[PODCAST] Staying Relevant: How Consulting Firms Are Evolving

consulting podcast Dec 05, 2018

About the Discussion:

Gone are the days where a direct divide fell between Corporate America and Entrepreneurship. In fact, the giants of Corporate America have learned that the key to developing an innovation strategy is by embracing the start-up mentality. And we’re seeing it time and time again (ahem, Toys R’ Us, if you don’t innovate, you die).

So how does this new way of thinking transcend into the consulting world, an industry driven by defined processes and numbers? Well, it’s not set officially yet, but the journey and new way of thinking has officially begun.

We were lucky enough to speak with Victoria Wind, who is helping to lead this charge at one of the oldest consulting firms, Grant Thorton. We talked about how they’re looking to innovate, what their innovation lab looks like, the hurdles they’re having to overcome, and how a large corporate like Grant Thornton will begin to change their thinking to stand above the rest.

Also, if you’re a start-up, this is an incredible episode to listen to as you will hear the huge list of opportunities you have because so many large companies are adapting this new way of thinking!

Official Transcript:

Erin & Syya: All right, welcome to another episode of Innovation Calling. I'm Erin Smith and I'm Syya Yasotornrat and we have I hate to say I'm excited. I always say I'm excited, but this one I love this topic because if I look back on my corporate journey and see my favorite job it has to do with when I had the ability to innovate. So when I met Victoria we were talking about her role. I knew she used to work at Accenture, and now she has this new role. She's with Grant Thornton. She's an Innovation Design Lead there, and I don't want to do too much intro because we're going to get a lot more into your role, Victoria about what you do.

So first of all, thank you so much for joining us.

Victoria: You're welcome. Happy to be here.

Erin: Yes. So Grant Thornton... I'm going to be full disclosure when you said you worked for them. I was like, I don't know who that is. And you described them. Can you give and doing my research now, I realize her very old company.

They've been around for a long time. Can you just give a quick synopsis of the I don't want to do the history of Grant Thornton, but what Grant Thorton is about?

Victoria: Yeah, yeah, let me just give you a quick profile to set the set the setting. This is like you said an old company. It's been around for over a hundred years. Just like any accounting firm, it has it, you know, it has deep, deep roots into the ebbs and flows of our economy. But I think that this little firm knows exactly where it fits I think in the spectrum of its industry as far as its, It's status versus say the Big Four. But it has carved itself out a niche within client sets around the rest Russell 2000 and large private companies and it is it is a player in that space for sure. It has a couple of other competitors that that target that market, but for the most part It is Well recognized as the accounting firm of choice in that target market for large to mid-sized...midsize companies and it serves at well. And has grown only of course over the last couple of decades in that space.

Erin: Okay. So when I hear the history when I hear accounting firm when I hear all these words, I would never tie Innovation to it at all and the fact that you're in this really cool department. And I this is.... this is exactly this is exactly and taking a test us why we do this podcast is because.

There are Innovation Labs happening. There are people looking for connections, partnerships, and different deals. So this is truly the evolution, I believe, of Corporate America where it's not a line of you're an entrepreneur or your corporate, but it's the discovery that corporations are seeing and saying hey, we need these entrepreneur mindsets. So it's not an all or nothing. So can you talk a little bit about this evolution and Grant Thornton and what the Innovation Lab is about there?

Victoria: Yeah, and maybe before I get too into specifics around why Grant Thornton has put this together why now in its Evolution. Maybe it's helpful for me to kind of talk to you or give some perspective around what I've seen over the last eight or nine years in Corporate America around Innovation that makes this such a necessary thing for Grant Thornton.

In my in my career in at Accenture, I was part of their,  part of their digital practice and what I did for them is strategize with clients around digital transformation.

Now that digital transformation stuff is pretty recent, you know coined within the last five or six years, but if you if you go back to when I joined Accenture, the conversation was some of these big Fortune 500 companies was less around transformation and innovation and disruption but more about oh wait, I think we need to do something with our 'dot com'. I think we need a mobile app. They were starting to push forward with some of these point solutions or even point channels and thinking differently about how they interact with their end consumers. Whether that be B2C, sort of traditional retail CPG and a lot of the kind of easy case studies you can think of but even B2B companies were starting to think about customer experience and where they should be directing themselves as far as investment in that channel. And changing the whole way they deal with their with their end users.

So the Genesis I think in Corporate America around innovation has to be studied from 10-15 years ago where digital, the digital channel started to get more mature and companies started to merge the strategy had around their digital channels with their corporate strategy overall.

When I first started in digital strategy, we were crafting these strategies as sort of like a hang off from their corporate strategy. Oh just figure out what to do with our website. Oh just figure out what to do with our mobile app. Oh just figure out you know how to digitize this interaction. And what I've seen over the last 10 years is companies saying, you know out of out of mandate and imperative for their success in the market having to move their digital strategy right smack in the middle of their corporate strategy, right? And now the two are almost inextricably linked and when you're talking corporate strategy, you're also talking digital strategy. There's no other way to slice it.

Syya: So yeah, I'd say that's funny. You should mention we had a previous conversation with Ed marks CI over at Cleveland Clinic and he. He has been such a huge advocate. He pointed out that the rise of the CIO because of digital transformation because the requirement of a corporate Mission has to include some form of strategy around again what we're exactly what we're talking about.

So it's really interesting you're saying this from a different perspective and hearing from CIO validating now you're seeing what technology should be thought of as being on the backside of execution is now at the Forefront.

Victoria: Absolutely and there are a lot of aspects to that and a lot of times when I was working with my Fortune 500 clients around this they they love to call the technology and enabler so they can then put the customer experience at the forefront and the driver there. And I think what has what we have seen in the market is end consumers driving the need for corporations.However, they serve them. To completely rethink their charter. Completely rethink their delivery to the end user. Right? And so that has been made all of the CXOs whether you're in marketing whether your CIO whether you're the Chief Operating Officer. It's just erupting there the way they approach their strategies in executing for the corporation. And that could be an internal, you know manifestation or certainly external with marketing and and sort of digital offerings if you will, but I think that the the rise and the power that the consumer has over these businesses has necessitated all of this new investment and then of course the need for innovation because the pace of change that is required has accelerated many-fold, right? Like yeah, we ought to we ought to get this to market at some point. But but the the pace of change that the consumer demands has accelerated the need and and companies are asking, okay. I have my business as usual digital business, that runs my website, runs my mobile apps, you know throws off analytics for those channels. I've got to have an it completely different team running and innovation play which is faster. But my normal business as usual digital business, right?

We're even were Jumping the shark here a bunch, and we're saying, you know, where where they were just trying to get themselves together to create a digital business team that actually can do anything at pace.

They're now having to put faster teams that call themselves in the innovation, call themselves transformation, whatever it might be. To move even faster and what's that going to take? They're going to have to act more like startups. They're going to have to they're going to have to model those operational tenants and they're going to have to go figure out how they can move themselves a bunch of a bunch of faster.

And sometimes that takes the shape of going out and and acquiring those firms so that they can study them. In their natural habitat and adopt right? And som so I feel like that there is that transformation curve that says man, we got to get our house in order just in our basic digital channels, but then it pushes them even farther into know we've got to have an innovation incubation team fast.

Erin: Can you I think it's important for you just like I said, innovation. I'm starting going in these labs and I'm like wow. Yeah, can you give a little bit and I have an inside look as to what an Innovation Lab of a company like Grant Thornton looks like like what are you know, it's always just curious to me. Like are you I know for you you're looking for a possibility, you know, the possibility of partnership stuff like that. Like how does that work from, we see this need. I understand we need to do it. We understand we need to help companies do it. How do you begin to implement that in a company of that age and size.

Victoria:  Yeah good question. So in my my consulting work with Fortune 500's those take the form of certainly physical labs with with tiger teams and partnerships with startups and even some, some capital infusion and and all sorts of fun little ways. At Grant Thornton, what we're talking about here when we really boil it down is saying hey professional services firms can innovate too. And so I think what we're we are in our evolution right now as far as Innovation is in our in the first phase of let's stand up a team. Let's bring in expertise from outside. Let's hire people that we haven't normally and typically hired. And then join up some of the existing forward thinkers from our business with these external hires from fast moving companies like IBM, Accenture, folks from Silicon Valley, operating companies who have a history of innovation, or have had success with that.

Let's put together and construct a good team that can bring that expertise to bear, mash them together and see if we can't run ideas through them at the front.

So so at the beginning here, it is headcount driven, right. It is let's put the right team together. Okay. Can we call that a lab? Maybe. Are we thinking about investing in physical spaces? Sure. Are we thinking about creating an ecosystem of partners that can augment this team? Absolutely. Are we thinking about you know M&A activity as well in order to augment the team or make the team go a little faster?  Absolutely. I don't think anything is off the table. But where we are in our evolution today is let's put some smart people who know how these things can be executed well.  Who have seen and been on the forefront of either digital disruption, transformation, and really understand the complexion of what you have to have going for you in order to throw off, you know some successful innovation. And also who can help to usher in the type of cultural themes that are going to help drive, I think the the core of their traditional business, right?

Syya: So yeah, you've nailed it right there. You've nailed exactly right there because you can bring someone that is a genius, knows,  been there done that executed on everything, you know, you know soup to nuts. My question though, isn't the human factor really going to be what's the cost of innovation as far as how do you integrate culture? How do you change culture? How are you guys addressing that because to me we can look at it an Excel spreadsheet and say look if we make this level investment blah blah blah, but the people is going to be the issue, isn't it?

Victoria: Yeah. Yeah it is. We don't enter into this with a frictionless universe. I mean, we have a hundred years of history here, and we have been successful hiring in tax audit and advisory a certain profile of person who knows how to do their work. Right and who are naturally risk-averse. Who are naturally going to want to know all the details, right?

I mean, think of agile processes and experimentation and all of the things that have to be resident in a good Innovation team. A test and learn, right, proven move. Those don't exactly work with accountants all the time, right? And and we're seeing it right here in my first couple of months with them as far as hey we've got some ideas, we want to go play with them. We want investment to go play with them. That can be that can be a tough ask right when I say they say, well, you know, what's ROI on this? I don't know. If it maybe this 'ish'

Syya: And that's why I'm laughing, like accountants are or so fact-driven. Numbers have to justify any type of execution. How.. I get what we're saying conceptually and I know that's a challenge around Innovation. But how are how are you guys able to overcome that because innovation labs and  innovation team set up, they don't have a fast ROI. I mean they were looking at 5-year investments, but for a quick turnaround for a cultural change, I guess. How are you guys addressing it? Because I just I'm struggling to make up connect.

Victoria: It's a struggle and hey, look that's why you hire the digital street fighters, right? That's why you hired the innovation street fighters is we understand cultures like this to some extent. We've been there out there in the there and we're there not only to get our ideas driven through and shaped up and experimented and prototyped and and all that. But we're also there to infuse this culture like you said now now, the how it is roll up your sleeves it is we get we get sponsorship from the top and that is key.

Right? We've got to have the C-suite and we're a partnership. So we've got to start talking to our partners to to push down this message as we come from bottom up, right. So basically, you know, it is it's an all-out assault. Right, we're doing bottom up messaging but when we hit barriers, right and we hit we hear the word no and we hear what we don't think we can do that for another three months.

We start to work our channels, right and it's it is definitely it's you know, it's definitely a fun game of doing the right thing for the right reasons, right and making sure that everybody is understands the mission at hand. And so all the little details start to work themselves out and it's tough day to day to kind of match the kind of kind of muscle through the details, right?

But when it at the end of the day when our CEO stands up and says, we have an existential problem that we have got we have got to plan now and start to get good at this now in order for us to see the fruits of our labor in five, six, ten years. We are building the firm of the future and. Whatever has to happen.

We're going to have to go through the pain together, right. So, luckily we, and and the sole reason I took this job was because some of those ingredients for success were in place. We have that executive sponsorship. We are hiring people who know what they're doing. We're not just trying to create this organically out of out of the clay that we have. We're adding these these key influencers and people who who can help bring the entire firm along, culturally.

 We are we've got unfettered investment. We have got, we have got a a process that we're putting together that allows us to fail fast. That says okay, we're going to go try 10 things and we should be okay with only two of them succeeding. And so if those things are in place and we say those things over and over again, innovation, innovation, innovation. All over the place both from our internal messaging and our external messaging then you know, It is it is just going to have to take that Village to start getting on getting in the boat.

So it's hard. I totally agree. It's hard, but it's the good hard work that needs to happen.

Erin: I was going to ask... about the ROI. Okay, so it's spoken like a true venture. Like, you know capital, or you can't, You may get one hit out of a hundred Investments. So selling the ROI to a company like this,  you may not get the ROI but it's still could be a win.

How else are they measuring as you bring these things, if you're saying okay it ROI'ish  and maybe it doesn't convert like we know for a fact we invested x amount in this we're getting x amount back or Y amount back. How else are they looking at wins in their Innovation Department?

Victoria: Great question. Oh my gosh, that's perfect yet. So the the charter of innovation at Grant Thornton is not just solely focused on new sources of revenue, new business models, you know new products that we can bring to market.

That definitely is a portion of it, but in order for us to gain some momentum, show some wins, we are going to have to knock out operational efficiencies and the backlog of things that the company has just needed to do in order to run their engagements more efficiently, be a better partner to their client. And you know, some of it is kind of run-of-the-mill, little boring but it's the hard way work that needs to be done.

Right and I wouldn't characterize that normally as innovation except that in this environment it is kind of innovation. And so if we can show a portfolio of wins from the operate better and more efficiently, we can help them pivot and get more comfortable with new business models new sources of revenue and new ways of delivering service to their clients.

If that makes sense. So through this portfolio approach, we're... everybody wins because I think the Innovation team shows demonstrates to the rest of the firm. Hey, we got this we know what we're doing. So we're going to knock over a few gas stations before we get to the bank here. And and and show them that we can make the cash register register ring.

We can show them some costs things. We can move the needle on some of the unsexy things to get that through, you know more wins for the the sexier ventures.

Syya: So this may be slightly off off what you're saying. So I hear you saying the CEO comes down tells a company in a company meeting says, e're on a impasse here guys. We've got a changeup our core business. We're at that crossroads, right? What industries are you seeing right now where the CEOs are actually willing to admit to their company, we're at the crossroads? Or do you see being a one specific industry leading the others or do you is it flat across the board horizontal?What are your seeing these leaders actually pushing their companies forward? 

Victoria: That's a great question. So over the span of my time with Accenture, I saw a lot a broad-spectrum, I'd say, of maturity levels around this sort of thing. Where pushing into the new, you know, freeing themselves up to innovate and you know, really embracing this customer experience type mantra.

Of course, retail is far and away going to be our front runner here. They've got, it in fact towards the end of my career at Accenture, they were my least favorite to work with because they kind of felt like, no, we got this, right.

Or if you weren't bringing them like the most out there innovative ideas, they didn't want to talk to you. But I'd say in the last five years where I have found that leaders are really starting to embrace and move on this stuff and putting real investment around transformation around disruption, is in oil and gas, surprise,CPG's. Now, it sounds like wait CPGs, they would seem like big innovators, right?

Erin: Hold on What are CPG's? 

Victoria: Oh, sorry, Consumer Packaged Goods. So Kimberly Clark's of the world, the Frito-Lay/PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper/Snapple and let's see, you know P&G Etc. So can in Consumer Packaged Goods you're thinking. Well, well, hey, I mean they make products that everybody loves, they're innovative, and they're on the forefront.

I think their Innovation lies around product, right? So they're always looking for the next big thing that is going to make consumers buy and they're great at that. Right. But where they have lagged is in that experiential touch that comes through their digital channels. You know up to you know, in the last decade I'd say, they were limited to the channel called the shelf at Walmart, right, or or the commercial that came on the TV, or maybe some website activity.

Right? But now we're seeing CPGs really waking up and saying look we are being. We're being disrupted by niche players right bringing bringing products to Market like crazy that consumers love right, these little guys. And then also our retail brethren right the Walmarts and the HBEs, and the rest of the big box retailers are scrambling as well to understand what consumer experience looks like. we have got to figure out what how we play in this, completely. What what relationship should we have with our end consumer? And with the mom that's going and shopping.

I mean Amazon has blown it up for them in a big way, right? And how do we get our house in order there. So that's the explanation around. You know, where CPG I think in the last five years. I'll give him a decade. But in five years that those leaders have really started to put money behind figuring out what new relationship should be with their customer.

Syya: Right. Well, that's money. Yeah, I mean that's a big thing right there is if if you've the problem with like the retail CPG space, and I would... Well, I don't know enough about oil and gas to say it, but he amount that the margins of their revenue is so slim and it's so razor-thin the idea of putting money towards Innovation digital transformation, some kind of transformation from the corporate side. You know how to be more efficient. But then from the consumer size how to maximize the reach, potential, interactions, etc. I feel bad for that industry because they are so thin on their margins. It's almost like the faster they can transform the better off they will be, but you have to put the money in it to make it happen.

Victoria: Yeah, totally and just an antidote, I had about four or five years ago. I had an engagement with a, we'll have them remain nameless, but a very large beverage company, Global Beverage Company. Who is an iconic brand and you know. I'm there with their stakeholders really trying to understand what they're trying to accomplish here and I said look ya'll are recognized as some of the best marketers in the world. What am I doing here? Why do you need my help, you know with the digital strategy? And they said look look at every cube that we have here in our office and it's going to have text book after textbook after textbook of here's how, here's marketing 101 right? He said look we are the best in the world at what marketers used to do. We have no idea what we're doing with what markers should be doing, marketers should be doing going forward and you know, we fake it right now, but we've got to get better at this or you know, we are in trouble right? So I thought that was it's always something that I kind of go back to when I think about the how much that, that industry is is ripe for disruption and for change and just a new way of doing things.

Erin:  I want to go back to to the we talked to a culture and I know you all are it's not just happening within Grant Thornton. You're looking at outside potential partners, you know bringing. I know you're looking at. There's definitely a different culture from a start-up, small team, were making things happen to a Grant Thornton. So as you start looking at these opportunities,you're helping to form the culture within Grant Thornton. How will you work to merge that culture because it's just so it's so different. 

But I love that companies are looking at entrepreneurs and saying we need you or we need to thank only so how do you make that happen?

Victoria: Yeah. So here's one of the great things about Grant Thornton that I have learned over the last three months since I've been there. They are hungry and they are so nice.  And they are they're willing to sort of admit to where they stand in the evolution curve right now.

I think they, which is the coolest kind of environment to be in on the precipice of something big right? I think they want to go there, really really want to go there. And so I think are the best partners that we're going to have and the best sort of I guess target companies that we would we would evaluate is not so much of a will the culture match, one for one because I just don't think we're going to we're going to get to that full criteria, right.  But where I hope that that we continue to have that curiosity of wow, what can these people? What can they teach us? How can we be more like them? In our own way, right?

We're not going to we're not going to change completely. But how can we be more like them, and how can we use what they have and their strengths to push us forward because we know we need to be pushed. Does that make sense? So when I, when I first meet kind of more traditional Grant Thornton people on my calls and my meetings with them there.

And say wow, we highly respect your background and experience. We hope to learn from you. And me the other side like I hope to learn their their culture as well and kind of figure out how we can match the together because I think it would be irresponsible to believe that Grant Thornton is going to change their core complexion for this.

It's just unrealistic. Right? And and so I think we're where we incorporate startups where we incorporate partners who can help us and inches forward or at least help us, you know, leap forward. is is a willingness on their part to go, you know what I get you right and I know that I'm here to help you. We're here to do this together.

And and so it's sort of a sort necessitates a culture on the other side that says we're not going to be too cool for you. We're not going to be too hipster for you. We're not going to be too didactic and and condescending right? Because we've seen some of that that happen. I've seen some of that happen and then just complete meltdown, right?

It just doesn't work.

Syya: Yeah. No, you've absolutely nailed. It's not black and white and it's not.. And I seen this it's company at my last company, a lot of acquisitions, and a lot of startups. They've got the energy which you might have a great concept product idea.

Yeah. And that's great and you how do you capture that in a bottle and and and and share that with a proven established business that has already existed long before the start up ever existed. If anything that that company that is acquiring or partnering probably inspired that start up at some point. And I think right there it mentioned it,  you can incorporate new ideas without changing your core values.

It's just like dating. You're going to be different types of personalities. You might date different personality. You might marry different personalities. You're not changing who you are in essence,

Victoria: But you might discovering right new things.

Syya: Yeah, and you embracing some of the new stuff you can reject others, but I think that's the critical part with what I think what you're saying, and if I'm taking away this correctly is look your you established person. I'm guess I'm doing it more human context. It's because it's easier for me to visualize this. I am me. I've been around for a few years and I have my core value system and who and what I am, but if I'm going to meet someone new and I'm gonna start a new friendship right or business relationship, I'm going to absorb some of the good things. and I might reject some of the it doesn't matter. I'm still me and I still want to evolve, I get it. I hear it. I think that's part of the critical thing we're missing in The Innovation come. Right is we're not trying to change who you are. Your core values are you, but we could help expand you, evolve you. I'm not a marketing person so I'm trying think of a better term like that.

Victoria: Exactly and I think that's why some of the consulting external hires have done okay here because we'd had we have to be adaptable all the time. You go into a new client environment. You assess the kind of culture you're dealing with you're reading people.

You're making sure that that is baked into your your service. You know, the way that you serve that customer and so when I think about, you know entering here at Grant Thornton, I expect them to come prepared with some curiosity and some openness. And then I have to also be cognizant that this is all new to them and it's okay, right. And I'm here to get them to kind of help them see the ultimate vision which sometimes can be scary.

But also show them how we can get there together. Step by step, right and and do things in a way that is not going to totally rock the world, right? And and we can do that. Now, there are there are definitely some things that we're going to have to that is going to kind of illicit some pain and and what have you. But I think, I think those are ones that the firm just has to say we're willing to go through the pain.

We're signing up for this and this is the bad medicine that we need right. And so the but there's going to be some things where we can help, that's that cultural exchange really kind of inching forward, and I think that when we evaluate partners and potential acquisition targets, it's going to be that interlacing effect that we're looking for.

Certainly we're looking to push the envelope, but we've got to have that given and take.

Syya: Do you look for highly established startups? For example, or if it's something like where you find a company that's got a really great idea concept but they're pretty new. Is that something that you would still look to collaborate with or partner with them? Or are you looking at more established, you know start a businesses to help other clients, ou know innovate?

Victoria: It's a good question. I mean, we're early on in our criteria here and we're learning some good lessons and we're looking learning some hard lessons. I think that you know, the the traditional way of procurement, I guess and assessing a vendor right and going through a vendor selection is is definitely something that we got to examine and make sure we're doing that right. And then apply, maybe some new criteria to that. And so I think that we are trying to understand how how risky do we want to be here? And I think it probably right now it's on a idea by idea basis to be honest with you. So if the ideas out there, I think we're willing to try some some crazy things and go with some unproven but I think on the on the side of hey look, you know putting together some of the operational things.  Some of these are established software packages, right? And you know, we're looking for vendors that are just going to plug into a greater platform that kind of stuff. And so so were were kind of thinking about vendor selection a little bit differently there. But I mean, so I wouldn't say there's any hard and fast rules right now around that. But but nothing is off the table.

What I've seen is nothing is off the table.

Syya: So how exciting is that?

Erin: Yeah exciting. It's like start-up within an old company with funding. To the process question. How are you finding is it standard RFP process right now, or are you doing other things to find some of these companies?

Victoria: Mmm. It's like both, you know, it's a little bit of RFP as a little bit hunt and pick, it's a little bit, hey go to this conference and see who's out there. So yeah always above.

Syya: so so are you saying that you could potentially like if you're at a conference and someone looks at you says there's Victoria. You need to get in front of her. I mean, how are you getting hunted? Are you serious? Are you are you getting hunted right now?

Victoria: Oh my God. Am I I probably wouldn't say I'm the person to person to meet but but you know, we've go..

So let me step back. The Innovation Design Team are the ones who are in charge of developing ideas from from light bulb goes on. And in taking all of those ideas all the way. I'm going to prototype and figuring out how how we can experiment with this idea in a real way. And I would say that would be like top of funnel type people so.

So talking with me at a conference or getting in front of me is as far as your business and your capabilities. It is a good idea because we are there at the forefront going. All right, I got this great idea. What how am I going to build this? To that that the company feels comfortable going to a scalable product?

Right? And you know, we get there any way we can.

Syya: Oh, you're in you're just basically cruising for some free drinks there. My friend sounds like it. I'm going to hunt you down just so I can stand next to you and get some free drinks.

Victoria: Yeah. Yeah, it's kind of crazy right now. It's kind of crazy right now, but it's fun. I mean and you know, we're learning as we go we're going to have some bumps and bruises and that's the fun part I think.  And, you know, it's definitely why I made the career transition to be honest with you. It's, it's definitely something that has sparked up my career and got me excited.

Syya: That sounds I'm kind of envious right now. I'm not going to lie to you that you are in such a profound spot in in our industry and our technology embracing our society embracing technology.

I can't ell you how excited I am for you just listening to you. Sounds like a lot of work though. There's no two ways about it. You got a lot of work ahead of you.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, it's Grant Thornton on the cover of Fast Company because we earned it. I think we sort of ever has a have arrived because who would ever think right that that we would be the one the fast mover and the one who's willing to take these this set of risks, you know.

Erin: So I was just going to say like wrapping up and I don't know if you can what exactly you can list. I know we've talked a lot of like general what you're doing. But any specific initiatives that you guys are currently working with or working on or any specific Industries. You're particularly interested in working with. or is it just open right now?

Victoria: Well, so I'm happy to kind of tell you a pet project of mine here at Grant Thornton. And something that I am trying to find like-minded individuals to lock arms with within the companies around client experience.

I think we talked a lot about doing engagements better write a more efficiently and and kind of reducing margins there. And then we talk about new products and new business models and revenue streams and all that.

But what are we doing to think about what our responsibility is as a as a service provider as a Professional Services Company, to change the game with our clients. And it could be changed the game like maybe we've been doing audits for them for years or doing taxes for them for years. But what is going to be new about the way that we do that with them?

That's an interesting exploration for me because I'm not hearing it a whole bunch. I'm not baking it into my business cases as much as I like to. So I want to understand what is going to be the set of ideas that goes after that piece and makes the there their firm for life,  right? What makes them choose us every year as their service provider?

And that is kind of speaking to the core.So we can we can go out we can talk about all the new stuff that we're going to do and and all the new product we're going to dump in the market.  But I want to go back to just the plain old client experience and what that means.

Erin: I love it. Well, Syya, do you have any, before we wrap up, any last questions? This has been I love this conversation because I.. I love the way things are changing. It excites me and just the opportunity to create the handshakes. Like that's what I love to do is like, you know, we talked to were talking about before and just with this podcast does and events.It's to be able to create those handshakes between those companies that have the funding and looking for those opportunities to partner and I think it's just it's a very exciting time, I'll say it to even be in Corporate America. I never thought I'd say that. But Syya, any last questions for you?

Syya: I have tons of more questions, but I think for the because we need to wrap this up outside of hunting you down randomly and probably frightening you at a bar and we are in Hoboken New Jersey or something. What is the best way to to get in front of you or your team? How would because Erin and I are  talking a ton of startups, right? So what what is your recommended way for for them to reach out to you?

Victoria: You know good old-fashioned email and phone. I feel like that right now. We don't have a good way to intake ideas that come right off the street. So like we have a great way to gather ideas internally. What we've kicked that off and it's going really well. We have a great way to incubate ideas that come from inside innovation. You know, just based on the the naturally the people that were hiring and who are evaluating and assessing the business and going I think we could do some interesting things here.

But what I, where we need to go next is to be able to have companies with great ideas showcased to us. They're thinking and I don't think we have a good way of doing that. To be honest with you mean. We have a couple of few people who are sort of our emerging technology smees that are in our in our innovation team. And they are in their expertise, let's say around blockchain or around robotic business process automation or whatever their meeting companies and then bringing them to say. Just kind of a we have a weekly awareness call of it's called an education series where we're just sort of bringing people in and interviewing them kind of like this podcast to spark ideas.

And we're just at the beginning stages of being able to bring external ideas in, and we would welcome any way to do that.

Syya: Rut-row Erin that sounds like an opportunity for us to partner up here. Yeah, rut-roh for you, Victoria.

We're going to talk each other soon.

Erin: You do need to meet Victoria in life. Like in her life around. She's really cool.

Syya: Now I appreciate and this has been a great conversation. I mean again, I think we underestimate the value of the direct, personal communication, picking up that phone saying Victoria. I heard you on a podcast.

I don't want to inundate you with like a massive spam and all that stuff either but perhaps there could be a system that set up where you can we can make recommendations or you know, and can I help qualify a little bit better? Yeah. That's another conversation will go offline.

Erin: Well, I Victoria thank you so much for coming on I realize short story kind of behind the scenes here. We we've been introduced by a mutual friend and we were just talking about initiatives we've got going on and I was sitting next to Victoria. So I got to go first and I was talking about you know, what we're working on the launch of the podcast and stuff which is like wait a minute, I just switched jobs, and we need to talk because you're doing exactly what I need. So I'm like, okay perfect. So thank you so much for having this conversation. I think we probably could have another. And shortly even going more in-depth, you know and really understanding this because I don't think...  I think startups, know, but I don't think they understand the opportunity that's out there for them with the right positioning, the right connection, the right that that companies aren't waiting for things to happen. They're seeking them out now, and I just think it's so important that if you're...  there's so much opportunity for partnerships right now.

It's just it's insane.

Victoria: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely, and I sort of see our innovation team as sort of an internal conduit into the greater Grant Thornton. Does that make sense? So on that point as far as making sure that the great ideas that are out there the companies that are out there providing new and different capabilities. I see our Innovation team charter as one of the conduit or the portal into grant and bringing what we're percolating inside and all the ideas that we have and marrying that up with capabilities that we don't have resident in our firm and being that sherpa for you know innovators and and startups and and folks with really good capabilities to bring them in and then we can show the firm how that works with our idea with our existing set of ideas. Does that make sense? So we're there to help shape those up.

And so what I'm loving is that, that new ideas don't have to come in cold, right. We're there to help kind of mold them up and and and represent them and advocate that for them within the firm.

Syya: That's so rare to get an advocate in a firm. I'm that's we don't hear that very often it in a true on a sense of it as an outsider looking in. I mean that's huge. And if anything that's that's my big takeaway is if I've got my own startup business are bought or I'm an established business, but I'll need to collaborate in some capacity. I mean, you're just making it that much easier like you say like a sherpa, you're a conduit in and into that thing that most corporations tend to be yeah.

Erin: Well, I think this is a perfect spot to end. Victoria, thank you so much. Again. Thank y'all we won't list your email or phone number, but if anybody has a question and wants to get into contact with you, reach out to Syya and I and will will make contacts as appropriate.

Thank you all so much.

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