First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kimberly Wiefling: Very kind of you to ask! We are holding a daily “virtual happy hour” with my mom, who lives in Florida, and some friend EVERY day since March 18. We find ways to encourage and support each other, have some laughs, and share our frustrations about various challenges. It’s been good therapy!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Silicon Valley Alliances
Kimberly Wiefling: I started consulting on February 1, 2001, after the closure of the startup where I was working as the VP of Project Management & Organizational Culture. Over 10 years ago, I started working primarily with globalizing Japanese companies through an agent in Tokyo. After I stopped working with the agent a bunch of people with whom I’d been collaborating decided to create an entity together called Silicon Valley Alliances (SVA). We are all independent consultants, but we band together as SVA to serve our clients. I am the most active and visible person in the SVA universe, bringing all of my client work to these “partners of first choice”. Over the past few years, we’ve added more people from the Silicon Valley, Europe, Asia and Australia to our SVA Team. And now we are virtualizing all of our services together, and have been able to make huge progress serving clients virtually, across borders and boundaries of every kind. The biggest challenge? Time zones! But we’re willing to get up at 4 AM and stay up until 2 AM, so we make that work, too!
How does Silicon Valley Alliances innovate?
Kimberly Wiefling: We work directly with our clients – companies like Yamaha Motors, Toyota (the largest valuation company in Japan) and Keyence (the second-largest valuation company in Japan) to help THEM innovate . . . their products, processes, people practices and organizational culture. This challenges us to innovate and adapt to support our clients.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kimberly Wiefling: We facilitate workshops, strategy sessions, and do coaching, consulting and keynote speaking, and our brand is known for making our events interactive, action-packed and EXCITING! All of it used to be done LIVE in person! With the pandemic, we have had to virtualize all of our services. In April and May, we offered several long-time clients “pandemic pricing” = FREE in order to help them adapt to the “new normal” of this virtual world and remote work. By June, we had made true believers out of several of these clients, and they started hiring us and paying us to do our work virtually. Now we are even delivering full-day virtual programs that are as lively, engaging, experiential and active as our in-person programs. As companies realize that there will NOT be a “return to normal” anytime soon, they are beginning to ask us to convert their past in-person programs to virtual experiences. It’s been a 6-month journey to virtualization, and now we are much more expert in delivering our services virtually and gaining traction with clients.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kimberly Wiefling: Leaving the security of working with my agent in Tokyo was difficult. They sold our services to over 50 global companies, mostly Japanese. It was a great stream of business! Leaving meant we had to do our own business development, and only one of us was experiences at that. And, due to the pandemic, we had to figure out how to virtualize what was previously entire in-person events. At first, we could not imagine how to make virtual experiences as high-impact, lively and engaging as our in-person events. But we worked together every week for the past 6 months to learn and grow together. The main lesson we have learned in the pandemic is that we can make enormous changes in how we deliver our services, changes that would have been unimaginable a year ago. It’s been an incredible experience!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Silicon Valley Alliances in the future?
Kimberly Wiefling: Personally, I project my thoughts into the future and imagine I am looking back on myself during this time of challenge, and I make a firm commitment not to disappoint my future self! Also, I hot tub every morning and evening and talk long walks. As a team, we have FUN together, treat each other with kindness and respect, and invite healthy conflict to give each other encouragement and helpful feedback in support of each other’s goals.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kimberly Wiefling: There are lots of companies that offer what we do, but we offer a VERY powerful, high impact experience that is proven to deliver meaningful positive business results. At the end of our virtual experiences, even an 8-hour long workshop, people say “This was the best virtual workshop I’ve ever participated in!” There’s plenty of need in Our World for what we do, so we are happy that other “competitors” are in this market with us. We just want to make sure that we keep learning and growing to be the best version of how to serve our clients. This model of collaborating with each other has taught us the value of “competition”!
Your final thoughts
Kimberly Wiefling: It’s amazing to me that we’ve been able to create this organization that is based on relationships, trust, respect, shared power and shared control instead of relying on hierarchy, position and title as many other organizations do, I feel fortunate to be working with colleagues who are committed to a purpose beyond profit and a mission that matters – transforming managers into leaders and groups of people into true teams that can achieve TOGETHER what NONE could do alone. It’s been an awesome journey virtualizing our services, and I look forward to the ongoing adventure with these incredibly talented and supportive colleagues.