Q&A: How an Agile Approach Drives Value For Clients
Here at Fjuri, we like to say that our difference is in our culture, and our value is in our people. We think the best way to illustrate this key differentiator is to introduce you to our people—we call them “Fjurians”—in a new series of consultant profiles. Our goal is to illustrate why our people truly deliver the value that enables our clients to achieve their marketing goals to deliver a material impact to your organization’s bottom line.
We’d like to introduce our first Fjuri profile, Caitlin Olmsted. As Director of Delivery Operations, Caitlin has global insight into every client engagement at Fjuri. In this Q&A session, Caitlin discusses her approach to our clients, the COVID quarantine’s impact on discovering new work paradigms, and why Fjuri’s approach to hiring delivers greater value to our clients.
Tell us about your role here at Fjuri:
Caitlin: I am Director of Delivery Operations here at Fjuri, and my role is essentially to oversee all of our client consulting engagements. We work with some of the top B2B demand generation teams, which means this is we're helping our clients resolve incredibly complex marketing challenges that their internal marketing teams were unable to resolve.
When working on these kinds of challenges, we attack the issue from two sides, which means I’m actively listening to understand what the client’s pain points are. At the same time, I’m leveraging Fjuri insights and experience to identify anything that isn't apparent to our clients. Then I lead the team as we develop and deliver a comprehensive solution.
I also focus on keeping our teams informed, proactively tracking and analyzing trends. I make sure we're value spotting what's next and staying ahead of the next definition of “best in class” so that we’re always providing the most up-to-date, reliable guidance.
The pandemic significantly affected change in demand. What does it take to be successful in a changing landscape?
Caitlin: One strategy has always served me well: staying hyper-focused on our customers, really trying to empathize with the customer to understand why they were engaging with our brand. I always recommend this approach to our clients. It’s true in ordinary times, and even more so in the current unstable marketplace. The source of being a great service provider is having that perspective and seeking to gain it if you don’t already have it.
We are very mindful of the current environment and its impact on our clients’ mindsets, and that plays into how we engage and advise. As we moved through 2020, we identified shifts in how our clients were engaging with us and their shifting needs. We had to pivot to meet these rapidly evolving interactions, and when you have that customer empathy, you can understand why something is happening. It functionally makes it easier to address those challenges.
What has been the most important lesson for you and how did you overcome it?
Caitlin: Over the past year, it became very clear that this was an important time to double down on understanding the human component of our business. To that end, I would say one of the most critical skills that we all employed during this time was listening and empathy. We had to over-index on those qualities to ensure we made the right decisions and that we understood what both our clients and our teams really needed during this time.
This understanding revealed areas where I wasn't looking before. That's what I love about Fjuri—we have an approach of radical transparency that we genuinely embrace throughout the organization. I believe this allows us to have direct conversations and develop strong client relationships. And internally, this creates a culture where people feel heard and cared for.
How can leaders support their teams in a remote environment to create a safe and productive culture?
Caitlin: I lean into asking a lot of questions and listening more than I talk. For example, understanding what made remote work difficult allowed us to deliver solutions that could help our teams feel supported and be as productive or even more so in the remote environment. That included making sure people had properly equipped home offices, so that they could feel productive and keep their work life separate from their personal life.
We also pressure tested the right number of touch points with our employees. We saw a lot of anecdotal guidance recommending lots of Zoom events, virtual happy hours, to try to replicate what we had in the office. But team feedback showed that they wanted support in ways outside of face-to-face or video conversations. We resisted loading our calendar with social events and non-business Zoom calls. We also instituted a program that helped our consultants connect with peers for support. So far, feedback from our teams has been very positive.
What has 2020 taught you in relation to business strategy?
Caitlin: When I moved into the director role here, my focus was on creating repeatability and scale in the organization. I’m a very structured thinker, which helped me identify how we at Fjuri can be more structured in our services’ delivery frameworks. We use these fortified frameworks to customize our solutions to individual clients.
This approach increases predictability for our teams and empowers them to scaffold their skills and grow the organization into the larger service base that we have today. Strengthening and expanding our frameworks was exactly the right move, because now we're seeing many clients who are seeing the need for these digital programs. That's enabled us to quickly create value for our clients.
What tips can you give about managing groups a diverse set of backgrounds, skills, motivations and expectations?
Caitlin: We see a lot of diversity in the B2B marketing challenges our clients are facing: different technology systems, maturity of business strategies, and other issues. The best way to develop the innovative solutions these challenges require is with robust diversity on our side. Diversity in backgrounds, skills, experience, accompanied by thought leadership that’s agile and flexible. I love that we’re not super precious about our strategies and solutions—we're happy to change our approach if we see reason to do that.
I mentioned how we built up services delivery structures to be more expansive—we’ve made sure those structures are also flexible across clients and projects of all sizes. We give our people the autonomy and support to tweaks the structures as needed to make it work for their scenario. And when we see consistent patterns of change, we institutionalize that. We can grow our frameworks to grow our delivery operations and add even more diverse skill sets.
What are the benefits of developing junior talent for the long term and how does Fjuri balance that with capacity of more senior consultants?
Caitlin: There's always a benefit to hiring for experience—more experienced consultants can ramp up faster and start creating impact in value. On the flip side, we’re seeing that consultants who are less experienced but who grow and mature along with us naturally develop that client empathy we seek to establish. Our junior talent also work with multiple clients, and that's a huge benefit as they encounter a new challenge in the consulting environment. This experience gives them intimate client insights and develops stronger relationships.
Do you think remote work is here to stay?
Caitlin: I don't think anybody can answer this question, but I believe the flexible work model we have at Fjuri—even before 2020—is very productive and beneficial. We had many people come into the office every day, and we had people who worked almost 100% remote. We give employees the autonomy to decide what works best for them. What’s interesting is nobody chose 100% remote work. I think that's telling that physical presence is valuable to everyone.
The best thing that we can do, as employers and managers, is to understand what works best for people and supporting them to achieve their individual success. A hybrid strategy that allows people to have that that physical space and connection and also offers the freedom to work from home will help them be more engaged and productive.