Article originally published by the Business Journal, authored by Jim Molis.
Like many business leaders, SafeNet Consulting’s President Kelli Schnieder wears many hats in her company – but not as many as she once did.
A skilled consultant with a strong background in consulting and delivery, Schnieder once was as concerned with marketing SafeNet’s technology solutions and serving clients directly as she was with building the company. But in working closely with a strategic advisor Schneider has found that although she could do something, it did not mean she should.
“You’re running in a thousand directions thinking you’re making progress for the business — but in fact, you may be holding it back,” Schnieder said. “The bottleneck may be yourself, and you may not be able to see it.”
With help from Jaime Taets, CEO and founder of Keystone Group International, Schnieder has learned to let others do what they do best so she can focus on those responsibilities that only she could do for the company – work on the strategy and plans that help SafeNet grow. “Jaime has helped me see and relieve some of the duties that were holding us back,” Schnieder said.
As a trusted strategy advisor, Taets has helped SafeNet grow in three key ways.
1) Seeing the big picture with a different lens and a fresh perspective
SafeNet has worked with Keystone Group for two and a half years now. “We wanted somebody to look at our business and see what we might not be seeing. Sometimes you get so into the business, you don’t have time to work on the business and take a good look at it,” Schnieder said.
“A trusted advisor identifies your blind spots,” Taets said. “They can help your business grow because they’re looking at your business from a different perspective.”
Keystone has supported SafeNet’s growth by focusing on its strengths. By focusing on specific consulting services and solutions, SafeNet discovered it could find success by hiring consultants with similar skill sets. “When we stay in our lane, we can refocus and repurpose resources to be good at a few things,” Schnieder said.
SafeNet has retained and gained clients by rotating consultants among clients and projects based on demand. For example, when one client cut seven consultants at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, SafeNet placed them with another client who needed that same skillset.
Taets helped SafeNet develop this kind of flexibility by challenging the company on where it needed to change. “She’s able to ask the hard questions and seek out the answers because she’s not personally involved in the business,” Schnieder said. “Then she helps the business find the right path forward, without saying what to do.”
2) Providing a strategic framework to get you from good to great
“A trusted strategy advisor knows the company and its opportunities,” Taets said. “They also know your gaps and will help you work through those.”
In approaching SafeNet’s business strategy holistically, Keystone assisted the technology consulting firm in identifying people and roles that needed to change. “We helped them find things that were getting in their way, and now we’re the ones they call when they are stuck on something. We see ourselves as a partner that is helping them grow in a scalable way,” Taets said.
Keystone worked with SafeNet to develop business strategies for one, three, and 10 years. “You always have that one-year plan to achieve the longer-term plan. Then you break that one-year plan into 90-day plans, so the 10-year plan doesn’t look as scary,” Schnieder said.
Schnieder has found that moving your company from good to great requires constant refinement. Building its people up has been essential.
With Keystone’s help, SafeNet has aligned personal skills with professional positions by identifying the team members responsible for key functions. “An accountability chart is a game changer in a lot of organizations,” Schnieder said. “It’s helped us look at all aspects of the business. You can see [at a glance] if more than one person owns an area or if someone owns too much.”
3) Tapping into key expertise and valuable resources across many business areas
Removing Schnieder from the “marketing” box on the accountability chart has been one of the biggest difference-makers for SafeNet.
“Marketing was running, but it was not my sweet spot. So, we ended up hiring a fractional CMO [chief marketing officer] to help us get better at it,” Schnieder said. “Our CMO has the expertise to provide the strategy and put us on the right path.”
Taets introduced Schnieder to Kelli Williams, founder of Williams Brand Consulting, a provider of fractional marketing services. Williams has worked with SafeNet for more than a year and a half now, building marketing strategies that bolster the company’s vision for growth.
For example, Williams organized a panel discussion about the Great Resignation that SafeNet held both virtually and in person. “It was a great opportunity to make new connections while strengthening existing relationships,” Williams said, noting that the non-technology-related event that met the need of clients who lead teams generated five times the number of new leads compared to any previous SafeNet event.
Williams has brought the right mix of experience to support SafeNet’s growth. “People look for the unicorn marketer who can do everything in the industry, but that doesn’t exist,” she said. “However, as a strategic advisor, what I bring is unicorn-ish. I have worked with companies of different sizes, different industries and different types, including business-to-consumer and business-to-business. As a strategic marketing advisor I can bring outside perspectives to create innovative solutions.”
Ultimately, all advisory services are interconnected, whether they are for marketing, business strategy or other needs. In Keystone, SafeNet has found one partner that can help across many areas.
“If we hadn’t started doing the strategy advisory efforts with Keystone, we wouldn’t be in such a stable place of business,” Schnieder said. “We’re set up with a lot of great ideas and tools that will help us execute throughout 2022 and beyond because we’ve created a solid foundation.”
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Keystone Group International guides businesses in becoming more focused and aligned by providing solutions at the intersection of strategy, leadership and culture.
Jim Molis is a writer for The Business Journals Content Studio.