix up a call.