Top Tier Interim Executives Meetup: Strategic Planning for 2021

Cerius’s top interim executives get together to talk about strategic planning for 2021 and the evolving needs of companies as well as personal marketing tactics.

Kristen McAlister:

Welcome. We’ll get started.

I appreciate everyone joining us and I see a few new faces. I’ve seen a few who have kind of been with us every month and we’ve been holding these about once a month since November, because we’ve been getting a lot of feedback on, being an interim executive or independent, or even if you’re newly inside of a company, there’s still a disconnect as to what’s going on in other businesses, what’s going on in the executive community.

And there’s this big need for learning and development. So, when you look at the individuals who are on the meeting today, over the past month, I would guess that between all of us, we’ve probably talked to, touched, or interacted with at least 100 CEOs. So, as we go through the discussions today, a lot of the conversation is to be able to pull out all of our individual experiences.

Or in the end, you feel as though you had a conversation with a hundred CEOs over the past month, and you’re that much more educated as you’re going about your efforts in your meetings, whether you’re working inside of a company right now or independently. The other thing is to use this group, and as we go into breakouts, also kind of as your personal advisory board. As independents, or even as an executive insider, we don’t always have individuals in a safe, secure environment that we can go to and get opinions from.

So that’s one way that I’ve seen executives using this forum, as well, is to get feedback, opinions. What do you think? And get advice. With that, we’ll kick it off.

Just a quick overview of Cerius: we’re nationwide company. We have a nationwide network and what we get to do is play matchmaker. So, we get to meet executives like yourself, and I’m looking at a couple of people that we’ve actually matched with companies, with clients. We’ll talk about that today.

And working with clients to figure out what do they need, what are some of their challenges? What are they looking to accomplish? And finding executives like yourselves to place in them. And we do that. We’ve got some individuals that we’ll hear from today, Chris and Tiffany and Seth, who work directly with our clients and can share some of their experiences so we’re able to share with you what we’re hearing and you can let us know what you’re hearing as well.

Let’s see, one housekeeping thing: I know as you get into breakout groups, you want to connect and share information. What we’ll do is we’ll send out a list of everyone so you can look each other up. If you’d like after the fact to connect on LinkedIn, maybe set up a one-to-one you’re more than welcome to, the goal is to expand your network and it’s tough to meet other professionals in this kind of setting without worrying about, am I going to end up being sold to, or am I going to end up on a mailing list? The answer is no. If for any reason you do, please let us know and we will take care of that part of our community and culture.

So for some clarification, let’s start with kind of an overview of the state of the market. I get a lot of feedback and commentary on this. That’s very helpful.

Chris, if you don’t mind, I’d love to start with you. And just kind of, when you look at your pipeline, all the clients you’re working with in the past month, what are you seeing out there? Some of the top roles that you’re getting requests from any specific industry industries?

Chris Shepard:

Yeah, we’re seeing a lot of movement in life science right now with a lot of my clients. And then within that, a lot of science looking for CEOs, usually also a lot of movement in software salespeople.

Right now, we’ve got several opportunities there. Normally we don’t see sales; sales will not spike up until Q3. Usually, we get halfway through the year and people reevaluate their sales teams, but we’re seeing it in February, which, I don’t know exactly what that means, but probably people are starting to see opportunities in the marketplace and understanding that they need to seize them now.

And so, we’re seeing a lot of movement there and then also a lot of movement in finance. So as companies have restructured and went through the last 10 months, they’re needing to make some changes in their finance department. So, we’re seeing a lot of movement in finance as well, but overall, I would just say a lot more activity than what I personally expected there to be in February.

And so we’re just seeing a lot of companies making a lot of moves and a lot of different roles.

Kristen McAlister:

Okay. Fantastic. And Tiffany. Tiffany and Chris, just for a quick overview, if you haven’t met them, they’re the ones you want to meet. They’re the ones that if you cross your fingers and say, “who am I going to end up in a breakout room?”

It’s one of those two. So, they work primarily with our clients, understanding what their challenges are, and then working with our talent acquisition team to identify individuals like yourselves to present to the client.

So, Tiffany.

Tiffany Egenes:

I will have to echo what Chris said about sales and marketing. I’ve been here for almost three years and sales and marketing kind of trickles in here and there, but I’ve got a strong concentration of sales and marketing roles in the tech industry. Finance is always on the top of our functional roles as well that we’ve placed.

And then just in the last couple of opportunities I have are looking for COO type of roles. So, that’s the uptake I’ve seen in the last couple of roles I’ve had, is CFO/COO or interim CEO role. So, I agree that in the tech market is definitely increasing and the manufacturing side they are taking the opportunity to kind of upskill their leadership team and making sure that they have the right team to take them to the next step and either recover from their losses or really put the gas pedal down.

Kristen McAlister:

I think Tiffany, you hit the nail on the head. And I can track it back to maybe January 7th, kind of everyone started hitting the pedal and companies are assessing their leadership team and reaching out and looking to upgrade it, looking to switch it out, looking to expand their expertise in a number of ways.

I think Tiffany and Chris both mentioned leadership and sales teams. When you look at investment in Q1, that seems to be the number one place that we’re seeing clients make that investment. We’ll talk further, as we get into our first breakout group, about what are you seeing?

We also see controllers right now. It’s a good time to be, if you’re a controller or a sales and marketing executive, now is the best time, normally. Whereas at number five or six on our ranking with finance operations, CEO, HR, those two have moved up to probably the number two and three slots in requests that we receive.

So, if there’s comment along with the advisory, I would say in the past couple of months, about one third of the CEOs I’ve been talking to and working with, is they’re looking for an assessment and advisory.

With that, as you look at our future opportunities for yourselves, how to expand your business it’s that, what am I going to do with my business now? And looking for outside perspective on assessing it, we’re also starting to see – it’s been interesting. And those of you who have heard this overview before, it’s the same thing in November. I mentioned that we got a lot of startups right after COVID hit. And then we started to see the small companies.

And I think last month, I announced that we’re starting to see the mid-sized companies. We’re now starting to see the larger companies. So the 200, 300, 400 million-dollar companies. They were almost non-existent last year, they were hunkered down. They were saving money. We’re starting to see the larger companies, and I’ve a feeling that by the end of Q2, we’re going to start to see enterprises. We’re seeing RFPs come out for large consulting contracts and they’re going to be well underway.

I know we’ve also seen a lot of non-profit. Chris, you’re working with one right now. We worked with a number of nonprofits with executive directors over the past six to nine months. And I certainly see that. Continuing both executive directors, as well as corporate development for fundraising.

Seth is actually our fractional chief marketing officer, we use our model. We use it vigilantly. What have you been seeing?

Seth Avergon:

It’s interesting. It’s kind of ties into what Tiffany was saying earlier. Overall, I’m seeing one that planning is being taken a lot more seriously than it has historically. Strategic planning both at the end of last year and in the beginning of this year, because the end of last year was still pretty much a wild card. So, I’m seeing people continuing to develop out those plans on, and that’s kind of mapping in, “okay, now we need sales people.”

Now we need marketing people because it does feel like in December, everyone was a little uncertain. They kind of had some plans written, but January kind of turned that spigot off. So, I’m seeing that with a lot of clients, a lot of companies I’m talking to, if they didn’t have a strategic plan before and they kind of would go, “Oh God, we’ve got a new strategic plan.”

They’re really doing them now. And they’re really serious about them because this is a very, very different place we’re in than we’ve ever been before with an economy starting to turn back on again, so to speak. And what does that mean for them and where their customers now versus where they work 12 months ago?

Kristen McAlister:

I’m glad you mentioned that strategic planning piece. That’s one of the things that we’d love in our first breakout to have each of you share with the CEOs of the companies that you’re working with. What are some of the strategies that we’re looking at in 2021? Because it’s very different than what 2020 was. And I think it’s very different than what they would have thought they would ever do.

Looking back at the last one to two years, there’s a number of pivots, a number of things happening. We’re seeing it from sales, leadership, operation leadership requests, controller requests. The question for you is what are the strategies that you’re seeing CEOs pivot to in 2021 that is fueling the requests that we’re seeing?

And certainly we’ll share as well, some of the conversations we’re having with CEOs, and then the second breakout, we’ll talk about, you know, what does that mean for you personally in your business, your personal business, or in any of the companies that you’re working with and how can you leverage that information and put together?

What’s the number one thing that you’ll do over the next month in order to either leverage that for yourself in your personal business or the professional side.

So let’s go into our first breakout. First introduce yourselves, get to know each other, understand the backgrounds, and then talk about the discussions you’re having, the companies that you’re working with.

What are the strategies that you’re seeing in 2021? And what are top of CEO’s minds?

That is, feeling the top talent requests and the executive level requests that we’re seeing and is really driving CEOs to reshuffle their leadership teams and either shuffle people out or bring new leadership in what types of strategies are driving that? What are you hearing from CEOs or from boards.

Kristen McAlister:

I would love volunteers. So we’ll kind of go around each of the scribes to the leaders of the breakout room and go over what your group came up with, what are some of the strategies or what are you seeing out there?

John Egan:

So let me volunteer. Tiffany and myself were the entire membership of our group. So we spoke about three things.

Tiffany was saying, what she’s seeing coming forward from the folks that she’s dealing with is companies are investing in trying to develop a stronger digital footprint because maybe they’d been caught unaware by the massive shift that’s going into e-commerce. So that makes an awful lot of sense.

The second thing then that she sees as a trend is maybe on the manufacturing side of things, investment in customer success and customer experience. So, then we had a conversation around depending on the nature of the company, if it’s a more of a manufacturing product-oriented company, what customer success means there is really customer service addressing trying to mitigate risks or issues associated with product quality or returns.

Whereas, if you’re in more of the software customer assess success now really means redefining the customer experience and owning that for as long of the life cycle as you can, with the customer journey. Because technology does different things or if the technology is implemented incorrectly, you’re not going to be successful. You won’t achieve the outcomes you’re pursuing.

On my side, then, I’m really seeing the companies that I keep in touch with are falling into two buckets. One is companies that are really struggling to redefine themselves. Who have been, excuse the metaphor, but really caught with their pants down, maybe having been stable for too long and even too successful doing what they’re doing, but don’t have the mindset, the agile mindset to enable them to pivot and innovate. And then on the other end of the spectrum I know a couple of companies in particular that are venture backed, who are extremely aggressive, and they see this as a chance to just grab as much market share as possible, not by knocking out a few competitors, but to redefine their categories or define subcategories and use this transformation, this massive change to come up with a new identity. But, in that process they grabbed more of the markets than they operate in as they possibly can.

Kristen McAlister:

 John has a way of taking things that are very complicated and complex and narrowing it down to where it’s simple and easy.

Any other groups? Would love to kind of get a volunteer from each of the groups, who’s next?

Matt Sauer:

I’ll go. So our group was Alyson, Seth and Bill and two of the members deal with Asian companies on a very regular basis. And talking about strategy, how they deal with strategy and talking about that the difficulty today in dealing with Asian companies, especially with their mindset, that they really are just ignoring that there are issues. And so now they’ve had to adjust long-term planning because they can’t even get to that point. And so now they’re doing planning that’s 30, 60, and 90 days that ends up being the strategy, instead of being a year out, that it really is much closer in order to make things happen.

A couple of other interesting points was that they both have to deal with shipping of product from Asia to the US and that now there are issues where a container is supposed to be here a week from now and mid shipment, they get different orders, something happens. And now instead of getting it in a week, they might get it in three weeks.

So that’s causing planning of the salespeople when they think the product’s going to be here and then they can sell it. And it’s not here on time. So, a competitor is coming in because they have the product and is beating them to the sale because they’ve already got the product. Alyson talked a bit about nonprofit and the issues that she’s facing are that nonprofits can’t do long-term planning right now because, looking to the future, they don’t have the revenue that’s coming in. They don’t have the means to do longer-term planning until we get through all of COVID. She said that COVID had actually really devastated the nonprofit industry.

And especially as you might imagine in the health and wellness side of a nonprofit. So any of my team, anything else to add that I didn’t cover?

Seth Avergon:

Is that something we brought up earlier there, in terms of things that top strategies we’re seeing 2021, a lot of recourse forecasting, a lot of strategic planning? A lot of the annual plans are out the door. As you mentioned, Matt, 30, 60, 90-day plans are really what we’re working with, but not just the future planning, also having to re-forecast because your sales cycle is different now than it was 12 months ago.

Kristen McAlister:

Thank you. I’m starting to hear a whole lot of strategic planning is turned into short-term planning. Interesting.

I think we had four groups. Any other volunteers? Michael.

Michael Fuqua:

Kay and Helen and I were talking about a variety of things, but it kind of centered around the technology of sales and marketing and using technology to leverage a sales and marketing effort.

Very early enter the interesting points and Helen talked about the process of using technology to replace the salespeople that are on the street. Our company is kind of leaning more the opposite way. It’s leaning more toward more people on the street. And Kay mentioned it, had raised a very interesting point in terms of the technology changing the roles of sales and marketing.

So where does marketing stop and sales began? Some interesting lines are being drawn or moving in the industry. So, the topics may leverage on technology and as it relates to market penetration sales and leveraging Salesforce and also sort of redefine the role of sales and marketing in organizations.

Kristen McAlister:

Thank you. Got it. Well said, that explains a lot of what we’re seeing. And it’s interesting, what you’re discussing there for the first time I heard it in a CEO group recently. I was asked if we have any interim CMTOs. I searched 15,000 resumes in our database and there wasn’t one CMTO or chief marketing and technology officer. And what I’m hearing is there’s a trend to combine because marketing is becoming so technology driven that they’re starting to bring, not the entire technology, but they’re starting to bring in their own technology resources dedicated to marketing.

Seth Avergon:  

I mean, we’re at a point now where marketing has its own tech stack. Kristen, you’ve seen this working with me. We’ve got our own things that we need, that we bring in and we understand how they operate.

And we’re the most familiar with them because it’s what we have to do to continue engagement. Unfortunately, radio jingles are kind of out at this point. So, we need a different type of technology to engage and continue to foster those relationships.

Well, we don’t have the opportunity to do events. We’re not doing trade shows. We’re not in one-on-one conversations. I’ve got to be able to support a sales team in a different kind of way than I was historically doing. And it’s actually, like I said, it’s interesting if you get the rights sales and marketing people. And by the way, the Cerius team is great at this in terms of, let’s put our heads together and figure out, how are we doing this now? Because what we did before doesn’t work now. So how do we want to do this? How do we work best together? Wow. CMTO I like that.

Helen Wanamaker:

Yep. That’s different. It’s been evolving for, I’d say, a number of years, but most organizations have had heads of marketing. So, a chief marketing officer.

And then we saw our chief digital officers coming on board. So, you’ve got chief marketing, chief digital. And then you have someone who is the chief technology officer, and I’ve been involved in many organizations where there’s been an ongoing dialogue between in terms of where certain things should live that currently live within the technology suite.

Like a Salesforce, and any kind of sales enablement technology really should be owned by technology, a website designs and redesigns, and the whole backend infrastructure. Should that be owned by technology or does that really belong with marketing? And most organizations, or at least the ones I’ve been associated with have brought in a quote unquote, chief technology or chief digital officer to kind of manage that.

But those people tend to also have marketing in their background. And I think it’s just the ongoing evolution, but I definitely think from a marketer’s perspective, being a marketer, I think the future of marketing is the better able you are to get your head wrapped around technology and also work effectively.

As I said, in our group, can you play in the sandbox well with the sales organization? So, you’re seen as someone who’s going to enable and support their efforts versus being a threat to their efforts. I think those are going to be the successful marketers of tomorrow. But it’s a delicate balancing act.

I know a lot of marketers who have no real interest in becoming technology gurus. And then there’s folks like me and Kay, who gravitate to that space and the data and the analytics and everything behind it.

Kristen McAlister:

I’d love to hear Chris to do the report out.

And then Alyson, I know you’ve got one more thing to add.

Chris Shepard:

Yeah. In my group was me and Kristen, Edmond, and James. And I think maybe to this entire point, one of the things we keep hearing from CEOs, this idea of accountability, not just have we always done the business this way, but are you accountable for driving the result?

And that really has started at the top last year when a lot of CEOs had to answer a lot of hard questions in the middle of the pandemic. Is this still our business? Is there still a market for this? Do we still do business like we’ve been doing it?

And maybe some of the activity we’re seeing now with the sales level, the operations level people is that accountability being flushed down through the organization to say, do we have this at every level?

Because accountability is important for the successful organization. And I think that maybe translates to what we’re seeing here at Cerius, which is a lot of what would normally be a full-time engagement are starting on an interim basis. And once the client is comfortable with the IE and it’s a good working relationship, we’re seeing them convert to full-time much quicker than we normally do.

So it’s almost this try before you buy, trying to answer is this person going to be someone I can hold accountable on a trial basis? And then if they are, they’re putting them on full-time.

Alyson Culin:

I just had one more thought that came to me in the conversation that I didn’t bring up in breakout, but I think there’s definitely an opportunity or a gap right now where there’s more of an intersection between for-profits and nonprofits than there has been in the past. And I’m also trying to switch gears because I’m currently working with a fully remote international organization and then like a hyper-local service organization, so very different. And nonprofit tends to get lumped into all one, but they operate very differently.

But what I’ve seen with the international one with, I think the rise in social entrepreneurship and things like that, there’s a lot more business interest in non-profit work and philanthropy. Some people are using that to just donate more. But who I’m working with now, it’s a lot of people with a business background who are establishing a nonprofit and there’re strengths and a lot of challenges in that.

I think there’s a lot of space for nonprofit people to learn new ideas and kind of a startup mentality and taking risk mentality. But I think what the businesspeople experience has not brought in is all the non-profit regulations that are – there’s a lot more regulations around how you spend money, how you use money and how you bring money in.

And that doesn’t translate very well. And it’s sometimes precludes some of these more traditional strategies, the nonprofit I’m with has a very startup mentality. And some of that is great, does a lot of innovation, some of that is completely at odds with legal nonprofit regulations.

So, I think there’s a big gap and a big opportunity for how those are going to start crossing over more and how executives can be well-versed in the languages of both, as well as regulations and compliance for both because there’s a lot more crossover with people and the structures aren’t crossing over.

Kristen McAlister:

That’s an interesting future topic. They had to run a nonprofit with a business mindset while still being compliant with a nonprofit. I know you’ve struggled. You’re just finishing up an assignment with a Cerius nonprofit. You’ve struggled with that with the boards.

Seth, I’d love for you to kind of weigh in here and kick off our last breakout. So, Seth is our chief marketing officer. It’s been interesting. This is what he and his team do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is they’re having conversations like this. I think he’s now going to join us monthly. And this is his new focus group to kind of figure out what our team really needs of us. And then how do we position interim executives like yourselves to solve those needs and be there with your expertise in a way that they understand it.

So, Seth, would love to hear some comments and tee up the next topic.

Seth Avergon:

I love the discussion we’re having, because I’m seeing companies all over the board, I think all of you are, to those that are very agile to John’s point and really get it and they were quick and nimble, and it wasn’t a money thing. It wasn’t their size of the company so much. Well, there is a bit of a correlation there, but they had the talent that said, “okay, this is today. We just shift.” And then other companies that were just truly struggling and there was organizational inertia that just could not get out of the way of them doing what needed to be done.

So, I liked some of the things that we’ve identified here in terms of these ideas of, of whether we’re talking about the agility, the accountability, the record re-forecasting, or strategic planning.

The question is going to be, for this next breakout, how do we get in front of potential clients and tell them what could potentially be information that they’re not aware of?

We have to have what I call a “difficult discussion.” They don’t know what they don’t know, and we’re in a position as the experts to have to tell them what they don’t know. One of the techniques that I like to use, it’s a very kind of grade school way of doing it, but I like to give potential clients a report card where I actually give them and I use red, green, yellow, and say, “these are my observations. These are the things you’re doing well.” And for the record, if they don’t have things they’re doing well, find something they’re doing well. “These are the things you’re doing well. These are the things that are cautionary for you right now that are yellow. And these are your reds that are really going to create a problem for your organization over the next quarter, over the next half year,” or whatever time period you’re looking at for them.

But I would like to get into that in our next breakout group. Is that kind of where you want to see this going? More of a personal marketing?

Kristen McAlister:

Yeah. What are you personally marketing based on what you’re hearing today? What are your personal marketing tactics? How are you presenting your expertise to solve business challenges like you heard today and come up with the number one.

If you were to spend 1% of your time over the next month on one tactic to better explain, explore, market, your expertise to CEOs. What would that one thing be? And how could you act on it?

To simplify it: what are you doing to market yourself? What’s the number one thing you would focus on over the next month and some action items out of that.

Kristen McAlister:

Why don’t we go through and I’d love to hear some of the action items that you came up with? I know we had quite some inventive ones in our group along with James knows that when he shows up to this next month, he’s got a challenge that he’s going to be accountable to us for, to report in next month that he accomplished that to help market himself.

Any volunteers?

Bill Franch:

I was with Seth and Michael. We did not give ourselves a homework assignment, so I’m going to wing it at the end.

But what we did is just talk about different ways we do things. Both men have the great experience sets, but the plan I’ll bring to everyone is a mediocre, okay plan on my own, but a mediocre plan other than an expert plan created by the top MBA school, but it’s got to be expertly. But it rings true in so many things that we’ve done. And I think so many things, a lot of us have seen in our lives. My work is supply chain and operations and the execution portion.

So establishing the key metrics and the timeline is the sweet spot of his expertise, but I’ve got a lot of expertise and experience also, I think for all of us and me speaking for myself is it’s just hard for me to get in front of a CEO or get some of his time. And I mentioned that I tried cold calling and a number of things years ago, and it did not work.

However, Seth did introduce us to the book, The Accidental Salesperson. It sounded excellent. You gave some good quotes out of level one, two, three you know, salesperson plan and a big difference three to level one and level two, but that was dealt with some really good comments and interesting points you raised to us in that set.

So Mike and I agreed, we’re both going to go off and get that book, but Michael’s other advice is start with a question when you’re contacting a CEO. What’s your biggest problem? Where are they leaking money? And then he can take that and parlay that into his example, saying, “here’s what I’ve done in that. I had a problem like that seven years ago. Here’s what I did to mitigate those problems and take some corrective actions, et cetera, et cetera.”

So some really good points from Mike and Seth, that breakout and mine are the same. It needs to be something that’s gotta be implemented.

And then Mike also made the point that we can adjust and do some different things in here, but we need at least a place where we can start for my action for the next 30 days, take two actions. Next 30 days, I’ll contact two companies, not giving them the answers, we’re asking them, ask the pro what their problem is from our breakout.

And then, see if I can help them with some of this. Without giving them the answer.

Kristen McAlister:

You got the idea from this group. If the problem is finances, HR sales or anything that you can’t do, the next call is to Chris or Tiffany right? Yes. Thank you.

Matt Sauer:

Maybe we need to send him a copy of the referral program again so that he can refresh his memory on that. If he does refer it’s worth his while.

Kristen McAlister:

If you don’t mind sending the name of that book to Christine, Christine sends out the recap tomorrow with the list of names. She’ll include that book so that we all get the benefit of this.

Yeah, I think we’ve got time for one or two more. Any other volunteers?

Matt Sauer:

I’ll go if you want. I had the pleasure of Edmond and Tiffany. One of the things we talked about was the approach to a CEO is asking questions, going into a conversation with them and asking questions.

And obviously the easy way is to start off by saying, how are they doing? We’re trying to help them, so ask what’s going on in their world. And one of the things I think Tiffany said, which really was kind of interesting, was, wouldn’t you like to have more time with your family or wouldn’t you like to have more time to do something other than work?

I thought that was a fantastic question. You go to ask and then you go into, well, “Let me see what we can do to help you so that you have more time.”

And Edmond talked about two different things. You talked about the coaching side, and then he also talked about the hard side, saying, “you have some problems, some issues and let me tell you how I can help you.”

But the best approach is to start off by just asking questions. And I thought that was a great, great suggestion. Work your way into gathering all the information from the CEO. What’s on his mind by just asking questions and letting him or her tell you what’s really going on and then put together a plan to help them solve those issues.

So, but I love the line that Tiffany gave, “wouldn’t you like to spend more time with your family or would you like to spend more time doing something else other than working in your company?” So I thought those were great ideas.

Alyson Culin:

In the fundraising world, we have an adage that if you’ve asked for money, you get advice.

But if you ask for advice, you’ll get money. I feel like it’s been true for me.

Kristen McAlister:

Alyson, why don’t you give a debrief of what we discussed?

Alyson Culin:

Yeah, I had Helen and James and Kristen in our little group. It was great. I think Helen talked a little bit about – she’s in marketing – and she talked about presenting the unique value of what she brings to the table that’s different from other marketers. And then we talked a little about kind of traditional networking and primary tactics and I share that I’m lucky enough to have a patron at the moment. I did a small gig for him a few years ago, and then he gave me a bigger one. And now he’s given me a few.

So I think it’s kind of that traditional cultivation, working your network and then also just being patient and knowing that they’ll come back to you when they need you. Which is something that Kristen pointed out is expanding our definition of patron and realizing that there are a lot of people who can bring work to us and once you do some work for them, if you do a good job, then they’ll come back and ask you again and again. So Kristen, you want to add to that?

Kristen McAlister:

I think you did beautiful job. And the challenge that we gave James was in the next month to reach out to five, either business coaches or business process consultants who specialize in manufacturing and networking with them and asking the question, “Do any of your clients have a project that would greatly benefit them, but they don’t have the bandwidth or expertise? I’ll do it for X amount.”

And I think Alyson gave that great example. She started out with a little project and consultants and business coaches touched 10 to 15 clients a year, and as they go client to client, they’ve got their group of resources and they can end up being that as I’ll say, kind of that patron or that main referral source. That was a great example of how she gained their trust and proved herself to the individual who has the trust of the clients. And trust is a big thing that we’ve seen over the past six to nine months.

As Chris said, a lot of companies are doing that contract to hire, very risk averse right now because the thought of making a wrong decision is not in the cards. So anything in presenting yourself from, “let me just do an assessment. It’ll cost this much” to “let’s do a project together first. And kind of check each other out. See if it’s cultural fit, see if it’s a good experience,” but is very appealing to clients right now.

I want to thank everyone for joining us. Hopefully this is a benefit. But the goal really is one, what’s in it for us is that our team gets to know executives in our network even more. And we get marketing tips out of it. Like the podcast I think that we’ll be doing with Kay and Helen. I think that’ll be a great one to do it as a panel. I’m excited. I think if you had an opportunity to find out what’s going on outside of your world and hopefully bring some information and have an advisory board here that you wouldn’t have otherwise to help you in building your business or finding your next opportunity.

I want to thank everyone. If you have any suggestions for future topics, please email them to Christine. Maybe a future one is networking in the world of Zoom. I know that came up in our as to, a lot of businesses used to be in person and getting to know people and that’s disconnected. Zoom is now the way of the world and including with networking. And I think we can all benefit from doing that better.

I want to wish everyone a happy February. I can’t believe it’s almost March and be safe. Thank you so much for joining us. Great job.

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