When you face a business challenge, where do you turn?
By: Brad Farris
Owning a business is difficult because there are so many things you need to learn. Sure you know some accounting, and marketing, you’ve learned about customer service, banking, insurance, employment law, sales… but thencomes a curve ball. Some new issue that you’ve never faced hits your doorstep. Who do you call?
Every business owner needs a set of informal advisors, a kitchen cabinet, a community to call on when you’re in unfamiliar territory. Who is in yours?
We asked several business owners where they turn when they face a business challenge:
“When I face a new challenge, I turn to the people I have surrounded myself with that have been there before. Rather than trying to solve every problem as if it were the first, many times I can find easy answers from people that have built businesses in the past. Whether it is with a formal mentor or with a network of industry colleagues, there is great knowledge and information to be gained from these connections. “
– Phil Murphy, Next Door Storage
“I have found that professional social networking sites often have discussions that can provide valuable insight into many of the problems small businesses face. A couple of times, the online discussions have led to telephone conversations where I have been able to brainstorm with other professionals in a way that surpasses internet dialog. These conversations have often led to business referrals and contacts that have proven valuable in the growth of my business.”
– David Kelly, Apartment Guys
“With two business partners that I have the highest possible level of trust and respect for, support and advise is always close at hand. Their trusted counsel – on any range of challenges – provides a fresh perspective and clarity.”
– Jonathan Finer, Cloverleaf Innovation
“When our company faces a business challenge we do whatever we can to resolve the issue in-house. If we encounter an obstacle that we cannot resolve with our management, we have a first class team of professionals readily accessible. Depending on what type of issue on which we need advice, we always feel confident in one of the following: our banker, accountant, insurance agent, attorney, and marketing company. It pays to do business with those in whom you can put your trust.”
– Ann Collins, RW Collins
“When I face a business challenge, I turn to both market research and my strategic problem-solving skills. Most business challenges can be traced back to the 3 C’s – customer, company, or competitors. The 3 C’s are factors that need to be addressed (and work well together) to succeed in today’s business environment. I first identify which ‘C’ the business challenge is most closely related to, and then I design a strategic plan of attack to ensure that particular ‘C’ is positioned to succeed in the marketplace today.”
– Dana Sloane, Insights in Marketing
President Obama famously said that “if you were successful, someone along the line gave you some help.” and I have to say that’s true for me. I got a lot of help along the way, from other business owners, and from business communities. You can’t go it alone and be successful.
Where are you getting your help from?
Brad is the founder of EnMast, a community of business owners committed to being better leaders and growing better businesses. He is also principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, with experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million. When not working Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.