1. Give me a quick snapshot of what you do
I work in founding teams, developing their growth strategy and execution plans, which is working at the crossroads of commercial operations, customer insight, marketing and data. It’s embedding data at the heart of the business and optimising the business from a people, process and technology perspective.
2. How did you come to work in growth strategy?
My career started in publishing, but in 2009 I moved to China to run a technology business and the data and insight I was dealing with there was vast, I became focused on how it could impact and empower business growth. Businesses need to have a really strong understanding of their customer data and, insight in order to see and meet the market opportunities. I believe that until you really understand and become a customer led organisation, you won’t be able to diversify or grow successfully.
In China I was dealing with numbers I had never seen before in terms of website visits, downloads of white papers etc, and that really underpinned growth planning. From there any other organisation I’ve joined I’ve been able to plan new products, new propositions, look at international markets, really identify where the customers are, and understand their behaviour.
A lot of businesses just think internally, but it’s all about the customer and their needs. During the last few weeks in lockdown a lot of companies have started to realise that we need to put the customer first.
3. What is the biggest challenge the industry is currently facing with Covid19?
I’m working with a number of companies and leadership teams at the moment, and in the last few weeks there has been a lot of focus on their people strategy, and the need for a different kind of support than they have previously given. There’s a lot of talk around business planning, the new normal and financial planning, but the companies that are focusing on their people strategy will come out better in the end.
People working from home has become the new normal, and despite the technical connectivity we have, some people will be struggling to have their emotional needs met. The companies who are focused on someone’s emotional as well as professional readiness to take on the next step will bounce back faster. The human factors for navigating this new world will be very interesting.
Companies really need to look at putting in place some initiatives, like mentoring, coaching and ensure creativity doesn’t fall away in a fully remote world. Their focus should be on culture now, and employees will have a deep emotional response to how you behave as a leader at this time.
4. What do you like most about your job?
Leading teams is the number one driver for me and navigating change, but I’m intrigued by lots of different industry sectors. I’m normally brought in to help a team grow and I enjoy building productive and stable teams. I understand the importance of keeping exceptional staff motivated and happy in their roles. I think that in order to grow your business there are two things – understanding your customer needs and your employee experience – and that will deliver to your bottom line.
5. What is the best project you've worked on and why?
From a career perspective it was my time in China, both professionally and personally. More recently I was running a tech accelerator, working on corporate innovation and bringing in game changing tech to traditionally conservative businesses. You have to marry the culture and leadership style as well as the technology when you’re dealing with young tech businesses and more established corporate cultures. The partnerships struggles when there’s a big divide.
6. What is the biggest lesson you've learned on the job?
In China I was working with a translator and during a meeting I lost my voice while leading a team. The developers and UX team were debating the UX strategy of the product and speaking too quickly for my translator to pick up the conversation – I needed to take a step back, and let that happen, to trust them to come out with the best strategy. As a leader you don’t need to be in all the details, you need to let people do their best work, and be a sounding board instead of meddling. You need to trust the teams you hire and enable them to be the best they can be. Trust is key.
7. What advice would you give someone considering a move into growth strategy?
If you don’t like data don’t go into growth strategy – there are a lot of great people in strategy, defining the over-arching journey, but customer data and insight is absolutely necessary, and if that doesn’t rock your boat it’s not the career for you.
8. What do you live for outside of the office during lockdown?
I’m an extrovert so I’ve been struggling with lockdown. I’ve been keeping myself busy as a mentor on the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service programme, where I’ve been supporting some young businesses, and I also lecture with Hyper Island (the global learning provider) on their digital media and management MA. I’ve been working with some teams from the last series of lectures, working with them on market research, investment plans, and making sure they are all set up for when the lockdown is over. The rest of the time I’ve spent painting everything at home.
9. What would you tell someone thinking of joining hubbado?
The customer journey so far has been fruitful for me. The positioning of the company and the feeling of community underpins what I believe in from a business point of view.
Denise McQuaid is a results-driven leader who works within businesses to optimise performance through aligning people, process, data and technology. She has a proven track record in successfully building and growing businesses, often in challenging environments and/or with ‘first to market’ products. Denise thrives in a business where she can create change, align goals, manage risk and set milestones to achieve strategic objectives. She is a connector, passionate about bringing people together through a strong, nurtured network to support business growth.
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