5 Questions That Matter with Carol Koffinke

Beacon Associates improves performance. Carol Koffinke, CEO, started her business as single consultant in 2002 and has grown to a company with over $20M in revenue. Beacon has been profitable every year and has zero debt. As remarkable, to me, is her sincere emphasis on her people. Developing them as leaders and helping them evolve as humans.

 

Peter:

What is a visionary leader’s job?

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Carol:

The thing a visionary leader does is to help an organization become what it’s destined to be. Being able to see the potential, figure out what that looks like, how to get there, and guiding the organization along the way.

My vision has changed. I started Beacon, initially, to claim my own destiny in life. I had been in a health care career for a very long time, experienced two downsizings, I’m 50 years old, and I said, “You know what? I’m going to take destiny into my own hands and start a consulting practice.” But, the Universe brings different opportunities. You listen, you watch, you weigh, and your vision changes. Within a year or two I said, “This is going to be a major company. We’re going to do a lot of projects with the Government. We’re going to help organizations become the best that they can be. And that’s my vision.” I started building it from there.

 

Peter:

What nucleus of skills, talents and personal characteristics work together to make you an effective leader.

 

Carol:

My affinity for collaboration, I am very much a team person. Two of the three members of my executive team have been with me for nine years. And an expanded leadership team that I depend on. We have different strengths and weaknesses. We trust each other. And we do the best work together. One of the keys is bringing in great people and listening to them. Allowing them to have a voice and let them do their job.

I have a tremendous passion for culture. We’ve spent a lot of time developing a culture that is engaging. They love what they’re doing. They are expressing themselves.

Also, you can depend on me. If I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. If I can’t do it I’m going to tell you I can’t do it. If I fail I’m going to tell you that. You can trust what I tell you. I’m willing to have the tough conversations and make the tough decisions. We’ve had to make some tough decisions as we’ve evolved as a company. If you’re not willing to do that you’re going to stay status quo, which may be fine for some people, but most companies, if they don’t grow, they’re going to get smaller and eventually, perhaps, die.

 

Peter:

You and your company have evolved significantly over the years. What has remained constant?

 

Carol:

The fact that we embrace change is constant. We are all entrepreneurs. If things are status quo too long we get uncomfortable. The value we place on people has always been there from the very beginning. It’s a passion for me. Also, we have a passion for growth. We get very excited about building things and making them stronger. That fuels a lot of energy. That’s been there forever.

 

Peter:

Besides profitable growth what is Beacon’s higher purpose?

 

Carol: 

I’ve been on a spiritual journey for a long time. It’s a part of who I am. What I love about Beacon is that I believe that we have created a place where people can come and express their best selves. We’ve got our work lives and our personal lives, but the truth is we have one life–one life. We get great joy from expressing our best selves in our lives, so why compartmentalize? People tend to do that. They’re missing a great opportunity for joy.

I do messages every month, and have for years, around our values, around exploring them on a personal level. On what’s it look like to become the best that you can be in life? Helping people think about that on a monthly basis. I think it’s the most important journey in life. So, I want to make a difference for the people that work for me. I get a lot of feedback from people that they really enjoy those messages.

 

Peter:

How does a leader to create a culture of commitment versus compliance?

 

Carol:

That’s another thing that’s very dear to our hearts. There is a big difference. I call it engagement. I want my people engaged. We do an engagement survey every six months. We measure three things. One is effectiveness. Do people feel like they have what they need to do their jobs well? The second is motivation. Are they motivated to do well? That’s usually because they know that they’re providing value in some way. The third one is job satisfaction. Do they like where they work, who they work with, and who they work for? We do a separate supervisor survey, because we know that the relationship between the employee and the supervisor is key to engagement. We put a lot of energy into that and we do very well.

 

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Peter is a branding consultant based in Baltimore