FIRESTORM CONSULTING

Firestorm Consulting exists to solve the critical issues facing our clients, both large and small. Our unique approach is not only what differentiates us, but also what makes us successful. We provide a broad range of services and solutions to help organizations facilitate change, achieve their vision and optimize performance and productivity.

ORGANIZATION DESIGN AND CHANGE

     Steve has extensive experience in organizational redesign across multiple industries.  More importantly, he has had to then lead the change effort to move the people in and organization into the new paradigm.   This is the hard work of org change and where the hard lessons are learned.  Some examples include:


  • Moving from a functional organization to a customer-centric design, with a general manager overseeing key product lines (StorageTek, later acquired by Sun Microsystems)

  • Redesigning a 4,000 person sales organization to be more productive, customer responsive, and efficient (Avaya)

  • Redesigning the commercial side of a century-old business to move from a fractured regional structure to a global one centered on product lines (confidential client)

  • Absorbing the acquisition of thousands of Nortel employees into the Avaya existing structure after a large acquisition, then rapidly leading the rationalization of those resources and the creation of a new overall paradigm for the organization as it went forward.

  • Creating (and rapidly evolving) an organization from scratch in a start-up (Fairlane Credit, part of Ford Motor Credit)

  • Absorbing dozens of smaller acquisitions into my organizations in ways that preserved their “special sauce” but also addressed synergies and strengthened the new combined companies

  • Rebuilding underperforming HR functions to meet new expectations (Vail Resorts, Avaya, Visteon and Bridgewater Associates)

TALENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, INCLUDING EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT AND SUCCESSION

     Steve has redesigned and then run the Talent Management/Succession/Development practices at several firms, including StorageTek(later acquired by Sun), Avaya, Visteon, Vail Resorts, and Bridgewater Associates.   He also was closely involved in the CEO succession at Sun Microsystems in the mid-2000s and his M & A work has exposed him to dozens of different ways of managing talent around the world. 

He has worked with the thought leaders in these fields for decades, including helping sponsor the research of some of the domain’s most important thinkers.  He knows the variety of solutions that exist “on the shelf” but also has the creativity to adapt those solutions as needed. 

Having done this work across several industries he does believe that there are broadly transferrable practices and principles.  That said, each organization is unique, and designs must accommodate those special requirements.      If your firm is not currently managing succession and the systematic development of its people – especially managers and leaders – this is an area where a small investment of time and energy can lead to dramatic improvements in morale, retention, engagement, and productivity.  Your Glassdoor results will reflect the investment.  

Think of it this way – in many firms, expense related to people is the single greatest line item in a budget…doesn’t it just make sense to work to make that asset more productive?

COACHING - FOCUSED ON CHRO'S, RISING TALENT, & C-SUITE EXECUTIVES

     Steve has worked directly with over a dozen CEOs in his career, dozens of Board members, and hundreds of senior executives.   In his day to day responsibilities, he has presided over the leadership succession and development processes in six firms across four different industries, and directly observed the output of dozens more succession practices when doing mergers and acquisitions.   As a result, he is uniquely qualified to understand the success factors and detailers of executive leadership.

Steve’s approach to coaching is holistic.   He will want to get to know the subject in a way that goes beyond the workplace and includes the formative experiences in one’s life, values, aspirations and fears.   He will also want to fully understand the goals of the person being coached, alongside the goals of the organization for that person (they are often misaligned).    Lastly, he will endeavor to understand how the person is being perceived and reflect that back to the individual. 

From there, Steve partners with the subject to craft a strategy and they deploy it together.   Engagements are for a minimum of six months, and often extend to about a year.   That said, Steve’s goal for his coaching interactions is best summed up by the adage “be brief, be brilliant, and be gone”.

CULTURE BUILDING AND CHANGE

     Perhaps the strongest experience base of all of Steve’s areas, culture change work has been a constant for him going back to his Ford days where he was part of a small team chartered in the late 1990s to create a new culture for Ford as it approached its second century as an enterprise.  

He had the primary responsibility to measure and evolve the cultures at StorageTek (later Sun Microsystems), Vail Resorts, Avaya, and Visteon.  At Bridgewater he was exposed to one of the most unusual cultures in the world, renowned for its basis on fundamental principles, constant feedback, and radical transparency.  His M & A work exposed him to dozens of additional cultures across a diverse set of industries as well, including the challenges that come from putting companies together.

From this experience, Steve fundamentally believes that cultures are dynamic, measurable, changeable, and all of that can be managed.  Certain cultures are good matches for particular business environments, and others can be a very bad match.  If cultural evolution is unmanaged it can lead to unintended consequences that can be disastrous.    Steve will work to understand your business context and challenges, help you match the right culture to your needs, and craft the strategy to evolve that culture.

MERGER & ACQUISITION -- INTEGRATION

     The real hard work of acquisitions starts when the deal closes, and work begins to bring two companies together.  Studies consistently cite cultural mismatches as a core reason for the failure of many deals to achieve their goals.   

Steve has a well-developed toolkit to manage integration, born of his personal experience across dozens of acquisitions, some tiny, some huge.  He has personally led the integration of finance firms, software and hardware tech firms, ski resorts, luxury hotels, auto companies, coffee shops, and many others. 

He can serve as your advisor to ensure that you identify and retain critical talent, that you manage the migration of people to a new culture, and that synergies are achieved.

DISTRESSED COMPANY SITUATIONS

     Steve has experienced four downturns and several economic shocks.  He has been in firms that were acquired by private equity and underwent extensive downsizing…and personally managed he workforce planning implications of that.  Amidst the Great Recession, he was chartered with coming up with a human capital strategy to deal with the devastating atrophy of revenues at his firm. 

He can advise you on how to manage your way through tough times while preserving the intellectual capacity and engagement of your workforce.  The goal is not just survival, but emergence as a stronger enterprise.

THE FUTURE OF WORK AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CORPORATIONS AND HR FUNCTIONS

     Going back to the 1990s when he was the President of the HR Futures Association, Steve has been interested and engaged in looking at the Future of Work for decades.   He has also written for an academic text on the topic of scenario planning as a tool for managing the uncertainty of the future.  Scenario planning is a tool that he uses to this day.    

Today he is working with faculty at a world-class research university and its practitioner Advisory Board to identify key Future of Work research areas and secure grants from the National Science Foundation.  

Steve can help your team consider the major trends impacting the workplace now and in the immediate future, apply scenarios to your business, and make concrete and specific decisions about what you should do.