The last few years have accelerated the need for CMOs to be changemakers. More than ever, CMOs are able to drive much-needed transformation both within the marketing team and across the wider firm.
This week on the CMO series, Alistair Bone is fortunate to be joined by Shade Vaughn, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, to discuss the role of the CMO as a changemaker and what driving change looks like in practice.
Shade and Ali discuss:
- Shade’s career journey and how he came to his current role at Akin
- The point in that journey that driving transformation became integral
- The importance of ‘intent’ and Shade’s previous experience in this area
- How that approach translates in Shade’s work at Akin and how that aligns with the marketing efforts at the firm
- The next technology Shade has set his sights on
- The biggest mistakes CMOs make in driving change
- The sub-skills and experience that marketers looking to become CMOs should develop now
- Advice for others looking to be a changemaker across their legal marketing career
Ali: Welcome to the Passle CMO Series podcast where we talk all things marketing and business development in the world of professional services. Today, we're delving into how you can drive actual change. You know, over the last few years, things have accelerated around the need for CMOs to be change makers and have that ability to ultimately drive the much-needed transformation both within the marketing team and of course, across the wider firm. So on this episode of the CMO series, we're fortunate enough to be joined by Shade Vaughn the CMO of Akin to discuss the role of the CMO as a changemaker and what driving change actually looks like in practice. So welcome Shade.
Shade: Thank you. It's great to be here Ali.
Ali: We're absolutely thrilled to have you on and obviously just chatting beforehand is a new week and as you said, new challenges. So we're appreciative of your time.
Ali: Without any further ado. We'd obviously like to open up with the initial question and Shade, I'd absolutely love to hear from you on actually starting us at the very start. So if you could take a moment just to talk us through your career briefly and how you came to be in your current role at Akin, please?
Shade: Yeah, I'd be happy to, and maybe even just before I get into the career aspect, it's because I'll come back to this inevitably later in the podcast. I grew up in a really bohemian environment. My dad was an artist, a painter. My mom was a guidance counselor. I grew up in a really small town in Texas and it was kind of this collection of misfits. I loved the town. I loved my upbringing, but I was taught early on in an extreme way that money does not buy you happiness and that you're supposed to pursue meaning in your life to find happiness. And so the fact that I'm in a job now where I almost, you know, every waking moment I'm thinking about work is kind of an odd connection point. But that was where I emerged from. And I studied communications in college - speech communications. I feel like and felt like at that point that communications really sits at the foundation for all human interaction, right? I mean, storytelling is known that that's how you drive change, that's how humans relate to one another. I think it's just such a vital part of any industry, much less legal marketing, it just is super critical. And so I studied that I started off my career working for a PR firm in New York City and really found it interesting. I mean, PR firms are brought in to handle crisis communications or maybe merger and acquisition, a new CEO, a new leadership, and often work hand in hand with the CEOs of companies. And so I really liked that. It's a new challenge as you said at the top, you know, a new challenge every week that keeps you interested. It's really gratifying work that you get to see at the end of the day, you know, we drove this coverage or we prevented this negative coverage from coming out. So it was a great way to spend the first chapter of my career.
From there I moved over to a digital marketing agency part of Publicis Groupe and what became Publicis Sapient which is their digital marketing arm. I originally came in as a communications lead for them and then quickly moved up into a head of marketing and then a global head of marketing role for them. Spent about 4.5 years there. And then I moved over to Capgemini which is selling IT services to CIOs primarily like artificial intelligence and cloud, quantum computing, and so on and it was a very different challenge. Capgemini is a global company today. I think it has more than 350,000 employees around the globe. So there's a lot of interesting challenges of just working across geographies and cultures and fitting different practice groups together and thinking holistically about how you drive, not only a strategy but also how you drive an organization forward that is that complex, was an interesting challenge. After about 3.5 years there, I was the North America CMO, they came to me and asked whether I'd have any interest in taking on more of a global role. We were living in Austin, Texas at the time. My family, I have a wife and two small kids and we weren't particularly interested in moving to Paris for that role. But we kind of came to a compromise that we've moved to New York City or the New York City area. And so at that point, we were already thinking about making a geographical move and a head hunter called about an opportunity with a law firm that I had never really considered. I didn't even follow a whole lot in the business media of the world of law but I'm always open to a new challenge. I agreed to take some meetings with the chair and their managing partners and spent a lot of time talking through the business of law and the challenges that law firms have today and it's everything from, you know, cross-practice selling, big focus on digital marketing, digital media, how you leverage that in the same way that a lot of companies like a Publicis Groupe, Capgemini have done that were really very intriguing to me. I did, you know, at that time I didn't appreciate that there's a reason that law firms have historically dragged a little bit behind other B2B marketing organisations. That's because lawyers self-admittedly are very resistant to change and very conservative and very sceptical by nature. So the idea that you can come in and paint this vision for how the future of marketing is going to work and convince everybody to go along with it, is a really tough challenge. And every one of my CMO colleagues across the industry will tell you the same thing. I mean, that's the age-old problem for serving a law firm, but we bet both sides both the firm itself, but also me that me coming in from the outside would be in a unique position to be able to persuade people to come along with that change. And so at that point, knowing that we were going to have to move the family to New York, I took the exciting step to join the world of legal marketing and that's how I ended up at Akin today.
Ali: That's a wonderful story and I actually really appreciate you opening up with, you know, a really nice little bit of detail about your upbringing. Actually, I think that's really interesting and it's something that I actually hold close to me, which is finding happiness, in what you're doing. So I'm sure that whilst you've gone down, I suppose the corporate route or maybe not something that sort of brings meaning to life. I'm sure that you, you hold back close to, in terms of finding happiness and the joy of your role.
Ali: And the other thing is that's gonna now lead into actually the question I wanted to ask is that Capgemini moment and the transition into the world of laws, it's really quite pivotal because it's not often that that fans will look outside the industry for individuals. So I think it's really exciting in terms of what you've probably been able to bring and that's really gonna help sort of form the rest of this conversation. So with that in mind, it would be really interesting to understand at what point in that journey you think change and driving in transformation became such an important part of your understanding of being a CMO.
Shade: Sure. I think it even, you know, if I think back one of the first moments that I got turned on to this whole idea of a change agent was I had… it was a new chief strategy officer when I was working at Publicis Groupe that was hired to come in specifically to drive change within the agency guy named Scott Sorokin, who is to this day one of my lifelong mentors and has become a good friend to me. I watched him come into the organisation and in a very meaningful way, drive significant change in a very short amount of time. And he's a very bold, innovative thinker. He's a great storyteller. We'll come back to that I'm sure several times over the course of our conversation, but storytelling was the way that he brought everybody along on that journey and it became very exciting to me that an individual in a position like that could come in and really drive change. Get people to start thinking about things in a different way, envisioning a very different future. And so that was when it first kind of hit me that this was an interesting direction that you could focus on your career. I think it really served me well at Capgemini. I was there when COVID hit obviously and, you know, we were already in the midst of thinking as an organisation about what sort of technology we needed to invest in from a digital marketing perspective and things like personalised advertising and content measurement. How do you create very specific messaging for individuals based on where they are in the sales funnel? How you connect different tactics from, you know, webinars to pitch sessions to events and understanding that if they, you know, they read our email but they didn't come to the event, but then they did come to the events like, what should we serve up to them next? We were really looking in a meaningful way at what do you need to invest in that? So we brought on a lot of behavioral intense tools at that time, you know, sixth sense is well known in this space. We use a tool or we used the tool at Capgemini called Activio and what that allows you to do is follow the market. Meaning both the specific companies that you're serving today, your existing client base, and specific companies that you're not yet serving, but you want to serve. Understanding just at any given time is based on the baseline when you see spikes in interest around a specific topic. So at Capgemini that meant suddenly you see one of your clients or company you want to be working with is spiking on research around artificial intelligence and it puts you in a position then you know who the key decision makers are. You don't know who's doing the research, but you've got some clues and you can start putting sponsored content and personalised advertising in front of those key decision-makers to see whether they respond to this content. They click on the ad, they come to your website or they click on a piece of thought leadership. Once they're on your website, do they spend any time on it? Do they come and look at specific individuals' bios and how interested are they in it? Once you know that they have an interest, obviously, that's the right time to strike. In the technology space, which is what Capgemini was in, I mean, the magic is in the dark funnel, so we called this whole initiative illuminating the dark funnel. What that meant was, it's a long sales process typically, like you've got a new CIO that comes in. They need like a massive cloud migration project that's very expensive and very time-consuming. They're gonna go through a very careful process of vetting the different service providers, making sure that they meet all the key decision makers and you know, they may pull the trigger six months after you first started a conversation. What you want to do in that scenario is shorten the funnel. You wanna begin your conversation with these businesses when you know that they're about ready to go ahead and hire somebody. And you get those clues through the research that they're doing online that leaves a lot of breadcrumbs. But you can also see where else they're researching. Are they going to your competitors' websites? Are they reading thought leadership? Are they doing research from analyst organisations that understand how seriously they're investigating it? And so if you can shorten the process, the funnel and really begin your interaction and put all your focus as a sales organisation on those that are interested in that topic at that time, it's a lot more efficient, you know, it opens up a lot more time for you to just invest in those that are very serious about it at that time and not waste all of your energy and those that aren't really going to buy in the near future.
So we brought on those tools COVID hit, which was an absolutely, I mean, I hate to say it from a humanity perspective, that is not what you'd want to see going on in the world. But from a business perspective, we had a significant advantage against our competitors because we'd already invested in this technology. And so our marketing and sales organisations moved very quickly in this direction. We expanded it not only from North America but across the globe so that you were working hand in hand, marketing was supplying these leads that showed the most promised sales. Sales would quickly put the bulk of their resources focused on those areas. And it was very successful. So it opened up a lot of new ideas, not only about how you shorten the funnel, but how you can cross-sell across different practices. So again, I have Capgemini which is things from artificial intelligence to cloud, to cybersecurity. And if you're already working with a client in one of those areas, and they're showing a spike in one of these other areas and you already have a relationship. It's a much easier connection point for you to get in and meet the right people through your existing relationships. So as I was talking to law firms and the management it became seemed very clear to all that the same concept really should apply to law in the sense of, you know, you may be working with the clients in intellectual property litigation. You might do something more on the corporate side and M&A activity or international trade.
And if you just follow your existing client base and you see different changes in how they're doing research, you can quickly come up with a sales strategy to go in and anticipate what a client is going to need and the holy grail of this is being able to go to a client that you worked with day in and day out and say: “Listen, we've been following your situation and we think that there's an opportunity for you if you bring in the right partner to really dive in a little bit more aggressively with artificial intelligence and some of the efforts that you have there” and for the client to say to you, “I didn't even know this was going on. I mean, you helped me anticipate where our company is going to go.” And that's what you're trying to be as a lawyer a true counsel and advisor, helping them anticipate where the market is going. And so that was, you know, it started at Capgemini, but we've now brought on a lot of the same talent that did this for us at Capgemini to Akin and it's absolutely the most exciting thing that we're doing right now, and has a ton of potential.
Ali: That's… I mean, what an incredible answer, and there's so much to unpack their Shade. I'm kind of trying to think where to start. One of the things actually, I wanted to… One of the threads to almost pull on initially was just simply because you mentioned at the very top of it was you spoke about Scott who was a huge inspiration to you as that kind of Chief Transformation Officer at Capgemini, just out of interest because I think we'd be fascinated for people listening to this to hear, were there any particular insights that you picked up on that you were like that is why he's so good at driving transformation. Was it the storytelling? Was there something else? That you were like, that's almost that the skill he has.
Shade: Absolutely. I mean, so storytelling sticks out first and foremost. I've never seen somebody that will pull together a slide deck to go into a room and tell these amazing stories. One of the ones that he would frequently tell is like an F1 race, and the crew that is making all the thousands of very miniscule changes to the car, both in the lead up to a race, but in the course of a race that is literally changing things by, you know, 1/1000 of a second that add up over time that ends up making you a champion racer. And that's how you have to think about marketing, right? There's no one single tool that's going to allow you to suddenly win the race. It's all of these micro changes that you have to drive that need to be connected to a broader strategy. So his storytelling component made a huge impact on me that carries through today. But I think another part here that you know, I've always, I think it comes from my upbringing, but been very human-focused in my approach. I spend a lot of time trying to get to know my team and what they're interested in, what their passions are outside of the office, what drives them, and what motivates them. And one of the things that I saw Scott come in and do is, this is a business, it's a human-focused business because you're selling people, whether it's, you know, in the digital marketing space, which I was in there or at a law firm. You're selling people and what you need is people that are fully bought into the vision of where you're trying to go and at any given time all of us are in different places in our lives for whatever reason, you know, maybe I'm gonna be more focused on, I just had a newborn child and I need some mental space to be able to focus on that child and I cannot work, you know, 14 hour days coming in every day. But I do bring a lot of creativity and so learning how those different pieces come together. But also having hard conversations with people when the time is right and saying, you know, is this really where you want to go in your career? And if not, I will help you. I will personally help you find something that does fit for you that makes you happy that motivates you. The way that Scott would come in and make these changes across the team with an understanding of where we need to go big picture was also very meaningful to me because you know, the last thing you want to do is go and have a difficult conversation with somebody about taking a change in making a change in their career. But oftentimes if you really invest the energy to get to know somebody, you can have that conversation in a way that they're actually thrilled as they yes, Shade, you're right. I did not want to spend all of my time on this new behavioral intent tool that you're so excited about because that's not interesting to me and I want to go in a different direction. And so whether you deploy them in a different role on your team or you help them find a role in a different organization, I think just understanding human nature and that you do have to be willing to step up and have those conversations with people was also very meaningful to me.
And then I guess the last thing I'd say is just that it takes some boldness and some courage and, you know, driving change regardless of the size of the organisation, whether it's 2000 people or it's 350,000 people like a Capgemini. It takes a level of confidence that you know, it's not going to be immediate. It takes a lot of time to get there and not giving up, you know, really believing in the vision and that you're going to get there and not everybody is going to buy in right off the bat. So, you know, trusting that you will be able to pull these people along by the end of the process, it takes a lot, of courage. And it was another thing that really made an impact on me in the way that Scott holds himself to this day really lives the credo.
Ali: Yes, that's really interesting. So thank you very much for sharing that. And that actually, there are some amazing threads there that bring us back to what I was gonna ask around is kind of start delving a little bit more into um what's more of a macro change and those micro changes, which I think is the behavioral intent that you're talking about there in terms of bringing that in as a system. Because that is something that is in many ways revolutionary to the world of law. And as you say, it's been used so well within you know, at Capgemini and professional services, but in law firms, it just doesn't really exist. And I know there's something that you're about to undertake at Akin, you alluded to bringing in some people from Capgemini around that. And I know from the previous conversations we've spoken about that's taken some real boldness and courage to use the words that you were just all losing to there. And obviously, again, that's human focus of being able to kind of take the partners in the firm on a journey that this is something that's going to be worthwhile you um you implementing. And as I said, it's more of a macro than necessarily a micro chain that's gonna have a real big impact. So I'd absolutely love to understand if possible sort of how you see that working in terms of affecting, you know, the marketing efforts within the firm and,
and also how will intent data and marketing be used to achieve goals for the firm as well, because obviously there's so much to unpack within this.
Shade: Yeah, I'm trying to think exactly where to start on that because there are some interesting threads along the way. Maybe, if we start with what is a law firm trying to do, it's got a set of core practices that it's either well known for or it's trying to build a brand in the marketplace for. And so you're, you want to create visibility for those practices through leadership, through awards, through client events and you're always putting the, the lawyers out front and center with that, and every great lawyer will say, you know, my brand is the most important thing for me, so I'm protective of it. I trust Shade that, you know what you're talking about, but I have to be protective of my brand. And so I think, you know, going back to that original point of really getting to know people on a personal level becomes really key in a law firm and understanding what each partner is trying to do what each practice group is trying to do long term. And then across each of those practice groups, what the firm is trying to do over the next several years. And every law firm, I think it's safe to say is trying to grow, and it's getting much more competitive those at the very top of the market do so through scale and just sheer size of the firm. So, you know, they don't have to make - as a percentage of their revenues - they don't have to invest as much in marketing and business development because they're such a large firm. So for a firm like us, we have to be a bit more creative. And I've always been a fan of the Moneyball concept of like you come in you think about how you're not going to like dramatically spend a lot more money in business development you have to be much more wise in how you deploy that money. And I really thrive on that challenge of looking for creative ways for where you can invest. So when I got here, we did not rapidly expand the number of people that worked on in business development. We spend a lot of time understanding our existing processes. How could we make changes? What new technology could we bring in? How could we create new processes and the way that different functions interact with each other? And ultimately, how is that helping the business development team become more proactive advisors to their partners? And by that, I mean, you know, historically, what you do is you wait for the phone to ring you have to pick it up, right when it rings and they say I need a pitch deck. We're gonna go and meet this client tomorrow. I want you to emphasise A, B, and C and most business development teams have gotten very good at that. They've adapted and learned how to be able to respond very quickly to something like that. But what everybody wants to do is be able to, in addition to doing that, go proactively to your partners and say, listen, we're seeing this opportunity in the market. We're seeing, you know, a big uptick among, you know, a half dozen of our clients right now, that are really interested in like us China relations. And we think that there's an opportunity there. So within our client base, we've identified, you know, these six that not only are showing an interest in it, but we've got some really strong relationships there. We want to quickly go in with a point of view and explain to them how we see the market evolving as it relates to the US and China relations. And here's how they might think about how it's going to impact their business, which will inevitably, you know, if not generate business, although I think it will, it strengthens the relationship because you're adding value to your clients by understanding at a deep level what they're going through based on their online activity and bringing them an idea and some thinking.
And so, you know, there's an aspect of this, you have to get the business development team comfortable with these new tools and technology, make sure that they feel like they can trust the data, here's how to use the data. And then here's how to bring it to your partners from there. We have built out, just as many wins as possible, just trying to socialise that across the firm. Here's how we deploy these tools for this practice. Here's how it could work for your practice, doing lots of training sessions to get them comfortable with it and it is a journey. And that, you know, the odd thing about law firms is the busier that they get the less time that the lawyers have to focus on business development because they're working our serving clients. But it also means they don't have as much time to take on additional work. So it's really, you know, step one is, is driving an increase in demand. Step two is to then use the time that we have as a business development organization to identify the opportunities out in the market proactively, and bring them to the lawyers. And then I think, you know, phase three to this is going to be us assessing what are going to be the most valuable opportunities for us, what would create the most value for the firm in terms of the specific practices we would engage, you know, obviously the highest value work that we want to pursue and do this in a very thoughtful way so that we're pursuing the work that we really want as a firm, we're more successful at it because we're getting to them at the right moment in time before our competitors can get there. And we're telling a story that really shows, demonstrates that we understand their business at a deep level.
Ali: Yeah, I think what's so fascinating about all of that is it kind of all ties into that relationship side that you've spoken about quite a bit. So that example, you gave the quick win with your financial restructuring group. You know, that's a fantastic example of that saying that you use at Capgemini, you know, the illuminating the dark tunnel and then being able to not only empower sort of the marketing BD team to be uh advisor towards your partners and those practices but then they were able to be advisors towards your clients and guide them in the right way. And I think that's just so fascinating and without maybe giving away too many trade secrets, are you able to maybe share one or two examples of other things you might be doing around how you maybe get the right information in front of these clients? And equally, please feel free to say that actually, you'd rather not share that because you feel that it's uh something kind of close to close to Akin's heart in terms of what you're doing there. But if there was anything slightly generic, maybe from your time, you can actually, once we know that, you know, X client is looking at this, these are sort of ways that we go about getting the right stuff in front of them.
Shade: Yeah. Well, one of the things that… and I just walked into this situation, it was already here long before I got here, but Akin really does a phenomenal job of the practice management, client value teams work very closely with business development and marketing, which work very closely with finance so that each of those functions work hand in glove and there's a lot of trust that already exists there. So that was a wonderful situation that I managed to just, you know, get to piggyback onto and be a part of what typically if we've, let's say, you know, the way law firms work today is we have a lot of different practices engaged with a client a and we'll meet on a regular basis, we'll say, what are you hearing from your client contacts, any changes within their organisation, any new focus areas? And so you just kind of, you know, share an understanding of any insights that you have and then as a team thinks about a way that we can go in and propose something that would add value to the client. What this allows us - these new tools and technology bring to the table - is a much deeper understanding of different silos within the client organisation that may not be talking to each other. And they, you know, many most large organisations whether it's a fund or a public company, a global corporation, they struggle with the fact that you know, different areas of the legal organization are pursuing these initiatives without a necessarily visibility to what's happening in some of the other areas. So what this allows us to do is connect the dots a bit more. So, you know, one area of the in-house legal team might be researching AI and another person might be researching, you know, US/China relations and us being able to kind of pull those two points together and go, you know, wait a minute, they're researching AI, another, part of the company is researching US/China relations. Maybe it's, you know, trade sanctions and we know that they must be making a big bet in AI, we, at that point, we don't know whether it's, you know, a company that they're thinking about acquiring or maybe it's some new IP that they're trying to think through how they're going to bring it to market and market across the world. But just knowing that they're doing this research, which allows us to then go into our existing clients and say, look, we've been following your situation, we don't have to let them know that they, you know, they've been researching these specific topics, but we've been following the situation closely. We've done some analysis of the market. We understand what some of your competitors are doing. We have a deep understanding of how the different regulatory environment across the world is going to be shifting and has shifted recently and how that's going to impact you which really should influence the way that you make some investments. That's, I mean, that's a very valuable contribution that you can make to a client's business and we can do it in a data-driven way as opposed to just you know, I had lunch with my clients and they mentioned that, you know, they think that we're researching some AI initiatives, I mean, it's just a much more specific understanding of what's happening.
So I guess going back to my point about all of these different functions working well together hand in glove. If you, you know, you want to go in and you wanna have a conversation with a client being able to quickly pull together our credibility in the space, other clients that we've helped support across those different areas that they've been researching, which the business development team usually has a pretty good handle on. As well as some, let's call it market research of what their competitors are doing. And then lastly some deep analysis, whether it's financial analysis or it's specific historical information about the client's business and how they've grown and what it's driven their growth and bring all those together into a story of, here's what's going on in the market, here's what's going on within your organisation. And then here's how we have helped others like you. Being able to pull that together in very short order by working across functions is very hard to do. That's a big challenge. I think it gets exciting when you think about, you know, ChatGPT opens up of you being able to pull together some very specific persuasive marketing messages is exciting. Where I see this going eventually and I heard this on a - I think it was an NPR program over the weekend - of how like the military, the US military is already using ChatGPT-like tools in order to house specific information that is obviously not shared outside the military. But if we want to understand a specific situation and what the likelihood is that let's say Iran is going to initiate a cyber attack against the US, they can pull together their intelligence reports across the military and come up with a pretty specific understanding of how likely that is. So I think where this will go with law firms is again like housing all of this information that we need to keep protected, we need to keep private and being able to quickly research, you know, how our existing experience matches what they're going through in the market and come up with a very compelling story that that's where it's going to get very exciting. And I think the law firms that can pull together that level of analysis that's specific to a client's business that really tells a persuasive narrative is going to be so key to success in the new world. And I've said this to our partners. I'm really bullish on AkIn's opportunity here to really leap ahead in the next few years because it's really, there are only so many people in the world that know how this technology works and know how to connect several of these different tools together in an automated way that creates a seamless process and can run those programs. Very few people in the world can do that well, much less have an understanding of a law firm environment and be able to navigate that change. And I feel really excited about the team that we have in place and in our ability to really drive forward in the market based on that advantage that we should have for the next several years.
Ali: And I was about to say, and luckily you're the ones who have got that team. So it's a huge strategic advantage for you to be able to push on. But I think it's genuinely just fascinating like listening to you talk about it. And it's such a wonderful example of the topic of this conversation is driving actual change within an organisation because it's something that hasn't been done and you're implementing and you know, you said it's a journey, but you'll start to see that impact, you may have seen some, some quick wins, but over time you're only gonna see more and more and it's going to position you in a, you know, probably ahead of the pack in many ways, just as you kind of saw the advantages, at the likes of Capgemini and I'm sure many other professional service firms use outside of the legal industry. With this, it'd be interesting to kind of like maybe sort of shift slightly and understand around that, you know, driving behavioral change, whether there's any new kind of mountains after this, that you're looking to climb, so to speak, you know, is there another piece of technology or a different sort of approach on the horizon that you're really setting your sights on?
Shade: I really do land on the AI and ChatGPT side of this. I think, you know, being able to pull together that complex understanding of a client's business and put it together in an interesting format and presentation when you go in and you meet with the client and also helping lawyers understand how to tell that story is the next hill to climb. That's gonna take quite a bit of change management in the years ahead and being very thoughtful and following the evolution of ChatGPT and tools like it. I do think that's the next hill to climb for all of us every CMO in the legal space.
Ali: Yeah, I mean, it's what you can do to, you know, get their thoughts out there and sort of, I suppose that timely manner and the ability to actually just elevate them within the market whilst you say teaching them about what else there is and how everything that you're doing from a technology standpoint surrounding them ultimately is gonna benefit them from a business perspective. And that ROI, so yeah, I'm sure it's an exciting path that you're about to go on and continue that journey. So, Shade, please, if you could, would you be able to share maybe around having spoken about a couple of these projects and you've obviously been involved with that, whether there's any particular I suppose mistakes that you've seen marketers make or CMOs make along the way when they'd be trying to drive change that, that maybe you would think could be done differently?
Shade: I think there are a few very common mistakes that all of us have made along the way. I mean, one is just always focusing on being able to demonstrate the financial value of the initiatives that you're undertaking, which means you need to make sure that your CFO and in a law firm, it's your chair and management committee, but in a corporation, it's your executive leadership team, making sure that they understand the impact that you're driving. So if it's, you know, an investment you're making in new technology, showing them how it's being deployed, how it's actually driving that increase in revenue or increase in leads or whatever it is engagement with your content. Making sure that you've got a very clear and transparent, open line of communication and I think part of that is owning the responsibility that you're, if it's not going as well as you thought, being transparent about that, or if you think it's going to take a bit longer than you initially said, you know, explain the reason and the thinking for why you believe it will come around. But having that very open trusting relationship with your, your CFO and management, I think another common mistake is you can do a fantastic job rallying the team around a vision and an initiative and everybody's engaged, everybody's moving forward, but you haven't brought the rest of the organisation along with you means that you're operating in a vacuum and you're not going to have that impact. So, in my environment, that's obviously you've got to convince all of the practice group leaders, you've got to convince all of the partners that there's a real untapped value that we can create through these new tools and technologies and that it's safe and that it's trustworthy and, and then helping bring them along in the journey. So I think, you know, understanding that it's a broader organisation that you're serving and not just your team, is a common mistake. And then I, you know, the last one is, I think it's, it's a really interesting time in the job market now with, you know, there was the great resignation which hopefully, now it seems to be, we passed the crest of that. But you have a lot of people around the world that are reevaluating their own personal priorities and how they want to spend their time and what's important to them. And there are a lot of people who have come to the conclusion that, you know, working 16 hour day after day doing this research, that's always urgent is not what I want to be doing. And I think paying very close attention to just the mindset of your team culture and how it's evolving, and it will never stop evolving. But understanding at a deep level, how your different team leaders are starting to change their own thinking and approach, who your rising stars are that want to take on new challenges, and constantly trying to make the team culture match perfectly to the vision that you have is going to be a constant juggle. You know, it's not like you get the team in order and then everything's great. You don't have to worry about that. I mean, it's every day you have to come in thinking about, you know, how are we going to continue to drive this team forward and so I do think paying very close attention to just human psychology and how people are feeling at any given point in the year is very key.
Ali: Yeah, I mean, as with anything particularly in, in a human-led business, humans are the key to it. So as you said, it's managing that change along the way with your own team in terms of what you're trying to do. And you know, like that point, you say you got to bring people on the journey, you can't just speak into a vacuum and not have individuals involved with everything. So that's really interesting to understand. Unfortunately, it's gonna bring us around to our final question. I could keep talking to you about our shade around all this topic. I think there's a lot more that could be unpacked. And maybe you'll have to say for another episode. But the final question, what I'd love to understand is, what your one piece of advice for others looking to be a change maker across their legal marketing career would be? And just with that, if there were any particular sort of subs skills or experience, you think could really help as well?
Shade: You know, I remember when the pandemic hit, we held a global team call at the time and we talked very openly about the fact that obviously things were going to change fairly dramatically out in the business world. And it remained to be seen how that would impact our own organisation and our own team. And remember using sort of the analogy of like you're in this, it's this big massive room with a lot of people and suddenly the lights go out and it's pitch black and nobody knows where they are anymore and the need to just remain calm and come up with a plan of attack which, you know, if you're in that situation, you probably want to find your way to a wall and then follow that wall around until you, you reach a door that can get you out or can provide light or whatever matches that analogy. But I think having that, you know, a sense of calm, maybe calm confidence that, you know, as things continue to evolve and change rapidly around you, that you're making the right decisions. And obviously, I mean, there are plenty of Charlatans out there that, you know, just blindly follow their ideas without paying attention to whether it's working or not. But when you are paying attention to the signs of whether this direction or this strategy is paying off if you really believe in it, it is going to take the courage of you, constantly persuading very smart people, very successful people that hadn't been thinking in this way that this is the right way and that does require quite a bit of self-awareness and confidence that you can continue to push forward. And so I don't think everybody should necessarily want to be a change maker. I think it's a stressful way to live. But if that is of interest to you, if it motivates you and excites you, I do think that there is, you know, a certain level of confidence and on the other side of that coin is a sense of humbleness, of knowing that you're not always going to have the right answers. And when you have, when you make a mistake, it's important to own up to that and change direction quickly, but just embrace the challenge of it and move forward.
Ali: Yeah, that's a really wonderful answer. And I think it just shows what you're talking about earlier that actually, you can either like the behavioral intent that you've implemented at a is, you know, that's quite a macro change. But actually, you know, the story of F1 and all those thousands of sort of micro-changes can lead to the 1% difference, the 10% difference over time. And that is all part of that. So I think, you know, as you say, having the confidence to be able to do that around what you're doing to help push forward will make a big difference in the long run. Shade, I could have gone on for much longer around this and really delved into some other threads around what came up. I've personally found it incredibly fascinating and have no doubt that everybody listening will also thoroughly enjoy this. So, thank you ever so much for sharing those insights and taking us on what's been sort of a fantastic story and journey so far.
Shade: Well, it's been an absolute pleasure, Ali. I'd love to continue the conversation long into the future and really look forward to seeing everything that Passle is doing and seeing a lot of synergies there. So I appreciate the work that you guys are doing.
Ali: Very kind of you. And then I say thank you, thank you so much for your time. In the interest of a tradition at Passle, we finish off with a little quick-fire round. Just to kind of get into you personally. I know you gave us some insight at the very start, Shade. So if you don't mind, I'd love to just quickly run through those.
Shade: Sure, of course, I'll try to keep them brief in the spirit of this.
Ali: So quickly, what's your favourite business and non-business book?
Shade: Business Book: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim has long been a favourite of you know, in driving innovation looking for the opportunity in the market that maybe your competitors are not looking for. That's definitely high on my list. Non-business book, recently read Grace by Cody Keenan. He was a speechwriter for President Obama and looked at a 10-day period in June of 2015 when there were three massive things that came together at the same time, one was a fairly dramatic white supremacist shooting, and then a Supreme Court ruling on Affordable Care Act and then another Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. But just really following how a speechwriter works with, obviously, a talented and brilliant politician, to help think through how do we communicate this out to America and ultimately to the world. So that was a non-business book. I really enjoyed it.
Ali: Fascinating and relating back to sort of, I guess maybe some of your studies back in the day and your interest around communication at a human level. What was your first job?
Shade: I grew up in a tourist environment, Port of Aransas, Texas. And I worked at a souvenir store pressing t-shirts. So tourists would come in, they'd pick a t-shirt, we would press a design on it and hand it off to them.
Ali: Love it, love it. What makes you happy at work?
Shade: An interesting one. Given the start of the conversation, I love nothing more than a team member that got praise, unexpected praise, from one of their stakeholders and they share that and are excited about it. That makes me happiest.
Ali: Wonderful. What are you listening to at the moment?
Shade: Just over the weekend somebody sent me the new record from Natural Child called Be My Guest. So I've got that on repeat on Spotify in terms of podcasts. I listen to Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish. It's very good.
Ali: I enjoy that one. And finally, where is your favourite place to visit? And why, please?
Shade: It's the beach. I grew up on the beach and so I find the ocean very calming.
So I happen to live in Connecticut now. So I try to make it to the beach at least during the summertime, make it to the beach at least once every weekend and just find an hour or two to just kind of bring a sense of calmness to my life.
Ali: You know, I have to agree. I live by the river in London. It does help, although I'd rather be on the beach. Shade again, thank you so much. This has been brilliant.
Shade: Thank you very much, Ali, I appreciate it.