The Goal: Focus on Business Growth
The team at The Proof Group, LLC, (Proof) has worked closely together for years. They are successful and well-known in the independent education business space and are well-respected in the FileMaker community.
In the winter of 2017, Ernest Koe and Steve Ritchie, the co-founders of Proof, approached Susan Fennema of Beyond the Chaos with a challenge. They had been working on Proof’s next phase of growth which involved major changes to internal processes and systems. To support this transition, they needed a project manager with a specific set of skills and experience. They needed someone with prior operations and leadership experience, accustomed to working collaboratively and capable of jumping into a fast-moving, highly kinetic situation.
Additionally, Proof wanted someone who could work closely with the leadership team, discuss strategy, and help execute without a lot of hand-holding. Tactically, that meant freeing up bandwidth for Ernest and Steve so that they could focus on strategy, knowing that there was someone who could continue to “chop the wood and carry the water.”
The Tactics: Project Management/Operations Retainer
Proof enlisted Susan as a Project Manager initially focused on critical client projects. She gained direct experience in how Proof operated, working in the business so that Ernest and Steve could work on the overall business.
The goal was to have Susan deeply integrated into the dynamic and diverse Proof team. So, she worked closely with all of the team members and some clients via Slack throughout the workday, collaborating with them to develop a refined structure for client projects without creating too much bureaucracy or stress. Proof invited Susan to take part in proposal reviews and strategy planning. Additionally, she did some high-level administrative and operational work. Examples were client billing, calendar management, and FileMaker license management for Proof clients. In addition, Proof shifted general operational tasks to Susan and invited her to have a role in laying the groundwork for organizational growth.
The Proof Affiliate Team Project
A highlight of Proof’s strategy for growth was the creation of an affiliate team program, inviting developers and designers to become part of an active and supportive network. Susan was part of the organizing and planning effort for the program, which has continued to grow. She assisted with developing the on-boarding process. That process included managing the required subcontractor paperwork and getting affiliate members into the team Slack channel. Susan remains active with the affiliate team as the manager of the onboarding process. She is the first point of contact and the coordinator and facilitator of regular virtual get-togethers.
The Results: Growth!
After 18 months of working together under this retainer, Ernest reflected on the relationship:
We are having a moment here at Proof. Our core team has nearly doubled and our consulting business has more than doubled. All this required us to make some changes. Change isn’t easy even with the best of intentions and individual commitments. Transition takes time and it takes sustained team effort; but, when everyone on the team is already busy doing important things, change can be nigh impossible.
We needed help to unlock key resources in support of our business plans. We needed someone who is selfless, tough-minded, able to execute on big ideas and unafraid of driving change — culture is company code, and we needed someone who could read and work with that code without the decades of professional development it takes to grow that resource. Moving fast, we were making a lot of new things, and trying to do so thoughtfully; it was vital that we had someone capable of keeping up and helping us push ourselves forward.
Ernest appreciated Susan’s style, as well as the strength and sense of humor it took on her part to work with a tight-knit group of strong personalities and convictions.
Following this phase of intense transition, Susan has continued to work closely with Proof. In her current role, Susan leads Proof’s affiliate team and manages special internal projects. She also maintains the FileMaker licenses for Proof’s clients.
Additionally, Susan’s relationship with Proof led to her involvement as a steering committee member with PauseOnError. Co-planning Pause Stand Tall and two more following PauseX events have been some of the most illuminating and challenging projects she has managed over her career.