Podcast

Episode: 474 |
Karen Thomas-Bland:
Transformation Projects:
Episode
474

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Karen Thomas-Bland

Transformation Projects

Show Notes

Karen is an independent consultant who focuses on transformation projects. She has 25 years’ experience leading complex enterprise-wide transformations and M&A integrations to $105bn turnover. Karen has proven expertise in strategy and transformation of complex global businesses, as an executive in IBM Global, she led IBM’s global transformation. Karen has strong cross-sector B2B and B2C, cross-functional and broad geographical experience, including operating in 180+ countries across five continents. In today’s episode, she talks about her work on operational transformation and integration. You can learn more about Karen’s company at SevenTransformation.com, or reach out through LinkedIn. 

Key points include:

  • 10:14: Board member vs consultant to the company
  • 17:00: An example of an operational transformation
  • 23:26: Examples of cost-saving opportunities
  • 35:58: Getting published in high profile publications

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Karen Thomas Bland

 

Will Bachman 00:02

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Karen Thomas bland, who is a former executive director of KPMG. She’s a former partner at IBM Global Business Services. She’s been on 10 or 11, boards of PE backed companies and an independent consultant who focuses on transformation projects. Karen, welcome to the show.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 00:33

Thank you. Well, great to be here.

 

Will Bachman 00:36

So Karen, why don’t you give us a little bit of a snapshot of kind of your journey you started not the typical consulting path. Right. But you started as I think an organizational psychologist.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 00:48

Yeah, that’s right. Well, so yeah, it was a it was a different path, perhaps. So I spent, yes, six years training to be a organizational psychologist, I was really interested in people and how they behave particularly in a workplace setting. So my early work was all around change management around you know, organizational design, development assessment, so very much people centric, but tapping into broader organizational issues like how do you bring two cultures together in an m&a So we are started very much in what you might term boutique consultancies, specializing in kind of the people side of change, and organizations and then kind of work my way up through those started, obviously, delivering projects and then developing those client relationships and projects and ultimately, running businesses. But it was my real broad in and out was KPMG and KPMG. Were at an interesting point as they’ve sold their consulting business previously to Atos Origin. And I went in to build out the advisory practice, particularly around strategy and transformation, but not just from a people perspective, right from a strategy, a process a technology, and people point of view. So that was really interesting times or growing that business back up really interesting client projects, but also selling big programs. And post doing that it took me to what it took me out to the UK to get IBM i was based out of New York, Dubai and Sao Paulo at IBM doing three different roles. One, actually running a big business or around what we call our top accounts, program. So they were big clients, making sure you know, they were well serviced, we were selling multiple solutions into those accounts, we obviously bought PWC. So integrating the PwC Consulting offering, I ran a big pharmaceutical account for a while. And I also did 10 integrations of software businesses, we were we were rapidly buying at the time. And so all the challenges and fun that go with an integration, and then did a classic turn around in in Latin Latin America business. So that took me to 2011. And at that point, I relocated back to the UK where I’m from, and decided I would set up my own consulting practice really doing two things. One business transformation. So you know, when clients have developed perhaps a new strategy and want that strategy to be implemented, or I also focus on m&a. So clients are typically buying something bigger or more transformative than they bought before. And they want someone to come in and figure out the new operating model and ultimately integrate those two businesses. But it typically is part again, of a of a transformation of the business. And then alongside running my practice seven transformation, I also take on non Executive Director roles. And these are typically roles in private equity backed businesses, who want someone on their board who can grow that business and ultimately help them scale and finally exit. And they’re typically businesses who are service orientated. So they might be consulting businesses, or with a typically with a software or SAS element to them. And he’s working on every aspect from you know, strategy to product to technology to people, and really helping What’s that kind of model from startup through to scale up and exit so they’re really interesting as well. So that’s been the journey so far.

 

Will Bachman 04:56

So that gives us a lot to talk about. Let’s Start with some of these non Executive Director roles. It’s not an area that we’ve explored, you know, too many times here on on this show, and I’m really interested to learn about it. To you maybe just walk us through what that’s like in terms of the time commitment, what you’re, what sort of the expectations are for, you know, How involved are you? Is it just show up for a few meetings per year? Or is it really you’re actively engaging with the company over time? Tell us a little bit about, you know, about those roles, and also how they come about, you know, how do you how does the PE firm find you? And, and, and how does, you know, how did they How did they start?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 05:43

Yeah, great, great questions. Well, I mean, the first one to address off the bat is, I think there is a misperception sometimes out there that, you know, you turn up for a monthly meeting, read the papers in advance, contribute during the meeting, and then sort of rock up at the next month. And that that’s a misconception, because these organizations have typically just got key funding. So they’re now cash rich, and they know they need to grow, and they need to scale and the private equity firm will have given them pretty challenging. targets to meet. Right. So the the pressures on so really, the board role is yes, there’s a formal governance, you know, be on the board, read the papers, do good due diligence, there’s everything that comes with a typical board role. But beyond that, what you often find is, you know, founders will not have all of the skills that they need, inevitably, these organizations haven’t grown yet to a to a scale. And so you’re needed in all aspects of the business. And that’s often Shogun strategy with them. So, for example, I will often facilitate, you know, the strategy day for the, for the board, and for the executive team, they’ll often need help thinking about their operating model, particularly as the business is about to scale. How do you need to think differently about your processes being more formalized? And more routine is how what’s the talent that you’re going to need? In terms of capability to really scale up the business? Is your technology roadmap, as you know, robust as it could be? When are you likely to need refinancing again? Or are you now self sufficient? And how does that really impact your ability to scale, and often the business I’m working with will be already in maybe one or two other markets, and they may even have acquired a business like one that I’ve been working with. So they’re also thinking about their geographic expansion plans. So how do you get the the rolls, it tends to come in a number of different ways. So I would always say to people, you know, beyond the radar of head on to deal with non executive roles. And if you’re particularly interested in P backs, or more entrepreneurial businesses, there are specific add ons as who deal with those two ways GET TO KNOW private equity houses directly, they inevitably, like everyone in life, likes to note work with people they already know, and they’re already on their radar. And an introduction obviously, always worked really, really well. So really get to know them directly. But also network with CEOs of, you know, businesses that are being funded by private equity, because again, I’ve been in through the CEO route, as well as the investor route. So I would say, all of those things, in terms of time, there’s no one set amount of time, because each month looks pretty different. Some days, you know, sometimes it can be a couple of days, might be a little bit more intensive, if something significant happening, like a fundraiser, like, you know, the strategy off site. But typically, they’ll want you to commit to a couple of days a month, I tend to be pretty good at doing things around the edges. So, you know, things keep delivering in my consulting practice and doing around the sides. But there’s times I’ll just take, you know, a specific time off to focus on the board roles. For the plus side, I think they’re really interesting. I think the good news for people in this community is having a consulting toolkit is really, really valuable. As I say, they’re looking at all aspects of the business and are more particular challenges. So they’re definitely interesting, the keep you on your toes, and of course, they’re highly receptive because they want to grow and therefore need the expertise.

 

Will Bachman 09:36

And how does it differ than say, doing a being a consultant to a company? So a lot of those individual tasks that you talked about facilitating a strategy off site, advising on you know, acquisitions, or strategy or upcoming finances, those might be done by someone who’s, you know, beaten been hired as a strategic advisor, but not on the board. You know, how is it different either in sort of structure of compensation or expectations or, or ability to get things done or impact? You know, how would you distinguish it?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 10:14

Yeah, so there’s a good analogy that often people talk about, which is, if you’re a board member, you’ve got your nose in the tent, but not your hands in the tent. And I would say, if you’re a consultant, you’ve very much got your hands in the tent, because you’re actually working on the business, the difference for the board member is you’re one step removed, you’re not necessarily rolling up your sleeves, although that can sometimes change depending on our the stage the business is, but really, it’s all down to your advice, your counsel, you know, kind of not being quite as hands on. The other thing, it’s always important to know, the minute you become a non exec director, is you have legal responsibility in the business, you’re no different to a executive director. So you have to take your director responsibilities incredibly, seriously, you’ve got to do good due diligence on the business, make sure you know, it’s financially Robles. Now, of course, you would do all of those things as a good consultant as well. But there is that bit more kinds of responsibility. The remuneration side is interesting, typically, in my experience, that there’s a salary for for non exec roles, it’s nothing to get, you know, too excited about, but where they are open, particularly P backed companies in giving some equity away, as well. So you’ve got skin in the game, to make sure that you’re, you know, committed and focused to grow the business. But you know, there is absolutely a degree of overlap to what the consulting role is, which is why I’m sometimes surprised that not more consultants are actually stepping in and doing the non exec roles.

 

Will Bachman 11:53

Beyond the satisfaction and beyond, besides the compensation, is there any kind of reputational benefits or just prestige or relationship of getting to know people? That’s different? Being a non Executive Director versus being a consultant? Do you think, you know, having been as a, does that help you when you’re talking to other clients, the fact that you’ve been on a board, you know, in your discussions? Yeah, I definitely think so.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 12:23

Well, I think there’s always interest particularly because actually, in my day job, where where I’m consulting or being a step in an executive, I’m working with the largest businesses, so large, you know, listed corporates, they’re always really interested in best practice from from private equity. And I think that best practice flows both ways. So think, yes, there’s interest. And I don’t know about the prestige factor. But it’s certainly good from a networking point of view. So I found being a non Exec. You know, I get invited to other networks, the chairman’s network here in the UK, the non Executive Directors Association, so suddenly gives you a network of people who are on boards, and not just private equity backed boards, right. But the list of boards can be charity boards and other so I’d say it’s really good from a networking perspective. And actually, out of those networks, I’ve got consulting working in bigger businesses, right. So I think it’s good from that perspective. And I think it’s good just to sometimes challenge yourself with the challenge of as a smaller, more entrepreneurially minded business with the pressure of private equity, that that is quite a, you know, a tough situation to be in and to grow in line with expectations. And so I think it’s a good challenge for yourself to put yourself in that position. What what what would you do take that sort of entrepreneur mindset and figure out what is going to help this business grow. And of course, corporates are interested in that because that nimbleness, that agility, that ability to kind of work at pace is often what they’re trying to build into that culture. But because of size and scale that they’re at can be quite quite challenging.

 

Will Bachman 14:08

Can you give us any examples? Obviously sanitized of you know, a specific case where an interaction you had as a board director, where where you’ve added value, like what was the situation What was you know, how did you advise the company? What resulted from it again, obviously sanitized?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 14:29

Yeah, sure. Yeah. I was working with as a non exec in a call it a human capital, business. It was part consulting business. It was part software as a service business. They, they were looking to acquire, they’d identified a US based business, they will look into acquire and I really helped him on all elements of that from you know, what due diligence do you need to undertake? When you buy this business, ours is going to really integrate into your operating model, how does it fit into the broader strategy of what you want to be able to do because often these businesses are acquisitive, and will look for that kind of m&a experience. So I brought all of that to the table from, you know, doing the culture audit to looking at the financials. This was not a particularly profitable business, but we saw an opportunity on how we could quickly address kind of a low margin issue and so worked out, you know, in the truest sense of the operating model, how do we make sure we’re going to build this to be a profitable business, there was obviously cost, take out opportunities as we didn’t need to duplicate role so so everything that you would act, you know, expect in a typical m&a And so we were successful in making a play for and acquire in that business. Another example in that same business was it had grown to a certain point which offers often these businesses do. And they’re founded, obviously, by by entrepreneurially minded people, but perhaps, who haven’t scaled a business. And so there tends to be a, you know, a point by which they are really looking for advice on how do I scale this business. And so, again, I stepped in and run as a first step, the strategy tip day where we put everything on the table about how we’re going to grow this business, where’s our, you know, Northstar, of where we need to get to, and what are the steps and important to go through these in quite some detail, but you know, what are the steps then we need to take to get that business on the journey, and his private equity will always be on the board as well. It’s important, they can see that that’s happening and can see that path through to to value and ultimately exit.

 

Will Bachman 16:44

Let’s turn to some of your other work, your more consulting work. You talked about both doing m&a integration as well as operational transformations. Could you walk us through an example of an operational transformation you’ve been involved with?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 17:00

Yeah, definitely. So it’s funny, they all come in slightly different wrappers. But certainly one was a was a list of businesses, footsie 100. Here in the UK, it actually presented itself as a restructuring effort. So they recognize they wanted to take cost cost out another 10% cost reduction target that they’d sort of identified. And so I went in originally under a restructuring banner to take cost out basically the business which involved, you know, a huge piece of kind of organization design, following an operating model, and worked out where where there were potential kind of opportunities to take out cost, both from a people perspective, but it was looking at everything from you know, can we look at procurement and income, we joined things up, I should add that this was a business that had grown up through acquisition. And so different parts of the business, were all following different systems and different processes that there was a big reconciliation, opportunity to bring processes together into streamline systems. And so anyway, I went in and took out that cost. But as part of taking out the cost, they were also on a transformation journey as a business, they were going from what was a legacy business that identified an opportunity, and wanted to go after that. And so I positioned then a commercial transformation to them, which was everything from, you know, what new skills and capabilities do we do we need? What processes are really getting in the way of delivering to our customers? And how do we streamline those? And how do we bring, you know, technology steps together so that it’s streamlined, what’s our, you know, kind of operational strategy going forward, because there was challenges when I looked at the business around, you know, delivery to customer and customer satisfaction, like NPS levels, so there were lots of opportunities. And so I was able to then run and execute that transformation for them to achieve everything from, you know, as I mentioned, the cost takeout but also margin improvement, there have been big opportunities to look at that customer satisfaction through greater net promoter score, and more just more efficient in terms of delivery. So that the business was then repositioned for growth, but it was a it was a bit of both it was a trend it was a cost take out with a transformation, but also a bit of integration as they’d left some companies that they bought not being integrated into the home. And so there was some reconciliation to do around the legacy integrations but that that would be one example actually of turning your restructure and effort into a into a transformation program.

 

Will Bachman 19:54

All right. Could we go let’s go a level deeper on this. So the first reason structuring to walk us through kind of how do you practically get started on that? Like, what does week one look like? What are the questions you’re asking the data you’re collecting? Let’s kind of get into it almost into a how to go? What are your activities sort of during that first week? And what would you, you know, collect and look at?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 20:25

Yeah, definitely. So week one, I would definitely describe as data collection, what you really need to know, is you need to understand the cost base, you know, the business, you need to understand kind of the margin, you need to understand how efficient is the business being run? What’s the productivity level? Like? What’s the customer experience? So as much as possible, our customers receiving the service, what sort of rating are they giving you? What’s your employee kind of scores in terms of, you know, retention, and so on? So it’s, it’s basically doing a bit of a health check on the business and saying, Well, what’s the data kind of really telling you, there’s always a kind of hypothesis everywhere that you can, you know, organizations naturally, particularly that have grown through acquisition, haven’t necessarily taken out the cost phase that they could and so there’s always opportunities for that. So really, you’re looking at where, where’s the opportunity? And there’s also a bit of a, you know, that’s the quantitative side, but then there’s the qualitative side, which is, you know, talking to people about their day to day activities, and where do they see opportunities for efficiency and improvement, because often the people who are doing the job, have insight that hasn’t necessarily always built it up. And there hasn’t been a systematic way of, of capturing that. So there’s a, there’s a qualitative element to which is asking the people running those businesses working in those businesses where they see the opportunity. And so then it’s about bringing all that data together and saying, Okay, where do we think of the biggest opportunities is the term low hanging fruit, or you know, where looks obvious that we can start to take out some cost. And of course, you don’t want death by 1000 cuts. And so it’s working through that and having a value case where you’ve got some numbers attached to the different activities that you’re going to do. And then it’s working out. And this is where the kind of change management element comes in. What’s the pace and sequence of that change? Bearing in mind, of course, you don’t want to destabilize the organization, you don’t want to derail delivery to the customer. If you are needed to make redundancies, you want to do that in a fair process. And you also want to do it, you know, in one hate, ideally, you don’t want to draw that that out as a long process. And so you take all of that into account when then working out what your transformation plan will cost take our plan to achieve that.

 

Will Bachman 23:01

Yeah, for this business, this example, can you walk us through some of the specific cost savings opportunities that you found? You know, in terms of was it, you know, people doing the same function across multiple acquisitions they had done like, what, what sort of functions were there? How did you manage to, you know, save costs? Like, give us some practical, detailed examples? Yeah, sure,

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 23:26

sure. So costing app. So there was a big one around people duplication of activity, as this business has grown through acquisition, what I add, is ever really enjoyed those businesses, they were left pretty much standalone. So from like a back office, functional perspective, you know, like people like procurement finance, there was an opportunity in those enabling functions to immediately start to bring rolls together. So that that was one big one, it’s probably fair to say in this example, they hadn’t necessarily looked at the contracts they had with suppliers. So there was a whole piece of just looking at what contracts could be renegotiated. And that believe it or not, gave quite a big number. And it often happens, right, as organizations don’t necessarily always keep a strong tab on, you know, where all the spend is, is going. The other area was definitely around. You know, just looking at what activities people were doing. Because again, often people were doing things that actually could have been done through a through technology. So it was again, saying, if we get the right technology in place, a bit like, you know, take the sales funnel out, can we just streamline that so we don’t need to make it as manual. So that would be another example. And then when we looked at the processes, it was a case of saying, you know, some of them were too cumbersome. They hadn’t really been streamlined, they weren’t designed with the end customer in mind. So that was another opportunity. And then the other thing we looked at was was the data. So, again, a lot of manual turning on the data. And so again, put it in place systems, which would have a much better data analysts capability. And then also just created created some centers of excellence. So the capabilities that could just be shared across the businesses, data analytics as a good one didn’t need that to be replicated 10 times. So where could we create those kind of efficiency opportunities, and then the other one we’ll find is often is a bit of a mindset change, for leaders in those businesses and thinking, getting them thinking around, you know, what could I do to be more creative around, taking out costs, but also then being able to invest for growth. So it’s often a bit of a behavioral shift around a different mindset that you you need to put in place, particularly for businesses which come from different places, and maybe add that kind of discipline in place?

 

Will Bachman 26:11

Let’s let’s go into one of those, like, let’s take save finance, for example. One thing that I’m curious about is, presumably, let’s say there’s, you know, to two companies had been acquired, and there’s probably an accounts payable person in both of them. But, you know, it’s not like those people are just goofing off half the day, right? Send, you know, they’re just not sending out invoices in the morning, and then just sort of taking the afternoon to play Tetris or word or something. Right. So when you’re looking at potentially combining those functions, and and being able to save the cost of one person, what is it that you would do in the finance function in particular, for example, to allow one person to do the work of two people? So you know, how do you get that cost savings?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 27:02

Yeah, it’s a great question. Well, and often it’s about technology as well, right? You’re right, often in when I’m doing m&a and bring in organizations together, we’ll be looking at the whole and saying, yeah, what does this finance blockchain look like? How many people are in it? What are all those people doing? And likewise, on the other side, and then somehow working through a process that gets you the best solution? Right? Are you keeping the best person for the job, irrespective of where where they might sit? The other thing I find is these often about technology and processes? Well, it’s about looking at, you know, is this running efficiently? I don’t find you know, what were you said as the example? Absolutely. It’s not that people haven’t, you know, been working at full capacity. It’s often about, you know, they may be able to work efficiently, like, have you mapped all your finance processes, have you worked out which technology can help you and, and streamline things, that’s normally where you start to get the the synergies, all the all the efficiencies, it’s not just about, you know, adding in more people, but there’s, there is often the point that, you know, some organizations as they grow, they’ve just not been as stringent on saying, you know, can I take 10% cost out of this, you know, business that that thinking hasn’t always happened, I was doing a deal recently, where the company where the company I’m working for is buying, just doesn’t have great margins, they’re, they’re low. And it’s because they just haven’t taken that rigorous look at the business and sort of thought through, you know, all the processes, there’s been some really obvious wins in procurement, they’ve just not gone in and negotiated hard on some of the deals. So it’s funny when you immediately then start to be able to add up and count on your synergies, but it’s not always a people solution. It can be a process, it can be a technology. And you know, it depends really

 

Will Bachman 29:11

got it. Okay, let’s, um, let’s walk through an example from you’re more m&a integration side, which, which I mean, this was slightly related to that. But can you give us another example of an m&a integration you’ve helped? Support? I mean, you mentioned you did 10 of them while you’re at IBM, and I know you do a lot of them as as running your own practice.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 29:34

Yeah, definitely. I’m happy to. So one of the integrations that I’m working on at the moment, it’s a company, Mr. business here in the UK, buying a list of business in in the US and buying something bigger than its own size, so is buying something twice as large as it is and thinking through so I’m thinking through with them, too. One, what’s your immediate cost out? As I mentioned, there’s been opportunities from a procurement perspective, from a from a people perspective and so on. There’s a piece then, which is around the transformation of these businesses, again, depends on how you play, but in this one is going to be transformation first and integration second, and I’ve done it the other way around. But it doesn’t make sense in this instance, to look at both businesses and saying, you know, what, what do we see as the upside opportunities. So this is looking at everything from go to market in terms of efficiency of sales and servicing customers, looking at the delivery opportunities, and this business is also moving in its area further up the value chain. So whereas its buyer in the past has been the the chief talent officer or the human resource officer, moving up that value chain? So is this more of a CEO? Sale? And there’s a lot that goes into, obviously, that in terms of positioning, the solution, and so on. So that’s been a really interesting one. And then the final part is, once those businesses have independently been transformed, it’s working through then the operating model of how do we bring those two businesses together, given we’ve now got a different geographic footprint? We’ve got different products and services to sell. We’ve got a bunch of accounts that obviously need servicing, so it’s working through, what does that future operating model look like? And particularly as this company is acquisitive, and continues to be acquisitive? We know other acquisitions will come down the pipe as well. So what does that full operating model look like? So, so no small challenge.

 

Will Bachman 31:51

Okay. Tell me about what you bring into kind of a post merger integration situation in terms of content, do you have sort of playbooks that you work with and checklists and so forth, that you’ve built up over time? Or how do you typically approach that?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 32:10

Yeah, well, I do. So over time, I’ve built exactly though, so you know, I will have her What does the integration team and office you know, actually look like? What are the roles of responsibilities? What’s the plan? You know, I would always other day one plus nine t, etc, plan in place. So yeah, I’ve built methodologies. Now, it’s not to say slavish, Li, you know, following those and not doing everything else, because every client, you know, situation is completely different. Like this one’s focused on, you know, transformation before going anywhere near and integration is where everyone is different. But yeah, over time, I’ve built some key methodologies that really help and help sort of accelerate and get things done quicker than if you’re starting from a blank piece of paper. So I bring that obviously, you know, as I always say, to clients, they can go to, you know, McKinsey, Bain BCG, or they can go to the Big Four indeed others, there’s many ways and places that you can go for post merger integration, support, but sometimes they’re open to saying, Yes, I’ll work with a, as many of your listeners will know, I’m open to working with an independent practitioner. And my typical model is to bring people around me. So it’s obviously not just me, it’s bringing in you know, a PMO, lead and finance, lead, maybe someone that will track on the benefits realisation case, maybe it’s a procurement expert, so I’ll bring that kind of team around me. So in a way, we’re modeling what a consulting team would look like. But of course, we don’t have the brand. So you know, the client can’t say, McKinsey, Bain, ey. PwC said they don’t get that. But they do get people who’ve been there, done it and got the scars from, you know, integrations.

 

Will Bachman 33:59

Right, it makes total sense. And you also, I think, published some thought leadership, as well. Tell me a little bit about that.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 34:09

Yeah, so I probably was a bit too late in the game on this if I’m, if I’m honest. So when I started my practice in 2011, I did not write for leadership. And so I just concentrated on clients building, building the business, getting clients through the door, and really proving that out and then it was around kind of the back end of about 2019 and probably good timing into the pandemic where I really thought you know, I want to invest more time in thought leadership and actually I joined a community of people who all were on that journey as well which is often the good from a support perspective. And so yeah, I right now pretty prolifically in terms of just getting into you know, CEO today, management today. Financial Times timezone. Well target, you know, relatively high profile publications and write about m&a Write about transformation and write write about general leadership and kind of board issues. It’s been great, you know, I would highly recommend that anyone in you knows who’s building their practice, I wish I’d done it sooner. I found three, you know, connections come out of it, I’ve had to client leads directly come out of pieces that I’ve written, which is obviously fantastic. And also there’s a bit of a community of people who do regularly, right. And so there’s lots of people to spar ideas of and you know, bounce things around. So there’s a bit of a community of people who want to be recognized, as you know, thought leaders. And so yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the journey. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve got much better at writing, because it’s a different skill from writing in consultancy. So I’ve really enjoyed that element.

 

Will Bachman 35:58

And that’s those are high profile publications. How do you, you know, get your material published there? Do you get to know people there over time, or get introduced to someone or just approach them cold? How did that work?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 36:14

Yeah, so I’ve done a couple of things I started on my own. So I started and you need to write a pitch, right? So the typical way to get into any magazine paper, whether it’s the New York Times, whether it’s management today, or whatever it is, is to write an article that they’re really interested in, but just give them a snapshot of just write an interesting pitch, almost tell them what you’re going to write. So don’t don’t write it. And then they come back to you and say, Actually, that’s really interesting. I found reading their articles, what they’ve published to be obviously invaluable, because you can kind of see that the content that they like, but I actually did then hire a PR firm. And I did that because, you know, if I look at where my time’s best spent is, obviously, with clients, but I also keep the writing of the content. But I use a PR firm to make those kind of introductions to journalists to get they get inbound inquiries that they can respond to. So I’ve found having like that PR support to be really helpful. But by the way, if you’re listening, you can do this on your own. And you just have to write out with interesting ideas and pitches for articles. And, you know, you get traction. And so it was it sprays is really enjoyable as well.

 

Will Bachman 37:27

Yeah. And so just a point listeners, and we’ll include this link in the show notes to your website, seven transformation.com. You’ve got just recent articles, how to embed ESG into your m&a deal. How do you deliver the cost and grow synergies? Where can CEOs and board play a bigger role in the m&a deals, and these are, you know, mature, as you mentioned before, in really high profile, publications, so that is really amazing. And I’ll just say, legislators, you should definitely check out Karen’s website. It’s just beautifully done. I’d say really a best practice website just looks beautiful. You land on landing page, why seven? And, you know, just beautiful images? How did you? How did you get this website put together? It’s just a beautiful job.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 38:18

Yeah, thank you. Well, it was one of my 2020 project. So I recognized I needed a better website, actually, a friend of mine X PMC partners recently gone. portfolio as well. And a great website designer, so inspired me actually to get to get mine done. So you’re hired someone who come in and, you know, I spent a lot of time thinking about the value proposition, thinking about, you know, I was going to share the showcase, thought leadership hour, I was gonna sort of give a, you know, a methodology and what it’s like to work with me in testimonial. So it was a really good exercise to go through. It’s also sharpened my pitch with my clients as well, because it really gets you to think about, you know, what’s the what’s the essence of what you do, and why is it differentiated? And so you end up with a crisp value proposition. But yeah, I invested quite a lot of time in the website last year, partly because I, you know, want to scale my business and ultimately, having that kind of professional images is important. But no, it was a really again, it was a really enjoyable process to go through. And I’ve had lots of, you know, positive client commentary about it. So it’s been a good engagement tool as well.

 

Will Bachman 39:32

Yeah, I will. We’re gonna say we’ll include that link in the show notes. And, and definitely check this out. It’s really one of the best websites I’ve seen of an independent consultant or boutique firm. Karen, beyond your website, any other links or ways that people can find you and reach out?

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 39:51

Yes, of course. Yes. A website is one way. I’m on LinkedIn at Karen Thomas bland. I’m the only one in the world on LinkedIn. So you are always happy to connect love to connect with others doing something similar I find you know the power of the community to be brilliant given what we were doing. I’ve you can also find me on Twitter, Karen T HB, you can find me there as well on other platforms like Instagram. I’m merely a lurker. So way.

 

Will Bachman 40:23

Fantastic. All right. Well, Karen, it’s been great speaking with you. Thanks for coming on the show. And listeners. If you want to follow up, check out our website, links in the show notes.

 

Karen Thomas-Bland 40:33

Fantastic. Thank you. Well, great to speak.

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