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April 17, 2018 - No Comments!

April Newsletter: Bill Carpou and Building the SoCal of Tomorrow

Bill Carpou, CEO of OCTANe, is driving innovation in OC and the entire Southern California region. We have some of the nation’s best engineering talent and top ranked universities as well as a diverse community of investors and innovators. Bill met with us to share his perspective on his leadership path as well as what it means to help create the SoCal of tomorrow. That means growing entrepreneurs and companies, but most importantly fueling the growth of jobs in our community.

Sherry Benjamins: How did you get into the business of transforming companies?

Bill Carpou: My career started in sales, working at Xerox so growth has always been part of my DNA... For 16 years I was focused on sales management with a responsibility for regional teams. I then joined Ikon Office Solutions, which was an organization that required significant transformation. It brought me out to the west coast and the change forced me to think about the people I wanted to work with and what strategy needed to be implemented. I learned your gut instincts are generally accurate. That was in ’98 and from that point forward, I realized the need to have a sound strategy and surround myself with great people.

SB: Was there an aspect of this journey that prepared you for this role?

BC: It’s been three years this week! I don’t know if there’s ever a single event that prepares you to be a CEO. From my perspective, it’d be the sales and customer focus at Xerox, the leadership and people development at Ikon, and the performance and accountability I learned at Blackstone. I pull something from each of them every day.

SB: Let’s talk about Orange County and the transformation that’s been happening in our region. The Chapman report for instance discusses significant changes in our  economy. How is Octane viewing this future?

BC: It’s a collaborative effort. While OCTANe is a key convening organization (that pulls resources together), there’s no single organization that can lead this transformation across the board. It’s important because on the opposite end you can have complete anarchy, absent of leadership. I believe a handful of organizations should lead in their respected areas of influence and competence. It’s important to underscore the collaboration that’s required. What we need to accomplish is bigger than any one organization. We bring organizations together in an ecosystem that focuses on tech and medtech and we’ve established performance metrics as part of our Vision 2025 strategy. The creation of high paying jobs is our top priority and we’ve forecasted 22,000 jobs by 2025. Jobs result in both economic vitality and sustainability. I would like OCTANe to be known for it’s high impact to our community which will occur as we increase the inflow of capital and provide greater operational expertise for early stage and small – mid size companies.

SB: 22,000 is a big number!  What are the hurdles to overcome?  

BC:  We’ve created an achievable forecast. And we're on track! Our financial model is based upon an assumption that as a non- profit organization our base of support continues to grow moderately. Any reduction of sponsors and partners would be an issue. The second area is additional funding to increase resources that will create hyper growth. It’s actually pretty simple, we have the process and model in place.  What we need are more resources to execute the strategy; we need more people!

SB: And funding?

BC: Providing capital to early stage companies is the primary focus of our LaunchPad accelerator. Access to capital remains our priority and we have expanded our relationships with institutional and non-institutional investors, not just on the west coast but in major money centers such as New York, Boston, London and parts of Asia.

SB: Companies should be knocking on your door! Looking at what’s happening in OC and the need for new business and innovation,  I’m hoping this will happen for you and our community. 

BC: You’re right! We’ve always been under branded and that is changing. We’ve gotten our story out there more in the past 18 months, however you’d think there’d be a line around the block waiting to get into OCTANe! 86% of the companies that come through our accelerator get funded and 88% of those companies are still operational. These are incredible statistics that reveal the high quality of our portfolio companies.

SB: What is your advice to innovators / future leaders who are really serious about doing their own thing? 

BC: Seek as much input as you can. Orange County has a terrific ecosystem, however it’s not quite as intuitive as other regions. Engage in events. Learn of the organizations that can support your growth. Pick a strong team and be willing to accept constructive feedback. Companies that follow what’s going on in their community are going to have a much greater success rate.

SB: Is there a roadmap for this?

BC:  We recently created a roadmap, directing organizations into the ecosystem by working with them and introducing them to early-stage incubators. The next step is for them to engage our LaunchPad SBDC accelerator and then Growth Services which will enable them to grow and scale faster.

SB: Are there places in the country where this kind of convergence of resources occurs? 

BC: The Bay Area is the most intuitive. Boston and New York are strong. Austin and Dallas are growing as is Salt Lake City. What’s interesting about SoCal is that we have all the ingredients here, it’s just not as intuitive. You’ve got to peel it back and know where to go. Recently we have created a coalition of like minded organizations to bring resources across all of Southern California, as that accelerates I have no doubt we will be seen as a top choice for companies to start and many companies to locate into.

SB: What have you learned about yourself in this three-year path so far?

BC: I don’t like a set routine. I get bored fairly quickly so I prefer every day to be different. OCTANe has provided that for me. I enjoy building teams, being accountable, and establishing the culture  to grow companies and jobs. I enjoy coming to work every day and feel like it’s an opportunity to give back to the community with the experiences that I’ve been fortunate enough to have. We are offering leadership to an objective that’s bigger than any one organization. It’s pulling our community together in powerful ways.


For those interested, the OCTANe Technology Innovation Forum (TIF) will be from May 31 to June 1 at the Newport Beach Marriott and Resort. The theme is Building the SoCal of Tomorrow and it will focus on the importance of innovation and growth. You can find more about TIF along with the detailed agenda at www.TIF2018.com

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

April 17, 2018 - No Comments!

April Newsletter: Artificial Intelligence and Business Intelligence with Gene Tange

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence. It has leapt into the consciousnesses of many, including CEOs and today’s leaders. As it becomes a reality for many of us, there's been a focus on how to raise our workers' abilities to learn and improve. In the face of such a big change, how can we realize better outcomes, stronger growth, and the ability to compete for the best talent? The journey may begin by understanding the islands of disconnected data that exist within our companies.

With all the discussion about human and intelligent machines, I reached out to my friend and highly respected business owner, Gene Tange, CEO of PearlHPS. Gene’s company, based in the bay area, is a cloud-enabled predictive analytics firm shaking up how we predict the successes of teams. He helped me understand this arena and the technological and cultural accelerations occurring that will determine the winners and losers as we move forward.

Sherry Benjamins:  What are CEOs talking about in the context of BI/AI?

Gene Tange: Business Intelligence is the use of data to derive insights. There are some misused terms in AI. In order to simplify it, think of AI as a way to do research and build a capability which uses tools to look at data. When it comes to thinking about AI, I’m meeting CEOs who are in three camps. The first, which makes up about 70%, are listening and engaged in learning. There’s a 20% camp that's doing something about it; building an AI team, applying tools and looking at ways to strengthen business outcomes. And then the last camp, which makes up around 10% or less, are companies like Netflix or LinkedIn that are already transforming how their companies work. They're determining how to derive value to the business. This means improving revenue, net income or reducing cost.

SB: What attracts C levels to use AI/BI?  What are the applications?

GT: A joint venture between Avanade, Accenture & Microsoft produced a study of 500 business leaders looking at smart technologies that will deliver ROI and game changing solutions.  They talked about doing business in this competitive environment in three areas of impact: sales revenue, financials, and business execution.  This last category is where the people and human impact applications are studied.

CEOs know that most acquisitions don’t get the results they set out to achieve. Building human expertise inside their organizations is critical and the stakes are high to get this right. Five years ago we would have looked to the single individual leader to get the “execution plan” right.  Today it is all about a cross-functional team and their performance.

SB: How will CEOs prepare their organization for this new intelligent technology machine age? 

This is a massive challenge and demand is exceeding supply. Right now, there are over 10,000 openings in the US for Data Scientists yet we don’t yet have the capability to fill those needs. Our client, the CEO will look at where the biggest impact can be in his/her organization so that there is a prioritization of need. They will experiment with solutions that tackle a specific issue. Is there a tool that might advance a product release into a competitive market or accelerate an acquisition’s track record? It is easier to start in one segment and expand to other areas once there is success. A good example of one early introduction is the launch of Amazon Go's pilot store early this year in Seattle. It is the first semi automated retail store. No checkers or lines!  You take the product off the shelf and walk out and the application automatically charges your account. It also tracks inventory, buying habits and a host of other bits of information to make your buying experience better.

SB: How will HR move forward in this arena?

GT: The HR function is not moving as fast here as other functions. They have historically focused on tactical initiatives in Total Rewards, Talent Acquisition and Development. The cross-over to a business outcome with measurement on the impact to the bottom line will shift them from tactic to strategy. Teams are the source of most complex business outcomes. This seems obvious but it is a critical revelation. Data that provides insight into team performance in a predictive manner will change the conversation and credibility of HR. I see more CEOs looking at resource allocation and making sure that HR is focused on the core drivers of business.

Concluding Comments

Just a few years ago, who would have thought that data initiatives would have created platforms with tools that can talk to you or predict the operational success of a team launching a new product? Imagine the culture change in companies that are implementing these predictive execution tools that Gene has developed in his company. The good news is that this work will elevate our role and add value to the business if we boldly go into this future. Do you have an analytics function? Lead the way in this effort and reimagine your work. Ask the tough questions about your company’s readiness to compete and join the winners in this landscape.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

April 17, 2018 - No Comments!

April Newsletter: Amy Sfreddo and the Importance of Social Capital

Companies growing social capital makes a Difference

Our community is known for its entrepreneurial growth in technology, life sciences, medical device, cyber security and more. There is another dimension to this growth which transcends across all business and that is “doing good” in the community.  As a Board member of OneOC, I am learning a lot about companies that are seeing bottom line results and improved employee engagement in doing good work and doing good in the community. I met with my board member colleague, Amy Sfreddo, Philanthropy Publications Director, at the Orange County Business Journal, to learn about her work and her leadership in how companies are getting recognized for their impact.

Sherry Benjamins: What led you to working with companies that embrace purpose?

Amy Sfreddo:  When I transitioned my business journal career from the bay area to Southern California in 2005, I joined the Orange County Business Journal with a primary responsibility of helping nonprofits with their marketing and donor outreach. Over time, I created and managed four different annual nonprofit publications to help build more awareness and support of the OC nonprofit community. My goal continues to be helping grow our impact and seeing the difference we can make in supporting community minded businesses and incredible non-profits in our county.

SB: Where do you see the greatest opportunity for impact?

AS: There are so many small to mid-size companies that see the power of engaging their employees in something greater than themselves. Some have CEO role models who know the value of connecting their mission to something bigger. In a strong economy like this one, having a clear “social good” platform to communicate gives your talent a reason to stay and/or join you. We know that the millennials place giving and volunteering high on the list of criteria when deciding where to work and what to buy. We see an opportunity in having a company start small and link it to their mission.

SB: How might a company build on its success and its brand in giving?

AS:  You can set goals that move you forward in volunteering or giving initiatives and measure results. Learn about the non-profit organizations in our 2018 Giving Guide.   Create the stepping stones for growing this effort, engage your employees, share the success and ultimately be recognized for your work. The Civic50 provides a platform for this recognition. This is our second year in hosting the Civic 50 awards luncheon in partnership with OneOC. It is an opportunity to recognize the 50 most community-minded small, medium and large companies in OC. Civic 50 is based on an on-line survey that measures dimensions like employee time, talent or skills, investment and leadership and allows a company to apply for this recognition and be considered for the award. The survey is open from 4/16 to 6/29. Those selected are honored at an awards luncheon in October 11, 2018 at Hotel Irvine.

If you are interested in learning more feel free to reach out to Tiffany Bogle at tbogle@oneoc.org or access the survey and more details at http://www.oneoc.org/occivic50.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

March 12, 2018 - No Comments!

A talk with Brandon Moreno, President of EverHive: A New Blended Workforce is Here

A tidal wave of change is coming that will make the way we work almost unrecognizable. There will be new ways to organize, recruit and manage.  Imagine having a seamless blend of high quality workers who work, on demand, to fill the talent needs of your company as it grows and changes. In this new future, which has already arrived for many, you have mastered this worker challenge and have a strategy to manage it proactively so that trusted relationships are built with the best individual and team players. Getting really good at this is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Those leading business today must figure out how to deliver value with new solutions.  Research states that already 40% percent of our workers are “non-employee” and are flexible on-demand skilled resources. Work will be delivered via platforms, projects, gigs, freelancers and technology has empowered us to be creative and solution driven.

Brandon Moreno, former HR & Talent Acquisition executive, now president of EverHive, is clearly ahead of the curve and helping organizations build strategy, processes and technologies to manage this growing blended worker cohort like no other services firm. His bottom line results are impressive. I was intrigued to learn more about Brandon’s perspective on the future.


Sherry Benjamins: Brandon, What led you to this business? 

Brandon Moreno: I have been involved in HR since 1993 and learned a lot from the leading companies that I was able to work with. Working with these business leaders and executives, we saw early on that if we did not add value to the business, we would be relegated to a merely transactional function.

The playbook for Talent Acquisition had to change. I am passionate about educating clients and elevating the conversation and actions to be taken around flexible, on demand highly skilled talent. The growing space of contingent workers captivated my attention and I decided to build a capability and solutions model to help companies manage these non-employee resources with a line of sight to improving the bottom line.

Sherry: How can managing the contingent workers impact productivity?

Brandon:  First, the growth in this segment is taking companies by surprise.  There are many organizations that seem to be running this ad hoc or with little priority on the program. We are seeing more CFO’s and CTO’s involved in the discussion along with Procurement, HR and heads of Talent Acquisition. We start with a client by understanding their current state, analyze spending and then partner with them to map out their future state of their entire end-to-end contingent worker program.  The goal is to architect and design a program that is customized but also efficient, effective and flexible.  There are many factors that impact productivity and creating base line metrics to manage this program sets the stage for meeting worker demand.  My goal is to help the client establish strategy, elevate and optimize their contingent worker function, achieve significant cost reductions, enhance compliance and streamline process.

Sherry: Why should the CEO pay attention to this change? 

Brandon: If a company’s non-employee workforce spending is growing (and many are in the $10 – 400 Million range), this has significant impact on the bottom line.  Surprisingly, there are many companies that do not have a handle on this aggregated cost.  Talent is the number one issue that keeps most leaders up at night and it’s their limiting factor for growth.  I understand how hard it is to predict what will be needed as the business changes, however, without a forward looking plan or integrated forecast, the CEO is reacting to changing demands and ad hoc solutions.  The ultimate goal is for organizations to have access to on-demand and flexible workers to complement their overall talent acquisition strategy.  Not only will this have cost benefits to the bottom line, but it frees up current employees to be more strategic and elevate overall business operations.

Sherry:  When launching this business, what have you learned that you didn’t expect you would?

Brandon:  I am most surprised in seeing the difficulty and fear that HR departments have in moving this conversation into a managed solution for action.  I understand this is a challenging problem for business leaders. Their positive intention is to get the work done with resources available.  I can see they have significantly less patience now compared to one year ago.  The fight for resources and the right talent is more intense now and addressing this requires a new mindset.  I am surprised that many say this is urgent, yet they are slow to act.

I have also learned that building trust, educating our clients and introducing tools that will help them start this work makes sense for many.  Others feel the criticality of an enterprise-wide solution.  Sometimes we take small steps to get them onboard.  Even smaller firms who see this tidal wave coming are better to build the platform now and think about contingent workers and unique skills required rather than wait until it is an imperative.

Sherry: What advice would you give business leaders today as they prepare for 2025?

Brandon:  Step outside of the comfort zone. Look at the talent challenges holistically and as though you are already in 2019 or 2020.  I know contingent workers have been around a long time but the growth in demand is taking many by surprise.  Ask your executives including HR to look ahead and be focused on running the business in pursuit of better outcomes and a strategic talent plan that eliminates ad hoc problem solving.  Five years from now, contingent workers will expect to be integrated into the workforce – an extension of your culture with a unique set of rewards that includes interesting and fulfilling work.

Concluding Comments

Leading the work in the future will profoundly change the world of HR.  Work will be deconstructed and dispersed with rewards being more short term and individualized. The organization will have an internal and external, permeable structure.  Kate Kjeell, SBC’s Managing Director facilitates a group of TA leaders in OC from premier companies.  She noted that managing a contingent workforce has been the top issue TA leaders have struggled with for the past three years. Awareness of the size, cost, liabilities and opportunities of this workforce is a significant catalyst for change.

To learn more about this worker and workplace change check out Brandon’s site and feel free to speak with him. (800) 945-6340, brandon@everhive.com.

http://everhive.com/

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Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter, Recruiting, Talent Economy, Uncategorized

March 12, 2018 - No Comments!

A Strategic Connection: SBC & EveryBusiness HR Essentials (EBHR)

Announcement-bw

When two companies share a truly unique approach to their customers and are committed to the people side of business, why wouldn’t they team up? This year, S. Benjamins & Company (SBC) and EveryBusiness HR Essentials (EBHR) have agreed to a strategic partnership.  We believe that growing our shared resources will benefit our clients and teams.  Through this effort we are demonstrating the importance of openness and agility needed in business today.  SBC and EBHR are practicing what we preach.

We help organizations attract and hire great talent.  In addition to “finding the one”, we expand the conversation to include talent strategy and solutions beyond a single hire.  Sonya helps her clients embrace customized HR solutions at various key stages of their business growth.  Neither of us are a “one size fits all” firm and it is an exciting time to combine forces.

As we advise our clients about what workers want today and how they will thrive, we see less importance on hierarchy and more emphasis on reciprocity and creative collaboration.

How did we pair up? 

I met Sonya ten years ago.  We were hosting a learning event for HR leaders in transition and Sonya had just returned to California from a successful mid-west entrepreneurial venture.  She was looking for that next opportunity and what author Jenny Blake calls, “the pivot” to something new.  The successful pivot starts with a foundation of core values and understanding your strengths.  Sonya was entirely grounded on that front and was in the process of creating a vision for another chapter of her career in HR.  As  years passed, we developed a great relationship and exchanged ideas about our focus on the human side of business.  When she was ready to leave the corporate world and start her own company, we met to talk about the entrepreneurial life, which of course included the risks and rewards.

What I observed was Sonya’s quiet transparency, business savvy smarts and genuine positive spirit.  She was and remains open, curious and authentic about what matters.  She places purpose front and center.  EBHR cares about community, giving, learning and bringing the best ideas to her clients.  Our team values that too.  Most importantly we both approach our clients with a kind of care and commitment that I find energizing.  Together our firms support On Demand HR, Business Essentials (Work Design, Talent Strategy and Search) and Learning Forums/HRoundtables.

Our Plan

Kate Kjeell, our Managing Director and I are excited about this change and partnership with Sonya’s firm.  We’ll continue to focus on talent strategy and management search. That means finding our clients great leaders (in HR, Sales, Marketing, General Management, Operations) or helping them build their own capability to do that for themselves. For the past twenty years, we have utilized a project on-demand business model to deliver candidates and fill key management openings.  We augment our client’s existing Talent Acquisition function in a variety of ways.  Story telling in search is a key differentiator of ours.  We use creative approaches to help our clients tell their story to ensure we “find the one.”  Video, podcasts, marketing micro-sites are an example of the ways we increase our response rate with passive candidates.  The goal is to develop a high quality pool of talent for our client’s immediate and future needs.  It is all about meaningful and ongoing conversations.  We hope to hear from you to learn what you are up to and how we can stay connected and continue to learn from each other.

You can learn more about us at sbcompany.net & everybizhr.com!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Communication, Management, Newsletter, Recruiting, Talent Economy

January 10, 2018 - No Comments!

SBC January Newsletter — Joe Musselman – Learning about Leadership from The Honor Foundation Founder and CEO

January Newsletter:
Joe Musselman

 SBC January Newsletter — Joe Musselman – Learning about Leadership from The Honor Foundation Founder and CEO

Imagine what it’s like to be a Navy SEAL deployed in a country you probably

shouldn’t be in and conducting a mission that no one is supposed to know about. The amazing individuals from Special Operations are trained to do the impossible. We wouldn’t expect that someone with such a unique character and skill set would have any challenge in navigating a new career for themselves and their families?

These distinguished veterans live inside a standard that is exceptional in every dimension, yet when they move on to the next chapter of their life, they feel lost.  That is where The Honor Foundation comes in. I met with Joe Musselman, former Navy veteran and founder of this incredible non-profit organization that was specifically designed to serve the world’s most elite group of Special Operations Forces throughout their career transition. I learned from Joe that The Honor Foundation (THF) and its 15 week program (150 hours) is the most comprehensive career transition program for SEALS and Special Operators in the country.

I wanted to learn how Joe sees the leadership attributes these champions bring from their experiences and how he helps exemplary candidates chart a path to exemplary opportunities.

Sherry Benjamins: Joe, let’s talk about leadership.  What are the hard and soft leadership skills that you see critical in the future?
 
Joe Musselman: Frankly, hard skills are still important but becoming less relevant. The changes and pivots in business come without warning. In start-ups this is especially true. For example, there are multiple skill sets needed all at once. There's chaos, uncertainty, and adventure. One skill set is needed then another, and another, and these needs continue to grow. The individual must adapt and evolve their technical skills to leadership skills for those in charge of people, growth, and the vision of the business. Often the default is to find more technical skills but we know that as the company scales, the demand for balanced leaders who can inspire, coach and manage others is top priority.
 
SB: Why are soft skills even more critical now to success?  
 
JM:  Let me first say that successful organizations need to see themselves as technology businesses. This next wave of business is all about data, robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.  Wouldn’t you want your most ethical and courageous leaders surrounding this new technology? Wouldn’t this give you a competitive advantage?
 
Success means being adaptive and agile.  We developed an assessment alongside UCSD and Stanford that helps us understand these personal readiness capabilities.  Our Fellows who graduate our program have rich life experience, cultural and emotional intelligence, not exactly technical or hard skill sets – so we suggest that CEOs let go of the traditional resume screen and be forward looking about what it takes to develop their people.  It’s not always about the hard skills, but instead a candidate with a core set of values that matches the organization’s mission.
 
Our Special Operators are trained to execute without the benefit of ever knowing what’s next, and even with continual and extensive training, a Navy SEAL knows to expect the unexpected and always operate inside a framework of strict values and guiding principles. I ask CEOs, how often do they find someone doing the right thing when they are not present? It is not grey. This is a very clear-cut question. Are they hiring leaders that know what doing the right thing always means? The bar remains high and our graduates know that mission matters as they have lived it everyday.
 
SB: What is missing in leaders today
 
JM: One of our core values at THF is “practicing artistry.” We find people who want to change the world. We ask our Fellows to be introspective first and ask themselves, “why do you matter?”  This needs to be asked of each of us more often.  Each individual seeks to achieve their own definition of excellence and they are truly artists in what they do and practice each day in the Teams.
 
SB: Are your graduates experiencing positive corporate cultures?
 
JM: We are proud of a 92% fulfillment rate. So yes, there are companies that understand the values of authenticity, fairness and purpose. They were harder to find than you think! We have only had 4 out of 167 that transitioned jobs within their first year of employment. All four cited reasons surrounding poor leadership, lack of vision, and the behavior was not aligned with the culture.
 
SB:  What have you learned about yourself on this journey?
 
JM:  The number one thing I’ve learned, what we all have learned at THF, is simply “be you”. We help our Fellows understand that they have the ability to stop trying to “be a role” and focus instead on being themselves. I personally have learned that it is not a bad thing to be a people pleaser. THF would not be here if I didn’t have and own that DNA. I am committed to making our Fellows a wild success and I want them to be fulfilled and happy. Their happiness is my commission. Everyone is encouraged to be who they are and be unwavering in that truth. The impact our Mission has on the lives and families of our graduates is remarkable. At graduation last week, one of the Fellows came up to me and said, “Joe, THF changed our family tree.” What he meant by that is he would not have had the opportunity to attend a top MBA program, interact with CEOs as mentors, or consider six-figure salaries if it weren't for THF. This is why we do this work at The Honor Foundation.

 

Concluding Comments
Do you want to change the world?  Joe had me reflecting on this notion of thinking big.  He asks the Navy SEAL, “why do you matter?” They have life experiences that we may never understand and they face the reality of knowing why they matter every day. Yet, when asked as they consider a professional transition, it requires more self-reflection than first imagined.

We can all benefit by answering that question for ourselves. Courage is a word that the Navy SEAL knows well. He runs bravely into battle with all his heart. In fact, the French root of the word courage is “heart.”

David Whyte, says that “courage is the measure of heartfelt participation with life, with another, with community or our work.”  It means that we can consciously live up to or into the things we care deeply about.  To be courageous as a SEAL or as a caring committed individual in this world is to stay close to the way we are made. So, why do you matter?

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Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog, Employee Engagement, Newsletter

March 2, 2017 - No Comments!

SBCo March Newsletter – Future Leaders

Great leaders often go through a process of figuring out who they are and what they want to achieve for themselves, their people and their customers. We spoke with Tammy Heermann, SVP in Leadership Transformation for Lee Hecht Harrison around the world. She shared her process of self-discovery and her work to help other leaders discover their path to navigate this high stakes business environment.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about your personal leadership journey?

Tammy Heermann: It started when I built the learning and development function from the ground up at a global software company. I started thinking about what goes into creating a strategic, people-centered plan. Then I had the opportunity to build a leadership development practice at a consulting company. During this time I was able to live my own journey as I taught others how to live theirs. Through 360 feedback research, I learned that women were perceived as less strategic then men. I saw it in my own 360 data. It required me to reflect and then shift my mindset and behaviors which resulted in successful promotions over the years.

SB: What did you do differently to make those promotions happen?

TH: I pushed my comfort level to delegate more to create the space for me to work “on” the business, not just “in” the business. I started to show up in meetings differently in how I communicated. I found better results when asking questions in a way that showed my thought process. I also learned how to speak with a point of view that was informed, assertive and confident. It was a very different way of just giving an opinion. I also dramatically shifted how I spent my time. I was better at what I said “yes” and “no” to. And finally, I started building valuable relationships. Leadership is about relationships and we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing coffees and lunches to build important relationships around, within, and outside of the business.

SB: What holds women back from self-awareness and making this shift?

TH: The biggest barrier is making the mental shift ourselves. A leader has to be courageous and be just as dedicated to their own personal leadership as they are to their teams and their customers. We are no good to others, if we aren’t good to ourselves. You can’t please everyone. You have to be OK that people may get angry or disagree with you. You have to let go of perfection and taking everything on yourself at work and at home. That’s the biggest shift that has to happen first.

SB: What has changed to make the advancement of women a front-and-center topic in businesses today?

TH: There are three things converging at this point in time. First, from an organizational standpoint, there have always been sectors that are proactive in advancing women such as tech, consulting and financial services. But there are many others that are being driven by grassroots efforts – speaking in town halls and challenging their leadership teams to create change. Customers too are challenging their suppliers to achieve diversity goals if they want to get or keep the business. Secondly, there’s political factors. There are news stories of gender reform: female leaders are being elected and women around the world are demanding change. Lastly, there are societal influences. For instance, for the Super Bowl, GoDaddy had new ads celebrating women in computing, which was very different from their earlier content. Society is expecting to see change. Everything is converging and it gives me hope.

SB: How can we accelerate progress? What can I do to start things with some teeth to it!

TH: If you want to have some teeth to your initiatives you have to treat this as a cultural shift in the organization. It’s common for companies to create networking events or implement policies just to check the box. These things don’t have a true impact because they don’t create real opportunities that women need to advance. You have to create a culture of accountability towards a diverse and inclusive workforce. Leading companies expect their leaders to be accountable for developing talent at all levels because it is just as important to the future of the company as it is meeting sales and financial goals. All the development programs and flex policies mean nothing if women hit conscious or unconscious barriers that are engrained in the culture.

SB: Looking back, do women want something different now than they did 10 years ago?

TH: I’m not sure that the wants of women have changed. I think it’s just more acceptable to push, to protest, to vote with your feet. Women in every generation have desired financial and educational freedom, fair treatment and equal opportunity for advancement. Today we are talking about it more, fighting for it more, and making different decisions about where we choose to work.

SB: Is there a reinvention of how we develop future leaders?

TH: There’s a big movement right now in how Millennials are pushing the way we work differently; work-life flexibility, choosing to work at organizations where they feel connected to a cause, or finding a culture that values feedback is high on their list. Millennials have gotten negative press for being demanding, but I think that other generations needed the same things too. It’s not that we have to do anything different; it’s that we have to do what we said we were going to do all along. Build accountability for giving feedback. Provide development opportunities and transfer knowledge. None of this is new. Today’s successful companies are modeling talent practices that should have been in place all along and now the rest of us are trying to catch up.

SB: Are there examples of earlier stage companies taking development seriously?

TH: I’m seeing it happen in pockets, but not nearly enough. Talent is a long game and when companies are in start-up mode, people investments are about getting the right technical talent to get the business off the ground and keep it afloat. It’s when they reach a size of around 100-200 that they realize that they need structure and great people leaders, which often the tech experts and entrepreneurs aren’t always great at. Early stage companies that “get it” understand that a longer term view is needed from the beginning, not just about the business plan, but the people that need to be brought in, developed and retained for growth. They are always asking, how can we make sure that great people see they have a future here?

February 6, 2017 - No Comments!

SBC February Newsletter: Learning from an Entrepreneur & Millennial Mindset

Ryan SBC FebruaryThis month, our creative director, Erik Benjamins, sat down with one of his close friends, Ryan Sheffer. Ryan is a Millennial entrepreneur and co-founder of Zero Slant, an AI-driven news agency that creates automated content from social media. His path from filmmaker and editor to programmer and entrepreneur is inspiring and representative of changes we see in the future of work. He’s crafted a unique path that’s been driven by asking ambitious questions about the future of our relationship to technology and the media. His highly successful blog has been a resource for other young entrepreneurs in the industry and beyond.

Erik Benjamins: How did you choose the path of entrepreneurship?

Ryan Sheffer: Up until I was applying for college, I thought that “becoming a business person” was the thing you did as a career. I didn’t know that becoming a filmmaker—or doing your own thing—could be a job. In my head, it seemed like something that others did. When I started to get into the technology industry about ten years later to start my own company, I didn’t know what venture capital was. I didn’t use the word entrepreneur to describe myself. I was just an editor doing my own thing. I had this inherent desire for freedom, but didn’t have a clear cut way to define it. I realized that the key to choosing a path was understanding that it’s there. We often define our ceiling because it’s what we’ve seen, what we know.

EB: When was that moment for you? When you shifted from working in the film industry to the tech industry?

RS: It was a process. I was always brought into the film industry as the tech person that you’d call when something was technically difficult. Around that same time, I made a New Year’s resolution to teach myself how to code. It made sense given my interest in the tech side of the film industry. A few months later I sat down with some coders and showed them what I built after dedicating a month to learning this new language and they thought it was pretty good. I walked away from that meeting thinking that this may be something I could do. It was a shift in perspective.

EB: Tell us about your interests in an open source education?

RS: Before teaching myself how to code, I taught myself how to use a camera. My desire to continually learn has objectively fueled my career path. When I first went out and tried to start a company, I felt like no one wanted to share the simple things. Everything I found online were either stories of great success or massive failures. There wasn’t any “brass tacks” information like what to do when hiring a lawyer. No one thinks these are interesting things to share, but it was all I wanted to know. I started a video series called 12 Months to share these brass tacks kinds of things I was learning as I was starting my own tech company. It didn’t do very well, but I did get a lot of emails from people thanking me for being open and honest about all the non-sexy stuff I had to go through.

My blog has been the most successful thing I’ve done in my career. It now gets hundreds of thousands of reads per year. My outlets for sharing these process, successes and failures have a lot to do with sharing outward, but also forcing myself to verbalize my process. It lets me understand and follow through on it.

EB: What have you learned about your professional trajectory thus far?

RS: I need to be building something ambitious. Success isn’t going to happen instantly so I want to build something that will light me up as I struggle through it. Setting ambitious goals lets me work as my best self. The most important thing for me is to pursue my own excitement about learning and discovering, pushing myself to be better and better.

EB: How do you see and engage with risk in your work?

RS:  I don’t see risk the way others might. With my first foray into the tech industry, I invested a lot of my own money I had been making as a filmmaker into a company that I eventually ended up shutting down. But I viewed that decision as an education. I could have spent the same amount of money for a masters or PhD, but I’d rather invest in this style of learning. That being said, I’m starting a family now and need to work in a more responsible way. Risk is important, but I also need to set hard deadlines. For example, I’m in the process of fundraising right now and if I don’t raise the amount I need, I’ll have to put the company on hold and find a job.

EB: What advice do you have for someone struggling with their identity as a worker, or someone interested in taking the non-obvious work path?

RS: If you find yourself working at a job and you feel like they can’t give you enough work to do and you have six other side projects going, you’re not an employee. You can either choose to refocus your energy towards being an employee or you can accept that this seems like the energy of someone who wants to start their own thing.

EB: How can upper management engage with entrepreneurial minded talent?

RS: I had an employee like this and my method was to put that person in charge of their own department. I gave them as much autonomy as I could without sacrificing the clarity of vision for the company. Once you identity someone with an entrepreneurial spirit you need to incentivize them with responsibility and autonomy. My experience in the film industry helped with this. The director is the dictator, but he or she surrounds themselves with department heads like lighting, costume, etc., that make large decisions without the director’s constant oversight. When it comes to managing Millennials, it’s about working with people who have a ton of passion and have a desire to have an ownership in what they do.

EB: Is this an experience that for you is generationally specific? 

RS: I don’t like using the phrase the “Millennial attitude”, but there is definitely an element of Millennials not wanting to hear you tell them your business. The counterpoint of empowering Millennials is that they may feel deserving of autonomy, but are unable to provide the output. The “Millennial attitude” lends itself to a side effect in which the second you micromanage, they are upset. It’s an attitude of “we do it differently and you don’t understand”. It may also have to do with the fact that jobs and work is shifting. For example, I don’t have folders and I don’t have an office. My whole company works remotely. There’s an element of needing to find people that work more comfortably in that environment, to be go getters and get stuff done. I think we’ll see a trend of a company having it’s separate sections run like individual companies.

EB: Lastly, who has been your influence or inspiration?

RS: My grandfather for always wanting to learn and my father for being the most dedicated family man I know.

Final Thoughts...

It never hurts to reflect on the powers, complexities, and new styles of the Millennial mentality as we continue flying into this new year.  It speaks to the changing nature of work and our ability to balance existing structures with entirely new ones so we can do our best work.

November 8, 2016 - No Comments!

SBC October Newsletter: The powers of running a cause-driven business

Roof god

Recently I had the good fortune to meet Charles Antis, founder and CEO of Antis Roofing through our shared work supporting the nonprofit, OneOC, that helps organizations enrich their missions with instituting giving and volunteering efforts. Charles is a role model for all of us. He has artfully blended giving back to the community with his business's purpose.

Sherry Benjamins: What do you attribute to your company’s success?

Charles Antis: I have to start with the people. You can’t carry on or achieve much of anything without an amazing team. Before we understood how to leverage marketing or social responsibility as a means to get more work, we were always extremely customer focused. If one person in the room is unhappy, I’m going to do anything I can to fix that relationship. This belief led to an extremely high expectation for customer care. Our first level of success started there and allowed us to grow.

SB: Can you tell us more about customer care?

CA: The customer needs to be right. It doesn’t matter why they’re upset because in their dissatisfaction is a kernel of absolute truth on where we can do something better. In our company, we always air on the side of generosity towards the customer.

SB: Part of your success has been social corporate responsibility. When did that start?

CA: In the company’s first year, I received a call from a lady with a leak problem. I went to check it out and as she opened the door, I was overwhelmed by the smell of mildew. Her daughter grabbed my hand to show me the house and in her room was a mattresses with moldy bedding. I went home and organized a relief party to immediately fix the problem. We didn’t start with a policy to fix situations like this, but they happened again and again. We never let anyone have a leaky room just because they didn’t have the money for it. We can’t be good at what we do unless we’re willing to help people in need.

In 2008, Sharon Ellis, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, OC asked if we would donate a roof to a development and we’ve donated every year since. We quickly realized that we were making an impact and it was exciting! When we talk about it inside our culture, our people see it happening and want to be a part of it.

SB: Are your employees onto this mission of giving?

CA: We have about eighty employees and for our industry, it’s a pretty young workforce. In the office, we’re about half millennials and out in the field, we’re a bit older. We embrace newer voices and perspectives and have a common response when thinking about social responsibility. We also embrace a changing workplace. I know that we have to adjust to a changing culture and we are all listening to create a more flexible workplace. Our employees want to give back. Even the baby boomers, who at first don’t want to talk about these issues as much, get really excited about the conversation and join in.  We’ve gotten a lot of recognition for being philanthropic and it’s important for me that this recognition is directed towards the employees.

Antis roofing team

SB: What do you think gets in the way of an entrepreneur building a “cause” culture with a commitment like this?

CA:  Small business owners have to scrape by to survive. I understand how difficult it is to take that hard earned money and donate it without seeing a clear bottom line of investment. We always share anecdotal stories about the benefits, but we haven’t seen a clear algorithm yet to support this decision. But only by doing shows others a way to understand and follow. It’s hard to shed the biases of our past, but with the shifting climate right now, everyone is re-thinking strategy and culture. I don’t see myself as a pioneer, I’m just quick on transitions.

SB: Can you share more about your mascot and visual graphic of the Roof God?

CA: I grade myself by how well I sleep at night. We serve up to half a million homes so when it rains, I understand how our customers worry about their castle being in danger. In 2008, I started to think about how I could tell this story with images. We went to an artist specializing in comics to create the Roof God as a way to encapsulate this feeling of being able to relax, knowing that your roof is being taken care of.

SB: What have you personally learned on this path as CEO?

CA: I’m trying to create value. If the value isn’t coming to me or my employee’s wallets that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not good value. I could be putting money into securities, but instead I give it back to the community. This is where I differ from a lot of small businesses. If I put an extra half million in the bank to accrue interest, that’s great. But if I take that same half million and put it out into the community, it will create an exponential ripple effect that will find its way back to me and my stakeholders. I haven’t figured out how to show it on paper—yet—but I believe that the return is ten times more than keeping the money in the bank. Once you understand that it’s OK to give away more than think you can, I think it’s the safest and most secure path to creating success.

SB: What do you recommend for the new entrepreneur interested in trying this strategy out?

CA: Don’t wait. Build giving into the model. Be generous. The Toms model stands out. You’ll have a difficult time competing in the market if an intention like this doesn’t ring with authenticity. It’s a tougher economy with slimmer margins, I get it. But try it! Make it a living breathing part of your everyday and you will notice the difference.

SB: How does your new President share your values?

CA: Our new President, Karen Inman comes into work every day with the same, likeminded passion and enthusiasm. She believes in what we do and loves it. She wouldn’t be at a roofing company if we didn’t have a cause built into our brand. We get the Google people because our brand is visible and powerful. We make decisions that reflect family values and our recruiting has gone up to a level that I never knew could exist!

Charlie Antis and Karen

Final Thoughts...

How can businesses today create and value the space, time, and culture to give back to their community, to be driven and inspired by a cause?

October 7, 2016 - No Comments!

SBCo September Newsletter – A CEO and CHRO’s View on Finding the One

Search and selection is a high stakes game and there’s pressure to get it right. As we all know, great talent is hard to find!

Our clients see the value of strategic approaches in the search for talent. More important than finding great talent is finding “the one” person who is not only adept at the technical skills of their role, but can also seamlessly integrate into the culture of your organization.

At S. Benjamins & Co., our creative intention is about helping you find the ONE. With that in mind, we recently revamped our web site to focus on our unique process and purpose. SBC imageCheck it out here!

In the spirit of our new website and our long standing purpose, we asked three of our favorite clients and friends how they find the ONE.  Read on to see how Jamie Latiano with Renovate America, Steven Milovich, ABC Entertainment Group and Carol Geffner, Professor at USC and healthcare entrepreneur see talent acquisition today.

Jamie Latiano, SVP People & Culture, Renovate America
San Diego based – The leader in Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing

SB: How do you find the ONE in your business? 

JL: While cliché, hiring for attitude, energy and training for skill is one of the biggest keys.  jamie latianoHere at Renovate America, we are growing dynamically and there is a lot of change as our business is scaling quickly.  Identifying behaviors such as resourcefulness, flexibility, comfort with change, leadership, communication and alignment with our Core Values has proven to be an effective assessor for hiring the right talent.

We are fortunate to attract great talent by having an awesome corporate culture grounded in impactful work, smart, dedicated, fun people and a philosophy of empowering people to do great things…together.

SB: What do you see changing in this landscape as you look ahead? 

JL: It is becoming more important for us to identify specific experience and competencies that serve as pillars for our growth and success.  While the foundation of hiring people aligned with our culture and values will remain strong, identifying gaps in competencies or knowledge is important so that we can be targeted in getting the right people in the right place, at the right time.

SB: What is your advice to other leaders who are focusing on finding or developing the ONE?

JL: My advice is that there should be foundational or “non-negotiable” things that a hiring manager looks for.  For me, this is in the areas of values, attitude and behaviors.  Diversity is important, especially diversity of thought. Also, in order to keep great talent showing up great, we have to allow them to shine, be their best and bring their discretionary effort to drive success daily through business deliverables, contributions to teams and to the culture of the organization.  It is a two way street; we need to be able to recognize “the ones” that fit our culture and values, and they need to want to jump on board, be inspired to grow, drive, and deliver.  When there is that symbiotic relationship, it is magical; there is incredible accomplishment, people own the outcome, enjoy the journey, and make history together.

Carol Geffner, PhD – Professor of Management, Governance & Policy, USC
USC Price School Professor and CEO of Newport Healthcare Advisors

SB: How do you find the ONE in your business? 

It starts with clarity about what the organization is looking for.  We work with our clients to CarolJGeffner-headshotre-think what is and will be needed in key positions rather than making an assumption that what worked in the past will be acceptable today.

We also take a holistic view of candidates. Think about how an individual will fit into the culture, how they work with others and if they have the attributes to lead change.   And in most leadership positions it is critical to screen for emotional intelligence. Organizations are social enterprises and working well with others is one of the most important aspect of success.

SB: What do you see changing in the landscape as you look ahead? 

CG: Healthcare is the industry undergoing a true transformation.  In a world that is changing so radically, it is imperative that we build leaders who can lead through uncertainty while simultaneously move their organization toward a compelling future.  From a behavioral and neuropsychological point of view, people respond more favorably when they move toward something positive vs. negative.  What this means is that an element of leadership success is being able to create (with others) an emotionally interesting and vivid picture of the company direction.

We have four generations in the workplace. This has enormous implications for the way in which we structure and lead businesses.  Millennials are more concerned with making an impact than fitting into a structure. This means organizations will re-think how to recruit, manage and engage people with very different motivations.

Lastly, we are operating within a customer-focused paradigm. One implication of this is that transparency is the norm.  Determining on a daily basis what openness means is a central responsibility of leaders.  Insular management will not work in the future.  Leading from  the “outside-in” and building a customer-centric organization is a mandate for success.

SB: What is your advice to other leaders who are focusing on finding and developing the ONE?”

CG: Think about the whole person and how they will fit your culture. Consider their emotional and social intelligence and the ability to work with and lead others. Be mindful of bringing in talent who can lead the business to the future as opposed to preserving what exists today.

Our Final Thoughts... 

The best people in HR go against the norm. They are early adopters for change and compete to find the ONE.  We hope this story has inspired you to new thinking about the future of talent.