ORGANIZATIONAL CLIENT STORIES

 

 

CEO, Financial Services, Family Office Company

Professional Services managing over 1B in assets.
Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Business Model, Leadership, Culture, Client Relations, Communication, and Operations.

 

How has your idea of yourself in a leadership role changed over the last 15 months? 
I started my business 10 years ago because I had unique experience and have built the business organically at a pace that worked well. My intent has always been to provide an exceptional service to my clients, but I didn’t approach the business as if I was truly building a business. At a certain point, I realized that I actually had a substantial business and my clients and the people working for me really depended on me. I needed to figure out a way to let go of much of what I was doing in my role to allow the business to operate sustainably and independent of me but with my vision and leadership. I also needed to bring balance back – in terms of time and mental energy –because it was beginning to deplete me. Having a greater sense of clarity on how to change/grow the business and having someone keep me honest has been incredibily insightful – although not always a comfortable place to be. 

 

What is shifting for you about envisioning the direction for your business?
When I hit a wall, my initial thought was to hit ‘eject’, take a break, and then figure out the how, what & why of moving forward. It felt as though it would be too difficult to strategize the future while continuing to operate. You've been able to show me how that wasn’t (1) a great idea or (2) necessary. Now that I have a better understanding of how and why I got to the point of fed up - personally and with the lack of structure in the business - I can more strategically envision where I want to go with the business. I prefer quick results, yet after building something for 10 years, it's unreasonable to expect I can make all the necessary changes in six months or even a year. We have to unwind and then rewind several areas in different ways. I appreciate the process of change we're in and also not receiving a Powerpoint presentation on how to achieve it. I love how we focus on organizational culture and what the experience internally and externally should feel like and be. I’m a huge believer that people don’t remember exactly what happened, they remember how they felt. That is also at the core of our business.

 

Talk about building internal culture and bringing in the right talent for your business? 

Well, for starters, we got someone out who was competent, but killed our culture. I learned a lot in that process and felt disappointed that I let it get toxic. There are certain times that worrying about what someone thinks doesn’t matter – especially when it goes against how I want our office to be. It has been a huge relief while also giving us so much extra space to figure out what we really need in terms of skills, expertise, and personalities. The client business and the (healthy) dynamics in our office now drive the hiring process. We do it with intention, ask the right questions, and tell a clear culture story. That has been the biggest shift. Again, I want everything to happen yesterday, but we are learning something from everything and that’s really cool.

 

What would your team say has been the biggest shift in their experience over the last 12 months? 

I think they truly know that I want this to be as good as it can possibly be and I’m investing in the process. I have been open about the work that we are doing and engage their thoughts and insights. We are a team and everyone who works with us to include our clients will be valued.

 

Where are you today?
Until I could understand my ineffective habits better as a person and in my leadership role, it wouldn’t be possible to effectively or sustainably change what needed to change with the business. You are able to help me do both. That’s really unique and why after each of our meetings, it feels like a huge weight has lifted (until I start piling more things on!). You bring clarity to many functional and strategic elements, and as a business owner that has immense value.

 

Name three descriptors that name your experience working with me. 
Insightful, Enjoyable, Challenging (because I need to expose myself.)

 

What are tangible, concrete business results?

- Aim for 100% increase in billables after contract review

- 33% revenue increase in last 12 months with no increase in client roster

- Effective, high-functioning team and clear hiring process

- Emerging strategic plan for sustainably growing the business

- Clear and transparent organizational communication

- Articulated internal culture

- Improved expectation setting with clients

- Ongoing insights into my leadership habits

 

 

Founder and President, Exhibition Print Studio, Museums and Galleries

Professional Services 

Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Business Partnership, Organizational Change, New Product Launch.

 

What change-point prompted you to engage me when you did in 2012?

We met socially and I was intriqued by what you did. After some time getting to know you a bit, I thought you might be able to help me shift my business. The business had been through several highs (reaching a peak in 2007) and lows (bottom dropping out of the art industry with the events of 2008). A necessary and quick re-location in 2009, several staffing changes, and organizational culture fall-out as a result of all the changes had left me with many strategic challenges to face. 

 

You decided to rebuild the business after the impact of Superstorm Sandy. What has been most insightful about the process of overcoming obstacles, dealing with change, and envisioning new paths for yourself and the business?

Yes, another low was getting hit by Sandy in 2012 where the business was submerged under 5 feet of water. We had only been working together for about two or three months and there I was faced with the ultimate decision of whether to play or fold after so many years and so many chapters. Through some serious digging and strategizing, I ultimately decided to rebuild. I am still waiting to overcome(!) but keeping at it and pushing past/beyond my comfort is all a part of the process.. In that, we have re-envisioned service delivery for the print business while also spinning off a new venture. 

 

In the chaos and unforeseen changes for you in the last 18 months, can you articulate the value of being in the process of strategic change work?  

You helped to ground us and make big decisions in the crisis after the storm, and you continue to help ground us when we are brainstorming, making decisions, and when we are butting heads. Knowing we can attend to the daily demands of the business and then work out the bigger picture obstacles and questions with you gives us room to move it all around, flush it out, or let it go until we're in a focused dialog with you. Then, we can freely wrangle whatever is the situation, problem, or idea at hand without it devolving into a stressful or unfocused conversation. Also, it's been very helpful having someone to bounce ideas off of and who facilitates tougher conversations between my partner and I. You bring a no-nonsense approach to the nuts and bolts of the business. This along with the more energizing, fun, pushing ideas/vision part of what we do together creates the value for me.

 

Name three descriptors that name your experience of doing strategic work with me.

Uncomfortable/comfortable

Provocative (in a thought process sort of way)

Funny because you call us out!

 

What are tangible, concrete business results?

- Re-built business (and securing financing) after Sandy devastation

- Healthier partnership communication, structure, and roles

- Emerging strategic plan for print business future

- Start-up of spin-off business

- A transparent approach to the financial health of the business 

 

 

Director, Early Childhood Education Company

For-Profit Education

Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Business Model Shift from Services to Mission-Driven School, Organizational Change, Leadership, Communication, Organizational Culture, Operations.

 

How do you run your company now versus how you did it in the past? 

My perspective on what it means to lead has shifted significantly over the past four years. I used to be focused on putting out fires and doing things the way I wanted, without much thought for the impact on my staff or even myself. Through working with you, I have shifted my understanding about collaboration, long term training, and building an environment that my team and I can be proud of - a place we all want to work because it stimulates us professionally, is fun, and aligned with the company's mission and vision.

 

How do you think about the process of envisioning and setting direction for the company? Why? 

Four years ago, I was not even thinking about that process - strategically or otherwise. I was much more reactionary. Now, I take the time to envision and think about what I want for myself professionally and what is best for the company as I make decisions. I think this shift has happened both because I have learned (theoretically) about the importance of taking a step back and also because I have seen real, tangible financial and culture results within the company. So, I know it works.

 

What does organizational culture mean to you? 
Creating an environment thoughtfully. With intention and direction. Learning to see when something is happening that isn't aligned with the type of culture I want at my company and finding a way to shift it. Getting my team involved in the conversation and seeing what is important to them. If it aligns with my own vision of our culture, their input is incorporated.

 

Can you talk about the value of incorporating strategic change work into the process of growing your business versus going it alone? How has the process impacted you and the business? 

I think the most valuable part of doing this work with you is that it creates space to think and feel as it relates to the business, its future, the team, the structure, the programs and services, the culture, communication, and the model of delivery - versus just doing. Prior to our work together, I didn't stop long enough to have that space. Most of what I was doing was reactionary - and often ineffective. The value of thinking strategically about all areas of the business has led to significant financial improvements, a very clear and articulated organizational culture, and a sustainable business model that enables the business to thrive without me in the day-to-day and to grow well. As a sole owner, I was often stuck by my own limitations. I know how important my staff is in a way I didn't understand before and I now know that asking for and accepting support is a huge and important component of leading well.

 

Name three descriptors that describe the experience of doing strategic work with me? 

Authentic, elusive, productive.

 

What are the tangible, actual, concrete results - growth, money, programmatic, etc. your business has experienced over these last four years?

- 30 - 50% growth in total revenue each year for the last four years

- Staff retention and a replicable, effective hiring process

- New programming and a shifted business model resulting in our most profitable revenue stream

- Team development and capacity building

- Clear internal structure

- Core operating values and a transparent culture that didn't exist prior

- Staff benefits and professional development opportunities 

- Sustainable growth possibilities due to a replicable business model and culture map

 

 

CEO, Educational Publishing Company

Start-Up, Art and Education Publishing for Early Readers

Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Leadership, Business Model, Launching New Product

 

What was the value of engaging a business strategy consultant/coach to launch your business?

When I approached you about helping me, I didn’t even have the concrete idea that I was starting a business, much less what it meant to do so. The process work and big picture strategic thinking that you worked with me on helped me to comprehend the larger picture and to step into the role and the vision that I was holding - and avoiding.

 

How did the process impact the way you approached starting your business?

The process helped me to more clearly understand and have a handle on the larger structures that hold the day to day minutia. For example, when I hire someone, it is not just about filling a position. Rather, it is about meeting specific immediate needs and to support the longer term growth of my business. Envisioning who we are as a brand and all the big picture processing comes from the groundwork we laid together. I am not really done (that work is ongoing), but we are clear about what we're doing as a company and with our product line and always getting clearer.

 

What would you say to someone who is going it alone versus enlisting strategic help?

Unless you have a business background or are naturally intuitive about the ways of how to move forward in your chosen industry, you serve as a guide through (Hades, lol) to the who, what, when, where, and why of your business.

 

Name three descriptors that speak to the experience of doing this work with me?

Challenging, supportive, unusual

 

What are the tangible, actual, concrete results - growth, money, programmatic, etc. your business has experienced over these last four years?

I went from an idea (essentially on a napkin) to having an entire product line, an e-commerce store, a brand story, a customer base, doing tradeshows (which seemed unfathomable when I began), and selling product. I've evolved from working out of my basement to having a commercial office and shipping location and our sales have doubled in the last year. I would not have continued in the pursuit of my business idea if I had not worked through all the low times with you.

 

 

Director, Tutoring Company

For-Profit Education

Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Business Model

 

How did the strategic process impact the way you approached launching your practice?

Your experience and knowledge of leading a strategic thinking process engaged me in 'out of the box' thinking about all aspects of my particular field. Working with you enabled me to clearly see my vision and to structure my business to be successful. With your guidance and support, I had the confidence and trust in myself to move forward.

 

What are tangible, concrete results?

I left public education after twenty five years, and have a thriving tutoring and home-schooling company. I make twice as much money as I did as a veteran teacher and (unfortunately) my schedule is so full that I have to turn clients away. 

 

 

Interior Design and Architecture Firm

Focus: Business Strategy & Direction, Business Model, Re-Branding

 

How is the launch going?

Hi Kathryn, Hope this note finds you well. Check this company out, Home Polish. https://www.homepolish.com. It's the same model as what we discussed and they are doing a great job of it. Inspiring! I have to admit i had a bit hard time wrapping my head around this at the time. Now it's obvious! And Inevitable as people come to me asking for this... You were right on the spot... My  new website is launched.. take a look, comments are welcome and of-course please pass it along!