Creating Impact in Denver
I recently completed Impact Denver (ID), a nine-month study in leadership, civic engagement, and the local business community. A program of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Foundation, Impact Denver brings a diverse group of young professionals from across the metro region to learn from each other and complete meaningful projects for local non-profits.
What began in January with in-person lectures and group work had to adapt quickly to our new remote normal when COVID-19 arrived in force. The organization did a great job in maintaining continuity and delivering a rewarding program.
Here are three takeaways from my ID experience. I’d encourage other professionals to find similar opportunities in their community.
Wiglaf Pricing’s Kyle T. Westra recently completed the Impact Denver leadership program
Embedding in the Local Community
Working in pricing strategy consulting entails having clients throughout the US and across the world. I love that aspect of my work. In one week I can be helping executives manage price better in Sydney, Australia; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Rome, Georgia.
However, we also have a vested interest in our local business communities. That is why Wiglaf Pricing hosts events such as the Pricing Professionals Networks in our home office cities of Chicago and Denver. We love where we live and want to do what we can to support other professionals in our areas.
As a relative newcomer to the area, I was excited to participate and get on the fast track to learning about my new home. To be successful in doing that, we need to know our local executives.
Whereas our roots in Chicago extend deep, our presence in Denver is young. ID was a great way to get a crash course in other interested young professionals and the organizations they represent. I’ve come away with a much better sense of not only the business community, but also how that community interplays with others.
Via my colleagues, guest speakers, and our community project, I learned about different organizations in metro Denver and what they’re doing to make this a great place to live. My group’s project was for the Art Students League of Denver (ASLD), which offers classes for students of all ages and abilities taught by artists in the community. I hadn’t heard of ASLD before, and if it weren’t for ID, I still wouldn’t know about it or the dozens of other organizations represented.
Knowing more Denver professionals, organizations, and causes not only makes me better at my job, but also makes me better at being a citizen of my new home.
Collaborating in Cross-Functional Teams
For the aforementioned ASLD project, I was a member of a team of eight professionals. Our backgrounds included law, non-profit management, finance, and marketing, to name a few. It was a benefit to have many fields represented in our strategizing and decision making. However, many working professionals lack opportunities to work cross-functionally.
For many of us in pricing, such cross-functionality is a given. To get pricing done right, a company must have clear communication and decision making across sales, finance, marketing, and many other departments. Pricing is an interstitial function that is made its best by involving the right stakeholders.
Finding opportunities to work on such teams within your company is valuable for many reasons. Regardless of what function you represent, you will have a clearer set of objectives and outcomes if you better understand the position of other internal stakeholders. This increases your effectiveness, which must come before efficiency. Such exposure also prepares you for roles with larger strategic and management responsibilities.
Embracing Ambiguity and Change
Originally, ASLD wanted a more comprehensive and traditional market research report conducted. Focusing on brand awareness, the survey would have gone out to a sample of potential students in the region to learn more about how ASLD is perceived by those it hopes to serve.
When COVID-19 became a reality in the US, both ASLD and our ID group had to step back for a couple weeks and pay attention to the changes around us. One member of our group, who runs a non-profit organization benefitting Denver-area food providers, had to recuse herself. While we missed her, we completely understood that her priority was her constituents.
For the rest of us, we were eager to move forward with assisting ASLD. ASLD was perhaps even more appreciative than before to have assistance, as they had even less time internally to devote to such an undertaking.
They were deep in the process of figuring out how to shift all of their offerings to an online format for the first time. Instead of the original brand awareness survey, they asked if we could survey their existing students once the first online classes completed to determine how successful their transition had been and how to improve from there.
While the purpose of the research was therefore very different from the original project plan, we were more than happy to adjust. Our goal, of course, was to complete a project that was actually useful to ASLD. Usefulness should always take priority over what was originally planned.
This is a fact of life for consulting, as well. The situations in which a project plan doesn’t adapt to changing priorities or new constraints are vanishingly rare. We must take an adaptive approach to value creation with our clients so that the project isn’t handcuffed to an outdated plan.
If you want more certainty than that, try a different planet.