Articulate Strategic Communication
Founder, Lead Strategist, and CEO
Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to found your consulting business Articulate Strategic Communication?
I have a long history in marketing communications across sectors. Before I started my own company, I was part of the executive team at a multi-billion dollar holding company called Harland Clarke Holdings, now Vericast. I originally started with one company, Clarke American, whose revenues were around $370 million when I joined; through organic growth and a multitude of acquisitions the portfolio company had annual revenues somewhere over $3B as of my last engagement with them.
I learned so much in my role leading Corporate Communications through mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and a multitude of special projects. I would often be sent to work with CEOs and their company to achieve a specific strategic objective or complete a special project. I really liked it; I felt like I found my sweet spot. Starting my own company, Articulate Strategic Communications, was a natural evolution from doing that kind of work for a holding company to doing the same kind of work for a multitude of companies. My goal is to help CEOs and executives achieve their strategic objectives.
I love being able to go into an organization and help solve problems, remove barriers to success, and be that extra pair of hands an executive team often needs. I feel like that is my superpower. It can be hard to describe what I do because people want to put it in a nice tidy box. I get asked, “is it PR, marketing, public affairs, employee communications, investor relations, strategic planning?” Yes – it’s all of those things and more!
Typically, there are elements in each of those pieces that need to change when you are working on strategic objectives, whether it’s repositioning a company, introducing a new line of products, evolving a corporate culture, whatever the project may be – it’s multifaceted. Communications is the golden thread that connects it all. People want to do a great job and support the company and do what they need to do, but they have to understand how what they’re doing contributes to the company’s strategic initiatives. I love being able to weave that all together.
What is one attribute, skill, or trait you think has benefited you the most in your career?
I think my ability to break down very complex problems into small, solvable components has been very helpful. In doing that, I often identify hidden talents people have and help them figure out how to utilize those skills to perform at an even higher level. Those two things are interlinked. When I go into a business and work with CEOs to achieve their strategic objectives or to assist with a special project, I’m working to identify the team that can help me solve the problem. It’s during that process of finding the internal people that I often discover untapped potential.
So for example, an employee might be in Accounting, but they may possess a specific soft skill or have alternative expertise in an area that our team needs. I’ve actually been able to help change the trajectory of several peoples’ careers in pretty interesting ways by giving them opportunities to explore new skillsets and that’s been extremely fun to witness.
One of TBHF’s core values is community. You have held several philanthropic leadership positions. In your own words, can you tell us why giving back to your community is important to you and how it makes you a better leader?
I have a desire to leave a place better than when I found it. I always want to contribute to the environment I’m in, whether that’s in business or in my community. When you work in an organization, you realize so many of your employees actually need community services.
We often forget that. It could be someone struggling with a health issue, or aging parents, or addiction, or adoption. Helping to solve those issues in my community makes me a better, more empathetic leader all the way around. When people see you do that work in the community, they have an appreciation for the work, but also for your understanding of their personal situations.
How do you define “excellence” in business?
Excellence is doing your best work with integrity in a way that benefits all stakeholders and is conscientious of unintended consequences and the potential impact to others. I always strive to give my very best, but I also strive to understand the impact on everybody else and any potential unintended consequences. When I achieve something, I don’t want to do it at the cost of other people. Excellence is when everyone in the equation wins.
What has been the greatest lesson you have learned so far in your career?
One of the key things I learned, and maybe the hard way, was that it’s a marathon not a sprint. I have a high sense of urgency, a really strong work ethic, and very ambitious goals. I found myself always running at a high speed and pushing myself, which didn’t always serve me well. I actually started training for triathlons and had to learn how to pace myself and make efficient transitions from swimming to biking to running. It also taught me to take breaks and focus on nutrition. It was a great life lesson and approach for how to work through business.