In the Land of Digital, The Golden Rolodex is Still ‘Queen’: Q&A Profile with Andrea Hoffman
Our world has evolved into the “Internet of Things,” where data and analytics hold the transformative power to efficiently connect the demand for products and services wherever it may be. In this light, one would presume that the ability for a business to analyze demographics to benefit their integration or development goals would today be a one-stop-fits-all exercise, with data available at their fingertips and inclusive of all relevant community demographics.
The cursory logic is that the marriage of social empowerment and tech innovation has allowed for ease in doing business, side-stepping the more laborious traditional approach of leveraging an influential and diverse network of trust in order to bring genuine opportunity, based on strategically-targeted analysis. Contrary to popular belief, it is this very logic that is outdated.
Malcolm Gladwell once stated that “…truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking,” a process technology has not yet been able to master. Opportunities for business development are out there, yet routinely missed without a thoughtful, relationship-driven approach.
Conversely, Andrea Hoffman, Business Growth Strategist, author and founder of Culture Shift Labs has generated unprecedented success for her clients through unique demographic inclusion. Her #cultureshifting methodology incorporating consulting, convening and connections keeps her positioned as “…one of the most valuable, behind the scenes advisors and connectors among leaders from tech to the cultural arts.”
“She [Andrea] clearly has her finger on the pulse of what is going on in this space [inclusion driven innovation], and it’s impressive.” – Carlton Charles, Treasurer, Hearst Corporation
“Andrea has everything one looks for in a partner: she leads from the front, has great expertise, passion, and dedication to all she does shows a genuine commitment to all her clients and partners, and a determination to consistently deliver more than she promises.” – Clive Gillinson, Executive & Artistic Director, Carnegie Hall
Can you provide our readers with greater background on today’s “new climate of innovation and diversity”? What has changed from the advent of digital social networking and what remains the same and is still vital in such competitive times?
Let’s be frank – as I’ve said before, placing an advertisement in a business magazine doesn’t cut it anymore. Whether launching a new enterprise, integrating into a new marketplace or implementing a broad promotional strategy to spark brand affinity or action, in an era where everyone has his own soapbox to stand on, my clients need tailor-made strategies. They require thoughtful tactics to help them find new markets and new business opportunities receptive to their products and services and inclusive of all relevant consumers and influencers.
We don’t just connect entrepreneurs and innovators to established big business after designing strategies; we’re not your typical corporate development or management consulting firm. We’re unique in that we have the global relationships and resources acquired through 25 years of building our network and developing genuine personal relationships. As I tell my clients, “you must have the know-how and the ‘know who,’ as it’s the only business model that works.” We are able to execute strategies seamlessly and with a direct R.O.R (return on relationships). Our customized and curated Innovation Pop Up Labs and Culture Shift Think Tanks are proven examples of this. At Culture Shift Labs, we operate off of the ethos stated by relationship and network scientist Ronald S. Burt who serves at the Chicago Booth School of Business – “A person can add tremendous value by linking across gaps. That’s why ‘network brokers’ end up being these incredibly valuable people to an organization.”
Part of my firm’s business model is to facilitate introductions to new people and new business opportunities and we advise throughout on how to leverage them in a way that’s symbiotic. Our clients come to us ready for strategy and connections and we provide the roadmap and resources that ensure they ‘get there.’ In a world that’s so “high tech,” we are a welcome “high touch” experience.
Beyond the traditional model, technology does play a lead role in your portfolio offering – Can you tell our readers about the Katapult online platform and its unique service model, for example?
The idea for Katapult™ was hatched three years ago – before the diversity conversations escalated and before Human Resource technology solutions were one of the hottest investment sectors today. Katapult™ is ‘software as a service (SaaS)’ – it’s the business model for diversity and inclusion.
It’s a way to measure something that’s previously been unmeasured. It provides a formal online process by which to assess, measure and improve all of the facets associated with the “business” of diversity.
Katapult™ uses factual data and proprietary technology to help position diversity and inclusion, different inside an organization, and deliver a unique narrative and business impact. The program is pre-launch and will be ready in about 3 months. We have over 50 companies signed up as early customers when we prepare to ‘go live.’
What are the major disruptors to innovation-driven industries such as FinTech and Digital Advertising that you have witnessed and can predict? How best can inclusion play a role in their respective developments?
Today, Maasai warriors — members of one of Kenya’s oldest tribes – can be seen carrying a spear in one hand and a cellphone in the other. To provide further context, Dr. Tony Coles, the former CEO of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, sold his company in 2013 for over $10 billion. Robert F. Smith runs the top private equity firm in our nation and he’s now the board chair for Carnegie Hall. I can list 100 other similar examples and that’s just off the top of my head.
There’s a low level of awareness of what I call, the “arbiters of the new economy” and my company knows most of them because they’re in our network. These are African American inventors, innovators, investors and influencers from Silicon Valley to Africa. They are directly disrupting and transforming business, as we know it and many have had incredibly successful exits.
Inclusion doesn’t just mean the entry-level talent pipeline. It also includes leaders at most senior levels. It includes deliberate inclusion of professional service firms, inclusive mergers and acquisitions efforts, inclusive innovation to out-innovate your competition. It includes deliberate efforts on refreshing corporate development, corporate philanthropy, corporate venture, corporate boards, and corporate social responsibility. Even academic institutions are in the game such as MIT with their recent Inclusive Innovation Challenge.
Those are the waters we help clients navigate while also providing direct access to the innovators of today and tomorrow.
Is there an ideal client for Culture Shift Labs?
The common denominator among all of our clients is that they are ready to drive profitable growth and are willing to invest the money to do that.
They are not leaders who want to “intellectualize it” or throw 1% spending behind it. They are the first movers who turn to us to help them create new business models that enable them to navigate technology, demographic and business shifts supported by respectable budgets.
They are visionaries who recognize the interrelation between business and society. And they are also fun to work with because we are!
Where do you envision your enterprise in five years’ time?
Our focus is on scaling through our data, analytics, and insight. Management consultancies, human capital, and search firms are noticing our model, our unique services how we drive value, and the power of our vast and unique network. They’ve come calling so we are co-creating this very moment.
Many established brands and initiatives need a ‘refresh’ and relevancy to the arbiters of the new economy; disruptors driving change, making a change (as in dollars!) and managing change. Culture Shift Labs refines the strategy and delivers the social currency that actives the strategy. We’ve found over and over that corporations are looking for the subject matter experts as much as the experts are looking for the corporations. How cool is it to be the facilitator of that using our “Golden Rolodex.”
Over 15 years ago I predicted that luxury would be redefined, print advertising needed a new model and that black women would be important contributors to our economy through entrepreneurship and at the board level. My forecasting of these trends was spot on. And I will continue to predict trends for our clients.
One of my favorite sayings that sums this up is that “…the person that invented the refrigerator is not the one that got rich off of it.”
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