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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.

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.

June 30, 2016 - No Comments!

SBCo June Newsletter – Culture Talk

Culture Talk with Ron Schrader & Jennifer Pietrzak

This month we sat down with the dynamic culture-savvy duo of Ron Schrader and Jennifer Pietrzak Carlson. Ron and Jennifer have their own respected firms and clients, but have also collaborated often over the past nine years.  We have had the pleasure of working with them also and were so pleased to catch up and hear what they're up to.

Working together, Ron and Jennifer have built a reputation for helping organizations realize the business benefits that come with having a healthy, active and evolving company culture.

What is it about the work that you do that gives you the most positive energy?

J: We’re both really energized when we get to work with organizations going through transformation. It could be implementing a new system, a merger, a sudden growth, or a business realignment.

R: Yeah! These are the very situations where culture is a major contributor to the success of the endeavor.

Why does it give you energy?

J: I love when an organization thinks about culture as a living and breathing thing, not something you create once and put on a shelf. They get it. They understand that what I do, and what they believe in, really matters. Helping organizations turn culture into a competitive advantage is to me, the “wow” factor.

R: I agree! The other element that excites us is having the creativity to do things that the client hasn’t tried before. Sometimes we get called in to help a client who is stuck—they don’t know what’s getting in their way of achieving a given business objective. We see that more and more clients discover that it is about their culture. The clients that are designing creative cultures understand that this ultimately moves them and their organization forward.

Do you have an example?

J: One client had acquired 4 separate lines of business, with different processes, values, cultures, etc. The objectiveJune Newsletter was to evolve into one organization with one set of values and a common culture throughout while still allowing for some individuality among the lines of business.  We developed a recipe book, not the expected way to communicate a major business initiative like this. So it had a surprise factor, and that made it interesting to read.  It also fit the situation well because just like food, to get real culture change you need to invoke all the senses. The recipe ingredients (core values, mission, vision, etc.) were the same, but each business line was able to customize the way those ingredients were folded into their business.

R: Organizations value a tailored solution.  Needs vary and what works somewhere may not work everywhere.  We agree that a custom designed solution is best. We’ve developed unconventional tools like comic strips to illustrate process, storybooks to share the vision, and homemade videos to generate grassroots excitement. We love figuring out how to craft something that is unexpected and novel, but also meaningful to our client’s audience.

Bringing up the idea that you’re using unconventional artifacts and visual elements to communicate culture… is this something new that we’re seeing in organizations today?

R: I don’t know if it’s new, but it’s not common from what I’ve seen. And that’s what makes this work exciting. It can inspire your own teams to think beyond what might have worked before. When a company says they’re really hip and innovative, but they communicate to their people through very formal, corporate-sounding memos, there’s a cultural disconnect. Paragraphs in an email aren’t the only way to get a message across.  We suggest helping your internal clients bridge the gap through the use of visuals, artifacts, language and other creative approaches.

What’s changing in the work that you’re doing today? 

J: Executives say, “Oh culture, we’ve done that”. But the reality is that as your organization lives, so does your culture. It needs to adapt. A lot of time people feel like they are being disingenuous to their history when they say they want to do something new with their culture. But your culture is like a sea nautilus. As the nautilus grows, it adds layers to its shell, but never discards the previous stages. In the same way, you can add to and adapt your culture while still preserving the best of who you are.

R: Your culture is being actively created every single day, either consciously or unconsciously.  People need to understand that when you take your eye off culture, it can go adrift really fast. And I think there’s a growing awareness that culture is not just a fluffy HR thing. There’s loads of research that shows that culture has a tangible impact on your bottom line and business success.

In the future, 50% of the work in companies will be done by project-based, contingent workers. How will cultures be built when we’re committed to projects or skills and not to the company?

R: There’s going to be more of an onus on having the culture defined and healthy so the project-based workers can come into something that already exists. It’s then easier to find people that align with your vision.

J: In those situations with 50% of your workers project-based it will be even more important to have clarity in all aspects of culture. “Here’s our expectations for behavior. Here’s how work gets done. Here’s how you’re rewarded and recognized.” That will expedite onboarding new people and getting the work done. It saves time and money too because you don’t have to figure out the culture as you go.

Closing Thoughts

Culture can propel your organization forward or hold it back. Every day the people in your organization live out your culture. They are either doing this consciously, resulting in behaviors and norms by design, or unconsciously (culture by default).  In order to get clear on this, talk to your line leaders and bring them together to ask, “What do we value and celebrate?  And, how might we get to understand  each other and our employees even better?”

 About Jennifer and Ron

Ron and Jen

The self-proclaimed odd couple of organizational development consulting, Jennifer and Ron (they sometimes humorously refer to themselves JennRon) have spent the last 9 years collaborating on culture engineering and change design work for companies large and small, established and start-up, formal and casual. They’re known for their energy, passion, and their unique design approach. And they like to draw pictures.

Jennifer Pietrzak /

Ron Schrader

March 4, 2016 - No Comments!

SBCo February Newsletter – Towards a Grounded Leadership

This month we sat down with Kristie Griffin, Director of Talent Acquisition for our wonderful client, Dignity Health. With a compelling trajectory of moving from big tech to healthcare, Kristie exemplifies a kind of agency that leadership expert and author, Bob Rosen, defines as grounded. Kristie’s drive to balance her personal and professional goals have fostered a flourishing career path that welcomed change. It reminds us of the importance as leaders to look inward as much as outward.


How did you come to working in the “people business”?

Before I knew the people business was my niche, I was a student athlete at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a full basketball scholarship. It was a constant balance, competing on the court, leading as a team captain and figuring out what my future held. I knew, since the time I was twelve, that I wanted to be a senior leader of a company. Graduating with a degree in Business, I began my career as a Technical Consultant for Deloitte and then transitioned into my first HR role, as a college recruiter for Stryker Corporation.


After working at tech giants like Google and Microsoft, what brought you to Dignity?

If you look at my career progression, I focused on personal growth, learning and reprioritization when needed. From Google to Dignity, where I now lead a talent acquisition team, I have gone through some major transformations. On the family front, while at Google I KG_Picwent from having two children to four. This shifted my mindset to a place where I wanted to go from fast track to being present in life as wife, mother and employee in an environment that did not operate at burnout pace. After 5 years I made the very hard decision to leave Google and join Microsoft who provided me the opportunity to work on complex business challenges, manage a large team and work 100% remotely from home.

That was the first big shift and it was amazing. I managed a team of thirty, including three managers, and I expanded my scope to a global reach. As a co-lead for all the staffing managers at Microsoft (over 100 employees), I learned from experts, experienced exciting career growth and most importantly, was able to balance and thrive in my personal and professional life.

The next huge shift was to move our family out of Silicon Valley. After a wonderful move to Sacramento, while at Microsoft, I took the next step towards community involvement and was looking for a work culture of purpose. This led me to Dignity.


Dignity’s core values revolve around ideas of compassion, humankind and advocacy.

How can a company shift their culture to promote a philosophy of compassion that’s not a “nice to have,” but a “must have.”

It has to start at the top. It can’t only be a grassroots effort and happen organically without buy-in from executive leadership first. Creating a very deliberate action plan and communication strategy is essential and hiring practices should engage people authentically. That’s why our function is so critical. We work closely with leaders to ensure that our talent attraction strategies and interview practices focus not only on the technical aspect of a job but also key behavioral attributes. This ensures that every person we hire is aligned to the company’s mission, vision and values.


What are you most proud of accomplishing this past year? 

I’m the most proud of defining and building a team that values and operates collaboratively and doesn’t engage in silo mentality. It is about partnership and honest relationships, both professionally and personally. I was just explaining to my daughter the relationship between team sports and work based teams. It’s very clear to me the correlation between team unity, team chemistry, team bonding kristieand being a leader that motivates your team to peak performance. And that’s not just applicable to athletics. It’s very applicable to professional life. I take that team concept and apply it to my work every day. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. How can we optimize the work we do together and build synergy? What are the steps we need to take to build a world class organization? What can I do different as your leader to help us achieve our collective goals? That’s my biggest accomplishment. Creating a team and helping define how we can win together and support each other.


What is on your challenge for 2016? 

What keeps me up at night is working towards, and being a critical voice for shifting culture. It’s something I can’t do by myself. It’s something I can express my passion about and share data to support the notion, but it takes a partnership and a team approach across multiple business functions to really shift the culture. How can we prepare ourselves as a company to be a major competitor in the war for talent? With the looming mass exodus of baby boomers, we have to make sure that in health care, we are completely poised to capture the next generation of talent. We must first engage and acquire the talent and then manage and grow them. The culture of healthcare will continue to shift and it will be an on-going challenge to help shape and define the healthcare workforce of the future.


Any final thoughts?

I love that I work for a company who has a reputation of being a high-quality, values-driven system with a commitment to extending our mission of care and service to those in need.

We keep Hello Humankindess at the forefront and makes coming to work every day extremely enjoyable.


We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Kristie’s mindful navigation as a leader from big tech to healthcare at Dignity. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by big picture planning and small-scaled daily demands, but we must not forget to look inward to ask ourselves if what we do every day is fulfilling what we value the most, not just as a leader, but as a human being.

December 4, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo November Newsletter: Purpose Driven Giving

This is a time of year when we are grateful for the people and work that surrounds us. Our good friend Rob Reindl transitioned from corporate life, as CHRO with Edwards Lifesciences, to a blended lifestyle that incorporates fascinating consulting work, giving to the community and sharing his leadership skills with others in unique ways.

Several years ago, Rob began looking at non-profits and the OneOC family offered impressive focus and purpose driven work helping other organizations give back and engage their employees in meaningful work.

In 2015, OneOC launched the Center for Business & Community Partnerships, which helps companies build and grow their giving and employee volunteer programs in order to maximize charitable activities and generate needed resources for local nonprofits.

We sat down with Rob Reindl, now Chairman of the Board for OneOC, to learn a little more about his role and their purpose. We found out that the Center has helped give companies a chance to make a difference in 2015 by supporting 91 organizations, creating 231 new projects and enabling 12,000+ hours of first time volunteer hours.

Reindl_DSC7314Sherry Benjamins (SB): Following a successful and rewarding career as CHRO with Edwards Lifesciences, what prompted you to get involved with OneOC?

Rob Reindl (RR): I was lucky to come from Edwards which was extraordinarily innovative and growth oriented. When I decided to retire I knew I couldn’t play golf every day and I wanted to contribute and give back to the community. I had developed these leadership skill sets during my career and saw no reason to let them go stale. There is something intrinsically rewarding about impacting your community.

I researched many non-profit organizations, but felt like my skill set would be valued and have the most impact on a really important cause in our community – helping companies build philanthropy and purpose driven cultures.

SB: Tell us more about your role as Chair for the Board within OneOC?

RR: I was on the board for about a year before I was approached to be the Chair. My main focus is attracting and retaining board members, guiding our meetings, influencing participation by board members and committee members, as well as leading the charge on fundraising.

SB: When you look back at the last year as the Chair, what have you enjoyed most?

RR: I loved the excitement around raising $500,000 for our Center of Business & Community Partnerships. It has been great to see the influence we are having in the first year of this Center’s evolution.

It is inspiring to see the high level of participation by companies and leaders. We are really compelled by the urgent unmet needs in Orange County. Half of the students in Orange County live in families making less than $40,000 a year, 1/3 are not insured or under insured, and 55% of 3rd graders in OC are reading below the proficiency level. Not many people realize the scope of unmet needs in Orange County. I like having a strong line of sight to meeting these needs.

SB: What is the challenge that companies face when they want to build purpose driven cultures?

RR: There is this heavy fixation on profit, especially for public companies. Most people don’t align volunteering and giving with meeting business objectives, but there is a business case of being purposeful. It’s been shown that there is a direct correlation between doing good in the community and doing well in business.

SB: It is not unusual to see the larger firms create foundations and participate actively. Do you see more mid-market companies doing this?

RR: Yes, a great example of a mid-market company seeing the ROI on doing good in the community is Fluidmaster. Fluidmaster has implemented a volunteer program and some relatively small giving initiatives, but have seen profits double and turnover reduce by 20% because of these programs. Employees stay at organizations with purpose. Most employees want to see their work make a difference and have impact.

SB: Where are you seeing the demands for “Growing Volunteerism”?

RR: OneOc is made up of two buckets - giving and volunteering. Volunteering is typically skill based, hands-on experiences. For instance, Disneyland selected approximately 26 employees to donate their skills to a non-profit for a few hours a month. The employees get to develop unique skills and the non-profits benefit from their expertise. It’s an amazing way to make employees feel like organizations care about their development AND care about the community.

Giving is made up of foundation creation, employee gift matching, disaster relief assistance, scholarships, and our gift cards.

SB: What is your advice for leaders/companies starting this journey if they have not created “do good” initiatives?

RR: My biggest recommendation is to think about how your values and skills align with a philanthropic organization. Do your research and talk to a few non-profits and their leadership. Find out how they contribute and what their mission is. Think about where you might contribute your skills and have influence. We find purpose when we are doing things we love, or attempting a new challenge and expressing our thoughts so that actions can be taken for a result greater than ourselves.

It is ok to start small. Build an aligned strategy between your organization and the non-profit you have identified. You don’t have to do large scale volunteering right away; start by giving gift cards for the holidays or participating in hands-on volunteering. Your energy and passion for this will grow and be contagious as others learn what you are involved in.


Most companies are seeking purpose AND profit today. We have to thank the Millennial generation who has moved the needle in this change. They seek out purpose in everything from what they buy to who they work for and relationships they seek. Of course, many generations value purpose. The younger generation has just accelerated this for us. In a time of more uncertainty than ever, we are looking for ways to help those in need and giving back makes sense.

We have entered a new economy, as Aaron Hurst describes in his book, The Purpose Economy. He lays out the context for how people and organizations are focused on value. Rob shared his story about how he found a way to line up his personal values with an organization that embraces those values in his community.

As you reflect on what matters to you most, consider giving in new ways. The great business challenge we face is not how to build a fine tuned machine, but how to build a human-centered organization that does good on all fronts.

August 28, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo August Newsletter – Two Women Entrepreneurs: Talent Matters in Food & Film

This month we decided to highlight the creativity, impact and courage of two women entrepreneurs who are successfully using their strengths and passion to share their love of food and film.  Natasha Feldman and Julianna Strickland started their own company, Cinema & Spice, over five years ago and have been Best Friends, Producers, Directors, Writers, Hosts, and Goofballs ever since.

Cinema & Spice Productions makes web-based cooking shows. Natasha and Julianna have worked with a variety of companies including C&S tvYahoo, Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds, Warner Brothers, Lifetime, and KitchenAid to develop and create youthful and creative shows.

Their Webby Nominated Cooking Show, Cinema & Spice (C&S), has been featured in The LA Times,  Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Union Tribune, and on The Steve Harvey Show. Each episode  of C&S  is inspired by a movie or television show and features original recipes, useful kitchen tips, and ideas for  entertaining.

Sherry Benjamins (SB): It’s so great to chat with you Julianna and Natasha! Tell us how you started such an imaginative company?

Natasha Feldman (NF): I had just graduated from LMU and decided that I wanted to go to culinary school. Julianna had just graduated from USC with a film degree and we were both working in the same restaurant. At the time that I met Julianna I needed a roommate and she was looking to move out of her apartment, so we became roommates, co-workers, and friends.

We experimented in the kitchen and filmed these mini-episodes of us cooking. The first episode was horrible but we kept playing with it in the editing bay to see if we could create some structure and purpose. At first we thought just our friends and family would watch, but soon we were gaining a following.

Long story short, we started getting sponsors for our episodes and we eventually connected with Yahoo! and grew our business from there.

SB: What role do each of you play in the organization? Do you have a team to help you run this company?

Julianna Strickland (JS): Someday we may be lucky enough to have a full support staff, but for now it’s just the two of us and our freelance team. Natasha is the one who develops recipes, does the food styling and writes. I am all the things under the surface that allow our business to run.

For instance, I do all of the back-end production, accounting, hire the film crew and edit all copy.  And we like to do the creative brainstorming for each episode together. We are strategic about getting the best talent available to help us in areas where additional expertise is needed.

SB: Cinema & Spice does their own videos as well as videos for brands. Do brands approach you and just ask for a video?

NF: Yes, brands reach out to a platform, such as Yahoo!, AOL or a YouTube company, looking for content and we get the requests through the larger companies, usually.  Sometimes the request is for general concepts to see if they feel it fits in with their current landscape and needs, and other times it’s for full-blown productions. We have been fortunate to work with brands like Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds and KitchenAid.

SB: It is great to hear that you are able to inject some of your creativity into these very large organizations. How can corporations use a similar level of creativity (besides hiring you!)?

NF: Large companies can’t be afraid of the new; it’s no mystery that the world as we know it is changing. That doesn’t mean that companies should make rash decisions to completely alter their brand. Organizations are quick to “blow up” a process or initiative, but sometimes you just need to approach it in a new way.

We find companies often spend egregious amounts of money to work with big production houses and end up with a product that looks like everyone else and doesn’t break the mold. If you don’t hire someone that’s a little risky and don’t make a product that is a little risky, you won’t get the impactful result you were looking for.

SB: There is a lot of change happening right now as the millennial generation enters the workforce. You are both Millennials… any advice for organizations on how to “handle” your generation?

NF: It is really important to embrace the strengths of others and use their talent and perspectives to compliment or break out into something new. We see and honor the power of collaboration. It is pretty easy for Millennials to create a website and launch a company, but there is so much power in the wisdom and expertise of older generations. Technology changes, but the core needs and wants of people don’t change much. Millennials are a valuable asset to fill in the gap between the new technology and the established business.

JS: We are constantly at the crossroad between old and new. The tech space is all about the newest thing, but in the food world, established and authentic brands actually have respect from the consumer. There’s a similar crossroads within organizations between the newest thing (Millennials) and the established/respected business.

SB: You launched your own business in an industry that has a lot of big players. What drove you to take this step?

NF: I will say we were a little naïve to an extent because we had a dream and we decided to go for it. It certainly hasn’t been without consequence, but if you were to ask if we would do it over again, I think we would both certainly say yes.

SB: I am hearing more often these days from corporate professionals who say, “I am ready for a change because my work isn’t exciting or fun anymore. I need to find my purpose again.”

JS: If you choose something you love to do, you will always find the joy and purpose in it. We are lucky to be able to enjoy our work through creating our own episodes, making branded content for others, and volunteering to teach the next generation how to cook, both through our shows and at local food banks and low income housing around LA.

SB: What does 2016 look like for Cinema & Spice?

NF: In 2016 we want to continue to branch out with our production company. We meet so many brilliant people inside organizations as well as independent talent (comedians, actors, bloggers, etc.) that we want to partner with to produce their content. Watch for new episodes and productions that we hope inspire you to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.

Our Thoughts…

Seek out talent the way Julianna and Natasha do for their business.  Imagine having the creativity, passion and trust in your workers so that they bring their best to your culture every day.  They get to work on something that did not exist yesterday. This dynamic duo is crafting a new on-line and social presence in a changing world.

They think creatively about how work gets done. This supports predictions that new models of work, worker and workplace have arrived.  Natasha and Julianna are just one example of young leaders who demonstrate that we have left behind “business as usual.”  Tap into your employee’s imagination and you may be thoroughly surprised what can be accomplished!

You can learn more about Cinema & Spice on their website, YouTube channel, or Instagram!

August 3, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo July Newsletter- HR Innovation – Impacting Business through Candidate Experience

We recently talked with long-time friend and respected talent leader, Jared Flynn, Senior Director, Head of Talent Acquisition for T-Mobile. Having joined T-Mobile in 2009 when they were not the most popular mobile phone carrier, Jared has taken part in their amazing transformation, a business transformation that has resulted in nine consecutive quarters delivering more than 1 million total net customer additions.

We sat down with him to discover how and why T-Mobile reinvented their candidate experience.

Sherry Benjamins (SB): So great to talk to you! Tell us a little about your role at T-Mobile.

Jared Flynn (JF): I lead Talent Acquisition for all T-Mobile brands and locations in the U.S. This equates to filling over 22,000 positions a year currently.

SB: And what were some of the challenges you faced at T-Mobile?jared Flynn

JF: Three years ago we had new leadership join T-Mobile and they challenged us to re-think HR and Talent. We came to realize this meant owning some of the pain points in our recruiting process.

T-Mobile focuses on getting rid of pain points for our customers and we wanted to do the same for our candidate “customers”.

SB: What were the biggest pain points you discovered?

JF: By far the biggest pain point for a candidate is lack of response. They go through the effort of applying for a position and their application goes into the black hole. We would never treat our customers like that, so why are we treating our candidates that way? We decided to focus on radical transparency.

SB: What steps did you take to become radically transparent?

JF: Every candidate should have a complete understanding of our process and know where they stand. For instance, we list the length of time a job has been open and the number of people that have applied.

Secondly, we feed our Glassdoor reviews onto our own website. Not all the reviews are positive, but if candidates are already looking at them, we might as well make them readily accessible.

Lastly, we created an infographic and video so our candidates would understand the process.

SB: From the T-Mobile perspective, does all this help ensure the right candidate applies to the job?

JF: That’s a great question. One area we really learned a valuable lesson on finding the right fit was customer service. We were experiencing 50% turnover in that department. The feedback from employees was the job wasn’t what they expected.

We decided to create a video that depicts what it’s really like to work in customer service at T-Mobile. It’s an amazing place to work, but some parts of a job are just less fun and exciting. The video helps empower candidates to find the right fit for them.

SB: What have you done for your internal candidates?

JF: We received a lot of feedback that our internal candidates also suffered from the black hole effect. One employee’s comments really stood out to me. T-Mobile had paid for him to go to school, but when he applied for a job with us in the trade he went to school for, he never heard back. Here were paying tuition reimbursements and yet not capitalizing on the investment or the employee’s new skills!

We’ve been taking steps to ensure we fully utilize the talent we already have on our T-Mobile team.

SB: How do you think HR is impacting business?

JF: We have 1 million people a year applying to work at T-Mobile. Frankly, that is way too many candidates. By changing our practices we are able to encourage only qualified candidates apply, thus reducing the resources necessary to manage an excessive number of applications. Additionally, we know a positive candidate experience could increase the likelihood of those candidates choosing to join T-Mobile as a customer.

SB: Do you partner with other T-Mobile teams to make these initiatives come to life?

JF: One of our core values is “Frontline first, because customers are first.” The frontline employees are in customer service and retail, the employees closest to the customer. We work closely with our frontline teams through focus groups and frontline “internships” to ensure we are always in touch with their needs and perspective. Additionally we work closely with our Marketing and Corporate Communications teams to ensure we’re aligned from a brand perspective. Our partners have been amazing at re-inventing our high volume job descriptions.

Our job descriptions are really energizing now.

SB: What are you most proud of when you look back on all you have accomplished at T-Mobile?

JF: I am most proud of seeing my team accomplish something that has never been done before. There were many heroes along the way that were really able to bring “next-practice” thinking.

It was also great to see the team receive the CandE award from the Talent Board in 2014. Internal recognition is always wonderful, but we value external recognition that we’re listening to our customers and actively solving their pain points.

SB: So, what is on the docket for 2016?

JF: We’re focused on ways to “Monetize the Million” (candidates). We want to delight them by doing a little something that says “thank you,” and leaves them feeling appreciated, and hopefully turns them into a T-Mobile customer.

SB: I have always admired you as a TA Leader and your ability to push beyond the norm. What skills do you think future TA leaders need to have?

JF: Most importantly, TA leaders need permission and an expectation to be bold. They should have the space to take risks and use them as learning experiences.

Our Thoughts...

Finally, a focus on talent and great companies transforming the conversation with their candidates is on the rise. It is an understatement to say the talent market has heated up. From Apple, to Zappos, JetBlue and T-Mobile as well as smaller entrepreneurial firms, there is an understanding that candidate experience impacts brand and that authentic messages matter.

Jared and his team are speaking to their customer – the candidate in a way that captures their heart. We at SBCo encourage you to do the same. It matters to your customer and your employees. Let us know how it works for you and share a success story that we can highlight in our next newsletter.

May 18, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo May Newsletter: Are you a Game Changer? Purpose Driven Companies Understand Talent

On April 28th we hosted our annual Great Starts Breakfast Series. There was a full room of CEO’s, CFO’s, CHRO’s, VP’s, Director’s and others engaging in a fascinating discussion centered around culture, which is a “hot button” in many of the organizations we work with.

Who better to help us facilitate a discussion on culture than Gustavo Grodnitzky, Ph.D., author of the book, Culture Trumps Everything. Gustavo

Dr. Gustavo effectively built the case for social capitalism cultures, which deliver higher levels of performance compared to classic capitalism. The research on this performance improvement is impressive and is sited in numerous studies from groundbreaking research from the book, Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose to the Dow Jones Index, S&P 500 and more.

Why does social capitalism deliver higher performance?

Social capitalism balances the needs of all stakeholders, including employees, not just shareholders.
Companies that remain in the old model of “bottom line first” will not meet the demands of the employee today. The modern employee wants to be heard, engaged and inspired to build and learn. We are dealing with employees who expect all aspects of the Happiness Paradox to be fulfilled (Pleasure, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment).

Can this be proven with data?

For those “data driven” leaders, Dr. Gustavo effectively laid out the profit paradox, which he considers “the money slide” of his presentation, to convince your C-level team that social capitalism is a more profitable strategy. Data over the last 10 years shows that social capitalism has far greater profit margins than classic capitalism. The results are staggering. In January 2014, Social Capitalism companies had a profit percentage of close to 160% compared to the 45% that Classic Capitalism companies had.

Who has successfully demonstrated social capitalism and shown strong profits?

Companies’ small and large as well as inspired leaders are bringing passion and purpose to their cultures. A few examples include Zappos, Gravity, IDEO, Patagonia, TOMS Shoes and Starbucks.

Companies like WD-40, led by Garry Ridge, a purpose driven CEO, have created a highly engaged “tribal culture” of people who have a sense of belonging and commitment that is rare. Our client, Jet Propulsion Laboratories has clear purpose and energizes workers with unprecedented innovation and their “left field” lab embraces experimentation and learning from mistakes.

How do employees adapt to social capitalism?

Culture trumps psychology and biology (because culture trumps everything) – a fascinating concept that is compelling as you reflect on how the shift might be made to a more balanced social context.

Gustavo introduced Epigenetics which literally means "above" or "on top of" genetics. It refers to how these factors affect of the expression of our DNA, turning our genes off or on. Our cells react to our environment, how we live and how we manage stress. We create cultures that support or are toxic to human life. Our primary drive as humans is to connect to and understand others and belong (have a cause). How can you promote this in our work culture?

Gustavo challenged us to move away from individual attributions and begin to think about the impact of context on individuals. Introverts can behave just like extroverts in the right context. Low performers can perform well in the right context. In the same respect, extroverts can behave just like introverts within certain contexts. High performers can tank in certain contexts despite their success elsewhere.

Many people in the room resonated with the Trust model presented. Experience over Risk equals Trust. We were asked to write down the names of three people you trusted and three you didn’t.

Is this trust exercise important?

(The answer is yes.)

Those we trust display Reliability, Openness, Competence, and Concern. Those we don’t trust either all share the same absent behavior or a variety. If they share the same absent behavior, you may have a hot button. A hot button suggests you may over-emphasize a certain attribute when evaluating your trust in others. If you look at the list and don’t find one or all of the four components are particularly valuable to build trust, you may have a blind spot. Blind spots suggest you have under-emphasized a quality essential for trust and this blind spot may create an obstacle when you are trying to have others trust you.

What can you do now to impact my organization?

Given that the primary drivers of connectedness are relationships and cause, you want to ask your employees a few questions to help to move closer to cultivating the culture your leaders’ value and believe in. Start by asking your leaders and employees how they define your cause? Do they define it in the same way?

Our Thoughts…

As Gustavo says, “Culture is a garden”. The garden requires time and a bit of work, but can grow some beautiful flowers and profitable produce! (What Gustavo calls “Quintessence”).

New models of business and culture are being created and led by inspiring Orange County CEO’s. There are new “playbooks” that help people and business thrive. Game changing companies are mavericks of culture. Are you creating a work environment that supports your purpose and empowers your employees so that everyone enjoys success? Why not go for it - let us know about your journey.

April 10, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo March Newsletter: Building Partnerships through Values and Leadership- Views from an Entrepreneur

Recently we met Krysta Masciale, CEO of Big Deal Branding and were instantly captivated by her sassy, honest and innovative approach to leadership, her business partnerships, and developing successful brands for her clients. We sat down with Krysta and one of her clients to learn more about her approach and how this influences the organizations and leadership she partners with.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about how you started your partnership with Gary Christenson, your co-founder in 2011?

Krysta Masciale: I was introduced to Gary through mutual friends from college in Kansas. Like every young professional at the dawn of social media, I sufficiently stalked him and his work from the comfort of my cubicle in corporate America. A current client of ours, who GK- March Newsletterknew Gary in college, said it best, “Gary was telling us all that he was going to revolutionize the way people used design to solve communication problems through the Internet. We thought he was crazy because ‘who cared about the Internet?’”

After we had both spent a few years developing our careers, I knew he was my best option for building a branding agency. We were both known for making people uncomfortable with our unconventional ideas and honesty. And we seemed to be the only team who could successfully merge strategy and design without needing a mediator.

SB: After meeting you and reading client stories, I can see that trusted partnerships are key to your work. How do you build those relationships?

KM: It is no coincidence that we share core values with our clients. For us, core values are the foundation and launching pad for a brand.

Our clients know to expect the honest truth about their brand from us. We’re lucky to have the ability to build great relationships with our clients simply because of the nature of the business and of the content. Brand is a very personal and relational thing.

SB: Many of our readers are dealing with the idea of “selling” their brand to a younger workforce (millennials) and being more “transparent” with prospective employees. What is your thought?

KM: Older generations relate transparency to Facebook, which is riddled with trolls and uncertified reviews. In my opinion, the Millennial generation has done a poor job of defining transparency. It’s not really about transparency, so much as it is about honesty. There is a BIG difference between the two.

Think of a company like UBER. They are not transparent or warm and fuzzy, but they are honest and they own that 100%. Partnerships, whether between company and employee or brand and client need honesty not full disclosure.

Another example would be a CEO who feels pressured to suddenly disclose personal information in order for his/her business to appear more approachable. If that’s not a sound strategy that’s consistent with your brand two things are going to happen: 1) You’re going to look inauthentic and completely foolish. Millennials can smell someone trying too hard from miles away 2) It will hurt your brand more than help. Your current audience loved you BEFORE you were offering personal tid-bits about your life. Trends come and go. Do what’s best for your business.

SB: You mentioned earlier that your clients expect the honest truth from you… Does that happen during the “Brand Therapy” segment of your work?

KM: It’s funny, our clients actually named this step in the process “Brand Therapy” because of the intensity and personalization.

Brand Therapy is a one and a half month intensive process to literally “unpack the brand” and learn about what they stand for or what their cultural ethos is. Typically we find that the leadership team members have different ideas of what the company’s values are, so we ask provocative questions and provide honest feedback as they reflect on moving their brand forward.

Often, this is the first time a client has really thought about what they stand for. It is easier to just request a web site rather than take ownership of what you’re trying to communicate.

There’s no shame in needing accountability and permission to make major changes in your business. It’s a scary transition no matter how long you’ve been in business. That culture of conflict – and not in the combative way, but in the ‘let’s talk about reality’ way – is something we live by. I can’t tell you how many times Gary keeps me in check or challenges my thinking and vice versa. That’s what takes a company from an entitled teenager to an adult.

SB: We saw in your client stories that you recently did work with, Meg Hall, founder and Celebrity Chef of Made by Meg. Tell us a little about how your partnership with Meg began.

KM: Meg is a straight shooter. I knew I loved her from the first call because she scared the crap out of me and that doesn’t happen often. She was an industry friend and dug in deep with questions to clarify how strategy translated to a website. I loved that she was passionate and actually cared to know why our process was so different than everyone else’s she was interviewing.

We connected with Meg to hear her perspective on this distinctive partnership.Made_By_Meg_LLC_Chef_Caterer_L-2203317989-O

SB: Meg, what made Krysta’s work different from other branding firms?

Meg Hall: There were plenty of people who would point out flaws in my business, but no one offered solutions. Krysta pointed out the same issues, but made it clear that she was there to work with me to develop and implement solutions.

SB: You have had a 183% increase in revenue since this partnership began! What contributed to this growth?

MH: When you re-brand you are impacting a lot of areas of your company. When we rolled out the re-branding it reinforced to our customers and employees that we were here to stay. It was a confidence and leadership boost to every component of our business and that was reflected in our revenue.

As we have had this success, we have become a larger contender in the market and our brand needs have evolved. Krysta and I continually partner to develop and reinforce the Made by Meg values/brand. I know now that brand is not a one and done business initiative.


I found this interview with Krysta Masciale so refreshing, down to earth and real because that is who she is. It translates into how she works with her clients.

Those of us in the people business know that branding your employment proposition as authentic, bold or truthful is so relevant to talent today. Can any company build an effective brand that clients or customers buy into without looking inside first?

We know that brands can be mysterious realities and whether it is a company, culture or employee brand, there is a commitment to a long term relationship filled with speaking the truth and reminding us why we are doing what we are doing. What makes your partnerships work?