As Q1 kicks off, we, along with many of our partners, are reflecting on our client engagements to most intentionally activate and optimize our approach to serving high growth businesses in 2024.

Our Solution Designer, Mason Smith, and longtime client and operating executive, Sami Juma, recently joined forces to impart insights gathered over five years of collaborative partnership. From spearheading a division at a financial technology company to currently serving as a strategic advisor to private equity-backed firms, Sami has teamed up with Mason to assist financial technology companies in optimizing their business structures and designs, ultimately fostering accelerated growth.

The partnership has proven to be a formidable catalyst, empowering teams to implement transformative changes with a clear sense of purpose and a well-defined action plan. Whether you are a business leader facing an inflection point in 2024 or aiming to kick off the year strong by strategically focusing on key priorities such as expanding sales into new segments, introducing innovative solutions, or elevating your client’s experience, we are ready to elaborate on how our partnership has effectively facilitated change.

Mason Smith & Sami Juma

Mason: While leading high-growth fintech businesses over the years, what typically drove you to partner with Collective Next when tackling business design initiatives?

Sami: The impetus was often the moments of change we faced from intentionally driving growth and staying competitive. When we launched new solutions or expanded into new market segments, we inevitably put a ton of stress on an out-of-date operating model. Such change also stretched our teams who were working hard to sell and deliver for clients each day. This typically became the trigger to optimize our business model by bringing people together to interactively tackle those challenges and opportunities so that we could keep the business moving forward with speed and purpose.

Collective Next really differentiates itself as the “consulting alternative” through a unique approach to facilitating change. In practical terms, how would you describe it and how does it translate to the business design work you perform with operating executives like me?

Mason: Central to our approach is the belief that the best answers originate from within an organization where they know their business and culture the best. Our business design approach consists of an intentional process that sparks the minds of talent at all levels of the business, engages them in the discovery of solutions through creative and collaborative solutions, and culminates in alignment around actionable next steps to drive business impact. And most recently as a strategic advisor, you (Sami) provide an additional x-factor. Throughout this journey, as a seasoned operating executive, you apply your experience through an objective operating lens, which adds focus and the expert level of refinement necessary to enable change.

Sami: So, team members from within the business play an important role and participate in driving change throughout the business design initiatives, can you explain how that works in practical terms?

Mason: That’s correct, we tailor our business design approach to each organization. So, it begins with in-depth stakeholder interviews to develop the appropriate context, necessary input, and validation. And it culminates with a collaborative session that incorporates that information and is highly interactive over two to three days. This approach encourages cross-team and cross-department collaboration, which is vital to the successful implementation of organizational change. The session also provides a platform for individuals to identify, model, and practice the behaviors that enable high-performing teams, i.e., fostering a safe environment for diverse idea sharing, transparent communication, and active listening. Additionally, our approach positions organizations to align individuals’ strengths with their priorities, ensuring more successful outcomes. Participants often feel more comfortable stepping outside of their comfort zone to drive the required change because they are provided the appropriate support.

Mason: As an operating executive who has partnered with Collective Next many times over the years to transform and grow fintech businesses, what part of the business design approach did you feel delivered the highest impact?

Sami: A notable outcome for me was always the development of an Action Plan, crafted with key stakeholders from across the organization including the voice of the client. This inclusive approach not only created equity in the process and plan but also ensured a pragmatic and realistic execution. Ultimately, the plan would balance speed and purpose by sequencing actions based on priority and ease of execution and leveraging capabilities readily available in the firm’s talent pool. I found this provided everyone with a shared sense of purpose and an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Mason: I don’t know about you, Sami, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this process for me is getting to know the people so well along the way. Joining them in the work makes it even more meaningful when we unlock the change they are seeking together.

Sami: I couldn’t agree more. The rapport we all build while breaking bread together during team dinners, working one-on-one and in small groups, and sharing such an immersive and meaningful experience together not only bring joy but are the catalysts that truly empower the work.