July 19, 2014
Helping companies with their talent and culture strategies, with Susan LaMotte, founder of U.S based exaqueo
Susan, please introduce yourself…
I’m Susan LaMotte and I am the founder and principal consultant for exaqueo (ex-ACK-wee-o). I sit at the intersection of where business meets behavior – helping clients and companies balance people strategy and the way people intersect with business needs and growth.
I’m originally from Philadelphia, so it makes me both a rabid sports fan and incredibly honest which my clients appreciate. I’m now based in Washington, DC where I live with my husband, a recovering entrepreneur and digital PR leader.
I started working when I was 14 and had 16 different jobs before I even graduated from college. I’m obsessed with helping people get value from work – we all work so hard and it can be so rewarding – when companies and individuals think about it thoughtfully.
What’s the story behind creating exaqueo and can you explain what you do?
exaqueo (ex ‘ACK wee-o) is a workforce consultancy. We use data to teach our clients how to solve people problems stemming from rapid growth or change in the areas of culture, brand and talent. We then help implement – so our clients see how strategy becomes execution.
On the culture side, we do assessment and research and full-scale culture development for our clients. We also create and develop research-based employer brands so companies have a real, unbiased perspective on the state of the workforce and can promote that reality. This includes brand ambassador programs and social recruiting.
Finally on the talent side, we develop targeted hiring strategies for our clients from diversity to college programs and talent management plans including performance management. The common thread in everything we do is data – we use our expertise to make sure every recommendation we make is connected to the business and use qualitative and quantitative techniques to ensure what we recommend works.
exaqueo comes from a Latin word ex-aequeo which translates to “on equal footing”. Every organization comes to the talent market on equal footing. Our job is to help our clients figure out what makes them different and leverage those differences in their talent strategy from culture to brand to hiring and managing a workforce.
How’s traction working out so far?
To date, we’ve done some work I’m really proud of including:
– A full workforce culture assessment for a $1B healthcare company
– Development of a complete college recruiting program for a professional services company
– Careers site design and content development for two hospitality companies
– HR and culture assessment of a acquisition target for a healthcare company
– Development of mission, vision, culture, values and employer brand for a $15M funded tech startup
– Source of brand assessment for a F100 technology company to assess employer brand impact and candidate experience
What strategies did you use to get your first 10 clients?
Evidence of past performance. I’ve been in the HR and talent space for 17 years. I have a graduate degree in human resource development and a MBA as well. Finally, I’ve been both a consultant and in-house. So I truly understand my clients’ pain points and their perspective.
They know they can trust us to deliver and provide exceptional service along the way. In our business results and reputation are everything. We care deeply about getting it right and not charging our clients by the minute to do so.
What are the most common people problems your clients face?
Our clients range from for-profit to non-profit and startup to Fortune 500. But the one thing they have in common is an urge to execute without strategy.
For example, we see many clients who want to create an employer brand – a way to differentiate themselves in the talent market. But they rush to social media, job boards and fun slogans or perks rather than thinking strategically.
We also see clients who are enamored with data. And we understand that data drives decisions. But they’re often looking just at the quantitative data their systems are spitting out.
Our clients are all struggling with hiring, either on a quality issue or culture fit. The talent market will always ebb and flow, but the struggles remain and we love solving for those in a practical way.
Finally, employee engagement is key right now. Employers know their employees aren’t as productive or happy as they should be, but they don’t know exactly what to do to fix it. Part of the problem is that they’re trying to solve for it at the 10,000 foot level instead of getting to know their employees, how work fits into their lives and the details of what really matters.
Executives aren’t average employees and they often try to make talent assumptions without going to the source. That’s where we come in.
6. If you were to start exaqueo over again, what would you do differently, and why?
I’d think longer term about the realistic path to growth. Rarely if ever do investors invest in services companies, so while we have been profitable from day one, the growth hasn’t been as rapid as I would have liked.
It also means that every pivot or shift in strategy has a bigger impact on our business and takes longer to shift. These are a few things I’d rethink if we restarted.
If you could share one productivity tip that you think is underrated, what would it be?
Email is our own worst enemy! Removing or eliminating email where possible has a major productivity effect. At exaqueo, we have moved to using Basecamp, a cloud-based project management tool, with our clients.
Each project is managed in it’s own online space and our clients can easily pay attention to threads of discussions, access weekly updates and files all in one place.
We also avoid sending documents within the team back and forth by relying on Google Drive to share documents with the team. It allows us to manage version control and share feedback without the burden of email.
It’s such a heavy weight to open a ridiculously full email box so this helps. Personally I also try to only check email 2-3 times a day, tops. I schedule this time so I can focus on other things and try not to get distracted 20 times a day on email. This one is hard and I don’t always achieve it, but I am getting better.
What’s next for you and exaqueo?
We’re continuing to grow rapidly both through growing our team and through additional partnerships. We’ll be announcing a new partner in the data science space soon to help our clients balance both qualitative and quantitative data in helping to advance their workforces.
Big data is really popular but when it comes to employees, it has to be balanced with the qualitative aspect of how employees think and feel and who they are at the core. We’ll announcing more about this partnership in mid-July 2014 on exaqueo.com