Rose Fass, CEO and Gavin McMahon, fassforwardRose Fass, CEO and Gavin McMahon
Given its massive economic disruption and social impact, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the way businesses operate today. With the increased need for quickly adopting “the remote worker” paradigm, business leaders need to rise to the occasion, now more than ever. Many however, struggle to address the “how” of it all. How does one lead an organization through this shift? How can leaders maintain and continue to shape the company culture through it all? How can leaders and teams tell a compelling story that supports their product or service? How can the collective WE continue giving customers a good experience? New York-based business consulting firm—fassforward - is perfectly poised to help companies around these "hows." Founded in 2001 by Rose Fass and Gavin McMahon, fassforward has been successfully supporting business transformation and growth at Fortune 500 companies while helping leaders learn, lead, and communicate more effectively while shaping culture and building individual and organizational capabilities.

In a recent interview with Manage HR's editorial team, author/ speaker Rose Fass, CEO and Founder at fassforward, and Gavin McMahon, Founding Partner and Chief Content Officer at fassforward, discuss at length their company, its services, and how they leverage their expertise to deliver effective leadership development.

Could you give us a brief overview of your company?

Rose: We started fassforward as a practitioner-based consulting firm to assist large companies with their business transformation. Our journey began while working together at Gartner and realized that many large companies were facing a great deal of difficulty navigating through change, leading through change, and getting people engaged. Although we have different skill-sets and backgrounds, Gavin is a classically trained engineer, and I come from a more commercial sales and operations side. As a male-female team, we leveraged our combined extensive experience to lay the foundation of fassforward. I have always considered it critical to address how we can help senior leaders communicate their strategies in ways that their employees understand them. We then translate those strategies accordingly for the employees to execute, move through a transformation of a business model or product line to bring employees and customers together.

Having lived through it all, we felt that we could come in from a very practical perspective and help people in their business transformation, whether integrating companies and cultures, assisting them with leadership coaching, or more. Since then, we have worked with several companies, post acquisition or merger that have been navigating through integrations, starting up new businesses, or bringing cultures together. The list starts with our first client Estée Lauder, followed by numerous other companies such as the Interpublic Group of Companies, MasterCard, and Verizon. The excerpt about how we helped Estée Lauder handle the integration of several different cosmetic companies is in my book, The Chocolate Conversation: Lead Bittersweet Change, Transform Your Business.

Could you elaborate on your company's key offerings and how you assist the companies in their transformation journey?

Rose: To help companies improve how they learn, work, and lead, we offer four key services—Coaching, Consulting, Training, and Creative. Through consulting, we help leaders work through strategic changes, business problems, and opportunities. Our coaching practice includes working one-on-one with c-suite executives, senior leaders, vice presidents and directors of the business. Helping them understand from a leadership point of view what their roles are and HOW they can impact the success of their people and the company. We provide training in leadership, customer experience, storytelling, and other different facets of how to get things done. Our creative services are our competitive differentiator as through them, we help companies have a visual impact while communicating and training people. We have a wonderful studio. Through our Visual Logic method, we take well defined and crafted content and deliver it in simpler ways that are visually arresting and highly memorable. We emphasize the importance of creativity while keeping everything Sesame Street simple. We use human language and effectively help clients with their needs, be it coaching services, leadership programs, and more.

We started fassforward as a practitioner-based consulting firm to assist large companies with their business transformation

Gavin: Businesses are in business for a reason, and it isn't just to make money but to serve their customers. We believe that a company's customers, people, culture, leadership, and purpose are all critically connected, and those who connect these dots well create better outcomes and gain more customer traction. Over the past 20 years, we've honed this practical approach into the Rize SystemTM, delivered through our four services. The Rize system helps companies connect to Purpose, shape their culture, and drive transformation in their business.

In these uncertain times, it has become crucial for companies to understand the purpose of their existence and translate that to vision, mission, strategy, and goals to stay commercially viable in today's competitive environment. Leadership and culture play a vital role in translating purpose to strategy, and leaders need to effectively communicate and be diligent in making choices in this crisis. Our system effectively helps them do that.

Rose: Today, people want to know that your company stands for something bigger than just making money and making a profit. And companies can drive performance with purpose and passion, and it changes the conversation internally. We believe leaders are the ones that translate a company's goal while shaping the culture.

Could you elaborate on the company's key differentiating factors and the approach to help companies steer ahead in the pandemic situation through your coaching services?

Rose: We work with key leaders and their teams in the context of the business they're in. This is critical for a favorable business outcome.

While onboarding a client, we begin with our Rapid Insight technique, which involves rapid 30 minutes conversations with people associated with the company and present them with a synopsis of their sweet spots and blind spots as per the people they work with. We understand that leadership happens in the conversation and how leaders have conversations matters. We have a particular method that is proprietary to fassforward, and it’s about Framing Conversations. We believe people come into a position with technical expertise. That’s what you know and its table stakes. The ability to work in a corporate or company system requires social and political skills. If technical is what you know, social is who you know, and political is who knows you. And these other skill sets allow you to get a seat at the table, drive your technical expertise through a system, and have people embrace it. And that's a big part of our coaching practice. We leverage several methods and tools to help people that we're coaching one-onone and training through our Live Online offering. fassforward’s live online offering is highly interactive. We have delivered these programs and sessions to groups of 15 up to groups of 150, The feedback we get is that it feels just like Saturday night live.

Gavin: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have quickly and effectively re-engineered all our consulting, training, and coaching services for remote work practices. With their in-depth expertise and years of experience, our expert team of facilitators, coaches, and consultants can successfully run remote sessions. We use a variety of technologies and tools to make remote engagements effective and engaging. Besides, we not only provide leadership and executive coaching but skills-based coaching as well. It can be categorized under the broadcast group communication, including voice coaching, how leaders basically show up on camera when they are conducting everything remotely, data visualization, storytelling, learning how to present better, and more.

What does the future hold for the company?

Gavin: Our roadmap is all about growth on the coaching side of the business and transitioning live online learning. We aim to focus on upskilling through microlearning. Shorter time frames that chunk out learning in ways people can begin to adopt new ways of leading, working and communicating. We are rethinking how we actually design and deliver content that boosts and leverages individual and organizational capability to reinforce change. Moreover, we plan to form long-lasting partnerships with smart companies such as Pymetrics, which leverages behavioral science and audited AI technology to help enterprise companies build diverse teams of top performers. We will continue being choosy, building a reputation, touching a client every day, and never compromising on the deliverable.