Unicorns are unique creatures and as such, finding a good match where a company really understands us, values us, accepts us and embraces us is pretty tough. After my journey to create my own company, start a cool tech blog and begin a search for my forever home, I spent countless hours talking to all kinds of companies with all kinds of opportunities. There is truly something out there for everyone, but I wanted a very unique opportunity. I was searching for that needle in a haystack.
What I found was a lot of entry level positions, even more PM roles and lots of companies that posted jobs, that they themselves had no idea what they were really looking for. I spoke to the typical large players like Deloitte, KPMG, Accenture and small firms like ROI and emerging independents. They each had typical roles like Director, Managing Director, Senior Manager, etc. They all wanted my background in Infor, project management, business, healthcare and sales. What I wanted was a company that took the time to understand ME, appreciate the unique “unicorn” I am and then embrace that.
I had one company so confused by my resume and LinkedIn. If you have looked at my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-grace-b73b704/, it shows my job history—but at the top was my blogging brand www.techprounicorn.com and the title of “Unicorn”. There is history around why I am a unicorn and you’ll have to read my blog to discover it. The company in question asked, “what do you expect me to do with this Unicorn stuff?” I had a simple answer, “Oh, absolutely nothing. You can just withdraw my interest in your company.” to which there was panic, claims of still being very interested in my job history, skills, etc…. Well, too bad for them that they didn’t choose to understand me as a person, a blogger in the tech space and a proudly unique individual.
As I narrowed my search I was actively talking to several great companies—all of which paid my minimum threshold, had a good reputation, and would have worked out just fine. So, how do you pick? I began to reflect on my realization that the later stage in your career it is less about money and status and more about happiness and making a difference. I wanted a place that wanted a unicorn and appreciated the magic that could happen if they only believed. Yep just like Santa, you have to believe that unicorns are real in order to benefit from their magic.
RPI Consultants was in my final three choices (this isn’t basketball so no final 4), and I went on a trip to meet them. They felt it was important to meet all the partners and to visit their headquarters and other offices. I was, after all, coming in at a leadership level in the Infor practice, and honestly, I think they just wanted to “see” a unicorn in person. One reaction I loved was, “oh I see the whole unicorn thing now.” I am sure he was referring to my hair which somewhat resembles a uni-horn on the front, but I loved the reaction. It was a testament to the fact that he had read my blog, understood my brand and took interest.
Besides these folks liking my brand and experience, what did I value at RPI? I’ll break it down for you. First was the people. I met partners, assistants, consultants, new hires, and a group of folks calling themselves the “Flying V’s”. We talked about opportunity, customers and transformation. We shared personal stories and quickly got to know each other in as much as an hour would allow. I was on the whirl wind tour of three cities in two days to meet everyone. It was a great trip filled with folks I knew I wanted to work with. These folks had such a focus on their customer, supporting each other and maintaining their culture—more on that later. Additionally, they shared how they invested in development of each other as well as in their craft by the amount of folks they sent to Inforum. It really showed me that this company was people focused, a key factor I was looking for.
Now on to the culture. Every company brags about its culture and some best place to work award that usually means people filled out a survey because leadership told them to. I wanted to experience it firsthand, see it, read it, touch it. I got to read newsletters and, man, they had a “vibe” that you either love or wonder how that got out there past the HR police—sometimes both. What it showcased was a fun culture and, again, highlighted RPI’s people and customers. It was done in such a way that everyone was in on it, with a high school joke type of pride. The pirate ship as they called it was alive and well, matey (Arr!). The office was decked out in music posters and cool brick with relaxed and friendly people all around. RPI’s offices had personality and it told a story of who they are. By far the coolest offices I have seen in consulting, bar none. A far cry from a sterile Big 5 type office where you pass people who you don’t even know. Everyone was like best friends. I expected folks to be high fiving in the halls, and I’ll bet that happens. All of the team’s communications, etc. have a fun flair, and everyone works hard, plays hard and always has the customer and each other at the center. The beauty of a small to mid-size company is that there can be a kind of culture like that. When you are a larger firm, it’s easy to lose or a practice in a large firm that does 100 other things. Check culture off the list, a unicorn likes a positive and fun culture.
Leadership was also a key attribute I was seeking. I was looking for it in several ways. First, I wanted leaders who I could respect and ones who had careers that I looked upon as successful. I wanted the ability and opportunity to be a leader and participate in a capacity that made a difference to those in the firm. I wanted leadership but freedom, chaos but managed chaos, these things that allowed autonomy in a leader. Just looking at leaders of the company aren’t enough, I wanted to see the service line leaders of the business. How did they lead, what was their strategy and how were their teams? In the case of RPI these were some of the most developed I had seen yet. The leaders themselves all have experience in what they are leading, unlike other firms where you have a partner or director leading who isn’t able to jump in and help. The sales team leadership is also very robust with a long history both in sales and specifically Infor sales. It was refreshing to see the history with all the clients and project diversity these leaders have been involved in. Unicorns are hard to tame or harness, they much prefer to roam free and spread magic where most needed. RPI offered just that environment for folks seeking leadership opportunities.
Where are all the cool customers? That was a key factor in my quest, looking for who was doing cool transformative projects with great customers and having success. As I looked across Infor land, it became apparent that RPI had a unique mix of customers, large and small, not only doing ERP. They had successfully integrated a practice working on RPA (using Kronos) into their delivery. I am a firm believer that you can’t transform digitally just with RPA, that you need ERP and vice versa. What are these terms you ask? Check my blog. Processes don’t begin and end in an ERP, so you need a tool that reaches beyond, and I wanted a firm that did both seamlessly so our customers would benefit. Often when you have a firm that does both but in different practices, it never works. RPI has a bit of magic going on here in this space and it is rapidly evolving. I met with the Partner over the RPA practice and his vision matched my own for transformation, so check that box as well.
The firm was a big factor as well. Remember, I was looking big and small, but mostly for something unique. I didn’t want to work for “the vendor”. I honestly feel their professional services are great regarding the product but that the true digital transformation we all seek is so much more than software, which I felt they are lacking. I wanted a blend of tech, cool, PMO, and software. Can I be so bold as to say I needed the right offerings from a company? I mean, they need to do ERP consulting with a product I believe in, such as Infor, but they have to frost that cake with the stuff that makes sure it is adopted and implemented successfully for the client, which is the PMO. I met with the leader of the PMO at RPI, and I was impressed. The methodology they have for their size is simply world class. The huge differentiator here, NOTHING was in Microsoft Excel. All their tools deployed to the client are cloud based, making them more effective and accessible. Unicorns like well thought out tools with the customer at the center of the methodology and, again, RPI checked that box.
Finally, I wanted an opportunity for me personally and for the firm I was joining. I was looking to be in a senior leadership role and wouldn’t entertain the roles where I was simply leading projects. I wanted a hand in it all. I wanted to help in sales, recruitment, team development, culture protection, customer advocacy, delivery and unicorn magic. RPI had a role in mind created specifically for a unicorn like me to do this. It blended my client healthcare expertise, previous Lawson/Infor knowledge (certified financials guy, here) and my passion for leadership with a focus on teams. They were growing at a rate of about 30% and had no plans to stop, given maintain maintained quality and focus on the team and customer. And one of the biggest things, was that they were pushing west. Many firms will tell you they have an office in the west…. BS. They may be a nationwide firm with an office in the west, but not 100% focused on Lawson/Infor. RPI wanted a presence (people, office, customers, etc.) in the west. So, with that, Phoenix became the home of RPI in the west. Why is this a key differentiator? How many customers are there on the West Coast? Hundreds for sure. When customers need services, east coast guys fly out, sell them services then send all their east coast consultants out. Sometimes traveling 5+ hours to get there and charging the client for all the travel, etc. RPI said that they want to build a practice where they can provide a better quality of life to their consultants and eventually a more regionalized deployment for their customers. By saying this, it showed me again that they care about their consulting team and the reduced cost being passed on to the customers. Most consulting firms have consultants that regularly cross the globe with 5+ hours on a flight. How productive are those consultants on the plane? How productive are those consultants with the jet lag? How expensive are those coast-to-coast flights? The model that RPI put in front of me was one where we would build a presence on the west coast based in Phoenix. We would immediately invest in an office and grow it both in people and real estate as our customer’s needs dictated. I have lived on the west coast all my life and I have been given an opportunity to build the first Infor consulting office focused on the west coast. That is a unicorn of an offer. With the mindset of a startup, backed by the experience of a 20-year-old firm, we have set out to do what hasn’t been done before. With the help of Infor, great colleagues, our amazing customers, friends and family, this unicorn is accepting the challenge.
One week in, we’ve already secured our office at www.galvanize.com. Come visit us at 515 E Grant St, Ste 150, Phoenix, AZ 85016. We have a team of 3 living in Phoenix and are interviewing actively to expand this team exponentially. When folks ask me what we are hiring for, my answers aren’t typical. I don’t say that we need a Payroll Senior Consultant (we do). I tell them a story of a firm pushing west and looking for entrepreneurial style consultants that want independence, yet collaboration. A role that requires you to lead both internally and externally. A history that shows you have kept your skills relevant and are ready to consult on the latest Infor technologies, but more important, that you want to make a difference for a customer. If you are a west coast consultant working for a firm that has your leadership in some east coast village, I challenge you to reach out and meet a Unicorn.