Designing Customer Space: 3 Way To Reflect Customer-Centricity In Your Business


Designing Customer Space: 3 Way To Reflect Customer-Centricity In Your Business


Work space has been undergoing a transformation as technology, mobility and the nature of work is changing. And these changes are transforming client-facing spaces as well, reflecting customer-centricity.

Visibly Innovating

“Companies are increasingly looking to create innovation centers to showcase their solutions to customers,” observed Kay Sargent, Senior Principal and Head of Workplace at HOK. “Sometimes these spaces are so beautiful that people do not want to touch them, but there is an evolution underway to make these spaces beautiful, accessible and interactive. Companies are creating innovation centers to highlight their ingenuity to attract employees and customers and instill trust and faith from potential investors.” You will see these trends even in retail spaces with the growth of interactive exhibits and engaging brand activations.

Breaking Bread

One technology business completely rethought their client-facing space in a recent move and remodel. “Instead of a traditional lobby design, our team created a hub for the company, including a full kitchen and living room type area where employees, guests, clients, and prospective clients can enter, grab a drink and relax in a community-centric area,” said Jenny O’Donnell, Director at Wildmor Advisors. “If we look at office design 20 years ago, group spaces were shoved to the perimeter. They weren’t supposed to be disruptive to the quiet, focused activity that was the real work,” Roger Heerema with Wright Heerema Architects recalls. “What we have realized in the creative process, that serendipitous interactions are powerful for the work effort. This has changed building design.” This is true not just for employees, but for clients as well. Now instead of a “waiting room" style lobby for the interim seating of guests before they are whisked away to a work area,” the design is more interactive. “Open and common areas are now powerful and contributory spaces to the overall work effort.” This is in recognition that customer meetings do not just happen in conference rooms.

Fostering Interaction

Heerema observed that “wellness has three components: social, food and fitness.” Building strong client relationships can take clues from these characteristics of wellness. Creating compelling social interactions, celebrating innovation and food, is a start, and it can be extended. For instance, “a lot of companies request a grand staircase that can double as an amphitheater,” said Scott Delano, Design Director at Wright Heerema. “There is design magic in stairs. It isn’t just a hole in the ceiling where people change floors or a closed portal like an elevator. There is physical and visual openness to a stairway. And that openness creates collision." Clients who are talking, eating and walking alongside your brand form the core of a customer-centric enterprise.

This article was originally posted on






“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Suzuki Roshi


On Purpose


On Purpose


“Everything – Love = Nothing”
- Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as summarized by John Ortberg


7 Ways To Align Sales And Marketing Amidst A Rebrand


7 Ways To Align Sales And Marketing Amidst A Rebrand

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The landscape for merger and acquisitions, and spin-off and divestiture is heating up in virtually every sector and that brings the brand to the forefront of many executives’ minds. Aligning sales and marketing and keep the customer at the center of the enterprise can be a challenge in static environments, but it is even more challenging in the midst of a rebrand when the very moniker to which you refer to the company and who employees work for is changing. Here is some practical advice on how to make sure your rebrand is leveraged for maximum growth and cooperative productivity.

  1. Rebrands are Catalyst for Change

    Margaret Molloy is the chief marketing officer of Siegel + Gale, the global firm headquartered in New York City whose clients include rebranded CVSHealth, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Motorola Solutions, Novartis, DaVita Inc, Radial, and Hightail. They are the strategists and designers behind iconic brands like SAP, 3M, Cummins, United Airlines, AARP, the IRS, Penske, KeyBank, Pfizer, Allstate, Rotary International, the Grammys, the YMCA, and many more. When talking about rebranding she was quick to note that “a rebrand can be a catalyst to reform a business, presenting an opportunity to sharpen a company’s story and signal and direction to the market.” Rebrands don’t happen every day. “It is a watershed moment,” she said. “Rebranding is a great chance to reframe company positioning, product architecture, and product portfolio. It gives companies a chance to revisit and rethink products and go-to markets, allowing companies to articulate a new frame.”

    It also allows companies to reset the dynamic between sales and marketing. “A rebrand is often spurred by mergers, spinoffs, a change in leadership, or updated company ambitions, giving sales and marketing the chance to get a fresh start,” Molloy added. “It’s a new chapter that provides a clean slate to produce a new level of engagement and alignment.”

    Advice You Can Use: Think of a rebrand as a chance think big. What she called a “precious opportunity” that “should not be wasted.” Take advantage of that not only in your corporate strategies, but in your cross-functional partnerships across the organization.

  2. Rebrands are a Team Sport

    “One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is shortchanging the employee engagement portion of their rebrand roll-out,” Molloy noted. It is easy to become absorbed by the strategy, research and design, and overlook employee activation. “To change a brand requires a commitment from the top to include the organization.” And that extends down and through the organization. Rachelle Kuramoto from Watchword Brand, a boutique agency in Atlanta, said it well when she noted that "every person, whether they be a customer or employee, has both rational and emotional drivers of their work and branding is personal. If they resist the new brand and aren't behind the message, they are not going to do their best work." In order to align early and often, Kuramoto suggests that “everyone should have objectives tied to the successful roll-out and what it looks like for their function. If you have asked for input during the discovery and research phase, employees are more likely to see their feedback in the plans and alignment is easier."

    Advice You Can Use: Before the budget is exhausted on other things, be sure to have a robust plan for employee engagement and communication. Tie metrics across the company to the successful brand roll-out.

  3. Customers Experience Brands through People

    “Employees are at the forefront of a brand,” Molloy continued, “and this is brought into high relief during ‘moments of truth’ for the customer. For example, when a customer walks into a store or calls up a service line, it’s during this interaction when the customer experiences the brand.” Even digital native companies without showrooms or sales, still have customers interacting with the work product of their employees. “This is why dedicating enough time and resources to employee engagement is such a necessity. Keep it open, keep it clear, and keep it simple in order to eliminate any potential barriers of communication,” she said. “Dedicating enough time and resources to employee engagement is a must.”

    Advice You Can Use: Think about the “moments of truth” and customer interactions that are critical for you to establish your new brands and work backward from those into your processes to ensure a great experience every time.

  4. Be Practical and Actionable With Employees (learn from sales)

    “Sales is an important subpopulation of employees. It is vital to understand the psychology of salespeople, their incentives, and the dynamics of the sales organization, as they are a constituency that tends to be practical,” she offered. “At the risk of generalizing, sales professionals are motivated by personal performance and have a good filter for anything that will help them sell more, faster.” Not all functions within the company work on the same horizons. Executives and brand leaders might be looking at long-term views and investments, while others with quotas to fulfill tend to be focused on this month, quarter, or year. “As a result, salespeople can be viewed as skeptical and transactional. This inherent tension is inevitable, but not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when an understanding is found between brand and sales it can lead to a harmonious working relationship that facilitates alignment.”

    Advice You Can Use: Leverage the practical and actionable tendencies of your sales team to help you filter and prioritize what is most critical in the time of transition. And provide turn-key solutions, sales enablement tools, and easy-to-deploy communications to make it easy for everyone to stay on message.

  5. Use Transparency to Socialize Change

    “Some brands make the mistake of waiting until everything is pristine and perfect to announce their intentions to a wider audience,” Molloy observed. Similar to the big reveal at the end of the episode of a home improvement television show, those designing new brands can often keep the stakeholders out of the house until the work is complete. Instead, she advised that “communication should be early and consistent. Otherwise, employees are left in a vacuum where imagination and presumption reign, filling the space with negative assumptions that can impact morale.” This can take the form of listening sessions, updates on the brand work or stakeholder interviews, or opportunities for people to provide input. You can still plan a big brand reveal party, but make sure that you minimize surprises to maximize long-term impact.

    Advice You Can Use: Don’t fear transparency. Use feedback sessions and preview to get feedback and to socialize change.

  6. Leverage Sales Leadership to Keep Competitors at Bay (and to Keep Your Sellers)

    “An important consideration during a rebranding, especially in a B2B business, is competitor response,” she said. Competitors use the opportunity to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (or FUD), possibly going as far as making attempts to lure key customers or high-caliber sales talent away. “The loss of this sales talent can be a great cost to a company both financially and culturally, reinforcing the need for employee engagement programs that could mitigate the risk.” This is where sales leadership matters. Molloy encourages companies to make sure “sales leaders have a voice at the table in strategic conversations around brand and play a key role in every phase of the rebrand rollout.”

    Advice You Can Use: In every good rebranding engagement, there is a discovery process where employees and other stakeholders are interviewed. Molloy has observed that some brands “dismiss the inclusion of sales during the discovery phase of branding engagement. However, the most pragmatic insight is oftentimes articulated the best by sales due to their day-to-day relationship with customers.” Involve them.

  7. Remember that Brands, like Sales and Marketing Alignment, is About Relationships

    "Sales and marketing alignment isn't one thing,” Kuramoto observed. “It has many pieces and each piece is held by a person who has trusted relationships with others in the company and with external stakeholders. To maintain and strengthen alignment during a rebrand is to bring every relationship through the process." Even if the strategic catalyst which prompted the rebrand is positive and exciting to employees and customers, that doesn’t make the change easy. It can be threatening and confusing. And that emotion comes like waves through the planning and implementation of the brand and beyond. “Roll-outs of brands are not complete without a monitoring and optimization process,” Kuramoto suggested. “The work of branding, like sales and marketing alignment, is never done."

    Advice You Can Use: Put success measures in place, across the company, and set up a monitoring process. Remember that change is a process and takes time (and that the brand marketers in the company have had many more months to warm up the idea of change than other employees or customers they serve). Communicate and over communicate (and then communicate again).

This article was originally published on






“The beggar gives us the opportunity to learn to give.  Without the ones who irritate us, we never have a chance to practice patience and loving-kindness.” – Pema Chodron


Balance in Movement


Balance in Movement

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” – Jalaluddin Meylana Rumi



Listening At Scale: 4 Ways To Build Customer-Centricity

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Chief Marketing Officer Denise Karkos joined what is now TD Ameritrade in 2006 and has seen a lot of changes in her tenure there. The bank is a fixture in the world of investing, with over 360 branches and numerous recognitions over its 40-year history. In 2016, it bought Scottrade, “which doubled the size of our sales force and blended two cultures,” Karkos explained. This created new opportunities and challenges for aligning sales and marketing and refining her own leadership in the process.

Starting with Employee Engagement

Since the acquisition, she has "been working to create the best playbooks knowing that in some cases Scottrade had more experience, branches, and tenure to apply,” Karkos offered. “We want to make the combination the best it can be.” This required a large emphasis on listening and communication to ensure the right practices endure and that everyone is aware of the new direction.

“Never underestimate the importance of internal communications,” Karkos advised. “We have 11,000 associates. It can be overwhelming, but is very important to make sure that they all know the strategy and what we are trying to do.” This applies to what happens in the branches with product offerings for local clients, and in the larger marketplace as she builds the brand.

“One of the things that has been important is for us to preview commercials with our associates, to celebrate successes, and even sharing our digital campaigns,” she continued. “I like to share our world with our internal audiences. The advertising is fun, so we invite associates to the set of our commercials and even invite them to be in the spots.” This has led to business-impacting innovation.

“We were working on a commercial for our customers and decided to do some testing with our front-line employees,” she said. “I flew out to our call center and listened to phone calls and we did focus groups with associates.” They watched the rough-cut ad and a dialogue emerged. “One associate said that when he talks to traders the conversations are like therapy sessions. The investor is nervous.” They want to make the right choice and there are a lot of things to consider, which are often outside the domain or professional experience of the client. “They want to know if their decisions are sound,” she recalled. The associate "went on to say that his approach is to invite the client with an invitation: ‘Buddy, let’s talk it out.’” Light bulbs went off around the room and that line made it into the revised ad. “It was important to use the voice of actual conversations. Taking the time to listen to the words customers use," she offered. "In a world when people are uneasy and there is distrust, straight talk goes a long way,” Karkos concluded.

Listening Deeply to Customers

“We do a ton of qualitative and quantitative research to gain insights from consumers,” Karkos explained. “One of the themes that came up time and time again is that the old-school notion of ‘leaving a legacy’ is a superficial insight. It’s more about the emotional insight underneath that. It is about providing safety and security for their family. They want their kids to be okay.” Digging deeper into this theme created a new opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level.

“We ran a spot around Father’s Day last year where we wrote new lyrics for the Harry Chapin classic ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ to reflect contemporary fatherhood,” Karkos said. “It was a tear-jerker. We previewed the commercial at a sales meeting to 300 of our retail associates and when I looked over the crowd and saw a bunch of tears.” They knew they had something of impact. “Our associates were sending it to their customers knowing that it would appreciate it and be touched by it as well,” Karkos added. Just the kind of viral behavior you want in an advertising campaign.

Over the subsequent months, we started getting stories back from the field. Memories of their own fathers. Stories about their sons. We received videos that they had shot themselves. It prompted a different conversation. With our associates and with their customers.”

“I am held accountable to revenue and profitability and although that ad campaign wasn’t our most profitable investment, I would do it again because of the impact it had internally.” The ad went on to be recognized as a 2017 Clio Music Shortlisted entry for use of music in a short form film.

Aligning Across Functions

“In order to make our customers successful, we need to make our associates successful,” Karkos continued. To understand "a day in their life” and let that influence investment, policies, and processes.

“Right now, it is cumbersome for them to know what ads and offers are in the market.” Due to the expansion of the business and legacy technologies, associates had to reference multiple systems. “We are in the process of developing and rolling out a customer relationship management system that allows a single sign-on and a complete look at the customer journey. This should be a game changer and make their job easier.” It is important to look at the marketing (and sales) technology stack holistically to see the impact on processes across the organization. “You want to innovate with clients,” Karkos added, “but you can’t put the burden on the back of salespeople. We measure share of wallet, but there are steps in the process before share of wallet that need visibility.”

And alignment doesn’t stop there. “We not only have to align with sales as there are other parts of the organization with whom we need to partner. For instance, finance,” Karkos offered.

“Our industry has a necessary evil called ‘offers.’ These are the promotions you see that offer free trades or cash incentives for opening up accounts,” she explained. “We market into a competitive space and we have to be responsive to what is being seen in the market. We have a budget for promotions and in highly-contested markets would often find ourselves out of budget and at a disadvantage.” This was unacceptable in the growth ambitions of the group.

Karkos was able to work with the finance team to “revisit the treatment of these offers to allow us more flexibility. This is the kind of alignment you only get when you are focused on the same growth and profitability goals.”

Demonstrating Leadership

Although Karkos has been in the CMO role for five years, she has reported to the CEO for less than two. This reporting structure and expanded scope have changed the role. “This position in the organization has caused me to focus not just on the ROI of the marketing mix and emerging trends in the industry, but also to drive for better investment decision making overall,” she observed. “Sometimes that means investments in marketing when we are confident that would lead to growth. Other times it is investments in sales or technology with analogous metrics.”

Advocating beyond functional boundaries for the good of the business is an important shift in the maturation of marketing leaders. “There is growth we can get in the industry and we need to make smart investments,” Karkos explains. “I have learned to step back and think more strategically about how I show up in those conversations. Not just representing marketing, but representing the business overall.”

This article was originally published on Forbes.



You Are Bigger Than Your Job (and other truths of job search)

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There are a lot of people who are looking for their next career opportunity. Either they left their previous companies and are in transition or they have outgrown their current role and are looking for a new challenge. Possibly both. Perhaps your are one of them. Or maybe things are humming along nicely for you at work, but you don’t want to get stale or forget your own development as you grow in place or seek promotion. Thinking about this in my own experience has led to me to some insights that might be useful to you.

1.      The hiring manager has a reason they are recruiting

Chances are the hiring manager for your next role had to go to bat to get the requisition approved. They have an immediate need. They have lived without someone in the role and it is taking its toll on the remaining team and the business results. So much so, that their management has seen the gap and approved the spend. There are specific things that need to get done that are either going undone or being done poorly. The business is suffering. This is true in many cases. The hiring manager has asked the recruiter or posted a job with a very specific list of attributes for which they are searching. They don’t want to hire a generalist, just like you wouldn’t use a Swiss Army Knife to cut a sirloin, if you could use a proper steak knife. Recruiters will complain, I mean, observe that hiring managers ask for a purple unicorn steak knife with pink polka-dots, their requirements are so specific and unique. This is true. Why? Because…

2.      The hiring manager doesn’t want to look the fool

Once getting approval to hire, the manager wants to make a smart hiring choice. They know that unless you have someone in the role who is highly productive in short order, they won’t be successful. Hiring a warm body isn’t enough. They want a candidate with the elusive combination of past experience, personal motivation, and future potential that will allow them to fill their need (see #1). Anything misstep in this search and they might be stuck with a bad performer (worst case scenario), have to swap out talent (losing more time), and damage their reputation as a leader and team builder in the process. All of these things are out of the question. The stakes are high to find the steak knife (see what I did there?). So, they go on the hunt for the perfect candidate for their role and you want them to find you in their search, so let’s switch focus to you.

3.      You are bigger than the job

You are an experienced, successful professional in your field. You have done some amazing things. You have more capabilities, more raw potential, and undoubtedly more experience than your next job can fully appreciate. That is okay. It is preferred. Otherwise, you’d go into a role that would immediately bore you or to which you couldn’t apply your diverse background to make it your own. If you are not clear on what you want in your next role, you will confuse a hiring manager. They want a steak knife. You are a Swiss Army Knife. If you go on about all the things you can do (“I can uncork wine, pop bottle caps, open tin cans, and cut fingernails, and have experience cutting pork chops, cheese, and Duct Tape”), you aren’t going to jump out as the obvious choice to a would-be hiring manager. Plus, everyone describes themselves the same way. You have to stand out. 

4.      You are best in class at some things

Sure, the company probably does need a well-rounded athlete (more on that later), but they are recruiting for a runner, cyclist, or swimmer, not all three. Even the accomplished triathlete has an area of strength. So do you. If you are honest with yourself, there are parts of your past experience that have been sources of joy and energy and things you have done (perhaps even done exceptionally well) that drain you of energy and motivation. 

Only you know for sure, although others can provide some useful insight you might be too close to see yourself. You can use assessment tools (like StrengthsFinders, Insights Discovery Kolbe, DiSC, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and others) to gain insight. You can hire a career coach to ask you better questions than you are asking yourself. You can read books. You can seek counsel from networking groups or colleagues. You can take a self-discovery or professional development class. You can spend time with yourself. 

However it happens, you need to get clear about what you want and get good at describing your differentiation. What you do best. Not what you have done, but what you want to do in the future. What skills you want to use, what kind of role you want, what kind of company would suit best (by name preferably), what title would suit, and how you want to be measured and managed. This is essentially your personal marketing plan.

5.      The job is bigger than you

It is highly likely that the job requires some things you haven’t done, or done in a while, or done well. That is just the nature of the dynamic, changing nature of the workforce. Technology, competitive pressures, globalization, and other trends are causing jobs to change rapidly. Sure, you can invest in training and certifications (you should!). You keep up on your industry. You join networking groups. You do some mentoring and reverse mentoring to stay current. All those things are important, but likely you will need to make some effort, starting in an interview process and through onboarding, to translate what you have done as transferrable skills to the role. And for the rest, you and the hiring manager will need to develop a plan (more on this in a second). The manager will need to be incredibly crisp on the non-negotiables for the role; the personality traits, motivations, and skills that translate to success in the role. Notice I didn’t say “experience.” Experience may not be a measure of future performance in the role and, frankly, as a manager is a really hard to differentiate on experience since everyone who applies and makes it through initial screening seems incredibly and equally competent.

Looking at these things visually, each candidate has a certain degree of overlap with the success profile of the role they are applying for. The overlap are the familiar responsibilities, personality traits, motivations, and skills that the job requires that you can confidently accomplish. Both hiring manager and candidates are well-served by having a high degree of overlap.  

You and Your Job venn diagram.png

On one side of that Venn diagram will be all the skills and experiences that you don’t directly apply in your new role. Perhaps it is your experience in hardware electronics, when you take a role for a software company. Let’s say you don’t use your experience in Javascript, when you take a job as a Python developer. Perhaps it is your experience in organizational design, when you take a job as in talent acquisition. Maybe it is the fact that you play the saxophone in a jazz band, you are an accomplished jewelry designer, or you are fluent in several Asian languages, but have a sales territory in Latin America. In these cases, if you want to find an outlet for those talents you might have to look to volunteer somewhere to take them up as a hobby. In past roles that didn’t require much writing, I found myself contributing to other blogs or publications as a guest contributor. As a writer, I just couldn’t help myself. You will do the same. 

Or, ideally, you will find a way to shift the role definition itself (the edge of the job profile circle) to the left to encompass more of your skills. Let’s say you join the company as an individual contributor, but have management experience. Perhaps as the company and role grows, you can take over a team and be a people manager again to use those skills. Perhaps you can look for ways to expand the scope to cover things you are developing in yourself, like strategic thinking, new technical skills, or leadership.

On the other side of the Venn diagram are the job responsibilities that are not in your sweet spot. Perhaps you have spent years selling through channels, but now need to apply skills in direct selling models. Perhaps you have done digital demand generation using tools like marketing automation and PPC advertising and now need to add intention and analytics to your skill set in order to do account-based marketing. Perhaps you need to add cloud computing to your impressive list of IT credentials. Perhaps the job calls for other things that you are willing to do and have been wanting to do, but haven’t demonstrated yet. For these you and your manager have some choices:

  • Development: you could learn and practice the skills required to be good at your new (next) job.

  • Delegate: you could bring people onto your team who are experts in these areas to do the work and for you to learn from.

  • Design: you and your manager could actually design these tasks out of the job itself, giving them to another person or group, shifting your role to play to your strengths.

The alternatives to these things also start with D: disappoint and disaster. Let’s try to avoid that with some frank discussion and good planning and organization design at the start. In the past, I have found that having people on my team who could help me follow-up on detailed accountability plans was a useful corollary to my strategy and idea-generating creativity. Everyone has strengths and we should use ours and allow others the opportunity to demonstrate theirs. We have all had these things in our jobs in the past that we either had to get good at or find ways to accomplish in other ways. 

Finally, if you are finding success and satisfaction in your job and want to continue to moving forward, these are still great principles to apply.  Keeping up on trends in the job market, understanding the career pathing at your company, investing in yourself with additional reading, courses, and experiences, and talking with trusted mentors and advisors can help you continue to develop your skills and capabilities to be a high degree of overlap for your next role.

And one last note: Everyone can use a good activist shareholder on their personal board of directors (don’t know what an activist investor is? See here). You should have people in your life that are asking the tough questions, making sure you are growing, and sponsoring you for stretch roles. It may be uncomfortable to invite a disrupter or agitator into your inner circle, but it is necessary to combat complacency and avoid developing blind spots around your own development. If you don’t have an activist among your career advisors, find one. 


Special thanks to Richard Banks for introducing me to personal marketing plans, for Minh-Ha Nguyen and Teresa Caro for helping me filter my own experience more clearly, to Rebecca Larson for helping me articulate my strengths, to Kelly Kannwischer for Younique and Susan Clark for HeartSpark, to Mike Allred at TechCXO for the Enneagram-based Print Report, to Brian Scudamore and Vistage for introducing me to Kolbe,  Alyssa Gasca, Michele Sarkisian, Tanya Young Stump, Gina Riley, Balaji Krishnamurthy, Ben Clifton, and Herve Fage for being activists to me, to Sarah Carr Evans and Kevin Hickey for recently dissecting job success profiles for me, and for so many of my LinkedIn connections, friends, and colleagues for your help and encouragement in my own professional journey. So grateful for their investment in me and I hope that I have done a few things to make them proud (mistakes and opinions my own, of course).



Manager's Prayer

Photo by from Pexels

Photo by from Pexels

Manager's Prayer (with my sincerest apologies to the Serenity Prayer)

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot delegate,

Courage to delegate the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

I was listening to the Manager Tools podcast today and they called 1:1 meeting, feedback, and delegation "the holy trinity of management," so I thought it needed a liturgy.