In our Centered on Your Success blog series, get to know our experts and how they measure success for clients. In this installment, meet Mark Paulson.
What’s your story?
Growing up, my dad worked for one of the “Big Four” consulting firms, and I was always fascinated with his project stories – especially the people side of the business.
After graduating from the University of Iowa, I worked with my dad for a small boutique consulting firm out of Chicago. He and I have always been close, and it was a great opportunity to work with and learn from him. After a year and a half, I decided I wanted to work for one of the big-name consulting firms.
That’s where I began 15 fantastic years working for both Accenture and KPMG. While at both those firms, I worked across numerous industries and clients while developing a passion for the people side of consulting. I supported and led projects involving change management, learning, organization design, talent and HR transformation.
Why did you decide to become part of your field?
As I mentioned, my dad spent his career in consulting, and I found his client stories so interesting. What appealed to me was the ability to always be learning and doing different things. I was drawn to consulting because of the variety of work you’re exposed to at any point in time, and you always have the opportunity to learn and grow.
How are you working to guide your clients to success right now?
The most important thing I’m helping my clients with right now is making sure they have leadership alignment around their vision for the future and making sure that vision cascades down to their organization and project teams. The clients I have supported over the past year have all needed help redesigning their operating models, which requires a lot of upfront leadership alignment, sponsorship and communication with their organization.
What does the success of your clients mean to you?
The best thing I can do for my clients is to advise them on how to achieve their desired outcomes by sharing the lessons – good and bad – I’ve picked up along the way. At the end of the day, their success is my success. Throughout my 17 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of clients come to me looking to solve similar or repeat problems. As a consultant, it is important to remember that regardless of what we’ve seen before, clients have their own unique transformation journeys.
What, in your opinion, do companies need the most help with right now?
The more things change, the more they stay the same. At the end of the day, companies still need help continually transforming themselves to remain competitive and relevant in the future. These transformations can be talent and workforce-focused, digital- and technology-focused or purely strategy-focused. Regardless of what the company is trying to transform, there is and always will be a people element they cannot forget about or try to minimize.
Companies that continue to win realize their bottom-line success direct ties to their peoples’ clear understanding of business strategies and their ability to effectively perform clear and meaningful jobs to help achieve those strategies.
What do you think they should be thinking about next?
Companies need to think about their people and the future of work. Meaning, how they can effectively integrate people with technology and AI to further drive business results.
What are you looking forward to in your industry?
In my role, I work across multiple industries. That being said, I look forward to seeing what the next few years mean for businesses and their people as technology and AI continue to advance and reshape the workplace. With digital and AI becoming more prevalent, companies across every industry need to start – if they have not already – looking at the implications this will have on their future workforce.
I would call for a focus on harmonizing people, technology and AI. How can we best integrate them together to enable even more efficient and effective outcomes? Organizations that are not thinking about this will fall behind.
What piece of career advice keeps you passionate and purposeful?
It’s important to effectively manage the expectations of your clients, your boss and yourself.
I try to do this by setting 30 minutes aside each morning to plan out my day both personally and professionally. With a busy client schedule and kids actively involved with sports now, I find it extremely beneficial to know and set my own limitations, as well as manage the expectations of my clients and the Chicago team’s leadership. Taking 30 minutes at the start of every day allows me to prioritize the things I need to get done on a daily basis.
What do you do when you’re not guiding clients?
I love spending time with my wife, two kids and our dog at our lake house in Michigan. I also enjoy being outside, on the water, watching college football or hitting the ski slopes out West whenever I have the opportunity.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Chicago area?
When I am actually in Chicago, I absolutely love the nightlife of the city. I always enjoy eating at a nice Italian restaurant or steakhouse (Maple and Ash, Gibson’s) and then finding fun places to enjoy a cocktail. Chicago is a beautiful city, and I very much enjoy seeing it lit up at night.