As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we asked a few of our employees who have been here since the beginning to share their experience and insights on building our consulting practice and also reflecting on how those learnings can shape the wider world.
Tell us about your earliest Blue Beyond memory that embodies what it means to create a future we yearn for.
Caitlin: Back in 2007 or 2008 we worked with a client to help them envision, create and realize a transformed HR organization. One that was built to last and could support the growing needs of the company. Our charter was to take seven workstreams that were aimed at transforming different parts of HR — from performance management to onboarding — and help them become more than the sum of their parts. At the time, we knew transforming one area wasn’t enough. It had to be all seven at once in order to make the measurable difference we needed to enact real change within the organization. There was no roadmap, no precedent — but we did have a real knowledge about how to inspire collective action, create and keep an aligned strategy and a true north that people could map to, and execute a process that enabled people to get from A to B. It didn’t happen overnight, but throughout that first in-depth project I really felt like we were helping the team do something they couldn’t have done just on their own. I’d attribute our success not to ‘having the right plan’ (though we did have that), but more to our ability to listen, learn, map, and really understand the people, processes and systems that would ultimately make the overall program succeed or fail.
Mariah: We believe that workplaces are a genuine source of community and connection. That is how we started the company and how we start each of our meetings and gatherings. I remember countless walks with Cheryl in the early days as we formulated what we wanted Blue Beyond to be. I remember work meetings where it would have been so easy to just “get down to business” because we were so busy, but Cheryl (and now all of us) always took the time to check in personally first because there is a true appreciation that what is most important in our work are the people. We bring our whole selves to work, and we value this in our clients as well. That is our secret sauce. The genuine caring, connection and authenticity that is the foundation of our work, our culture and our company.
Erin: I remember talking with Cheryl before I joined — we talked for a while; and one of our conversations was over lunch and I remember FEELING her energy as she talked about her company and the limitless possibilities of what she/we could do. Her energy was amazing and contagious. I recall feeling like my eyes were opening wider and wider; and being pulled into that energy; and the idea of jumping into the unknown with her. By nature, I’m not a huge risk taker (shocker, I know), and it was quite a “risk” to leave a very established company — Coca-Cola — and join Fields Tyler Consulting. It’s the best leap of faith I have ever taken.
What is your earliest Blue Beyond memory that made you want to be part of the Blue Beyond team?
Tom: When I saw the faraway look in Cheryl’s eyes on that fateful day in 2006, I knew that we had just begun a journey that would take us to unexpected and surprising places — and I was eager to join her for the ride.
Mariah: I worked with Cheryl at a previous company and we developed a special bond. She was a mentor, a friend and a leader that I knew I wanted to follow and emulate in how I directed my own career, and in how I wanted to live my life as a human being. The combination of heart, compassion, courage and intuition with which she approached both work and family were very admirable to me. I knew she was a woman and a leader that had her priorities straight, and someone I wanted to learn from. And that has proved to be the case. We have been through a lot in the last 10 years…sometimes an easy journey, sometimes more challenging, but she has always been willing to lean in with me, learn, grow and come out stronger as a result. Not many people live their personal and professional lives like that.
How has Blue Beyond surprised you over the years?
Caitlin: Two things stand out to me as incredibly surprising (yet somehow not all that shocking at the same time). The first is our ability to create lasting, meaningful careers for people. When I joined, I assumed that this would be a place I’d spend a few years, learn a lot and then move into something I “really” wanted to do. As the years passed and the assignments, expectations and stakes grew larger, I quickly realized that this is not just a stepping stone, but a place where we can test boundaries, build the work environment we want, and create opportunities to do the type of work we really want to be doing. Finding that somewhere else, I’ve learned, would be nearly impossible — and not nearly as rewarding.
Blue Beyond is a place where I’ve been tested, elevated my game, honed my skills, and learned how to run a business. While I can see a horizon line, I don’t feel like there’s a point in which the company will plateau for me — we can always keep building out beyond where we currently are. The second thing is the breadth, depth and variety of our client mix. For the first few years, we were heavily reliant on 1-2 clients. Since then, we’ve broadened our exposure to nearly every industry — high tech, bio tech, retail, ecommerce, infrastructure, manufacturing, food products, and beyond. Not only are the industries broad, but so are the areas of business that we serve — business units, functional units — we’ve touched nearly every area of business in some form or fashion. Some might say this makes us a ‘jack of all trades, but a master of none’, but we see it as a validation of our ability to quickly spot and diagnose complex business problems that exist at the intersection of human engagement and creating business value. Our ability to unlock that paradigm is a skillset we’ve honed over the years through hundreds of client engagements, various scenarios and on-the-ground experience. No two situations are alike and it’s our ability to call on past engagements, map them to the current situation and help teams move forward that I believe has contributed the most to our success.
Mariah: I have been surprised by our willingness as individuals, and as a company, to “trust the process” and believe that if we are true to our values and true to our clients, that the right opportunities will arise, and we will be successful. Cheryl has a mantra that has always resonated with me…“Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the outcome.” I believe this is a large part of our success. We show up as present with our clients…they know that we are there because we care, and have their best interests at heart. We pay attention…we truly listen to understand, we empathize and listen for what is unique and important in their situation. We tell the truth…we partner with them to “catalyze our collective group genius” and we are honest with them, even when it’s hard. They know we aren’t just telling them what they want to hear. We are telling them what we genuinely see and believe. And we do this from a place of love and care. And we aren’t attached to the outcomes.
We have to be flexible in our approach, in our relationships, and in what is needed in every situation. Sometimes the “best” approach just isn’t possible given the context, and so we try to do what’s best in any given situation, and we know we can’t always control everything so have to “trust the process” knowing we are doing our best as a team and for our clients. And I feel like Cheryl and our leadership live this within the Blue Beyond context as well. We put our people first. For example, when we came upon our first hard time when we lost [a major client that was 20% of our revenue] so quickly, Cheryl did not react and let go of half the team as many business leaders would have. Instead, she enlisted the team to lean in together, “grab an oar” and trust that we would come out of it stronger. And that is exactly what happened. That built a lot of trust within the team and was a very courageous approach based in her faith in our collective genius and talents.
Erin: We keep growing! Year over year — the growth in terms of numbers, knowledge, expertise, skill sets, clients, industries, budgets, geographies. It’s amazing.
At a time when people are more prone to switch companies with increased regularity, why have you chosen to build your career with Blue Beyond?
Caitlin: Blue Beyond gives me the ability to create my own outcomes. It’s rare to find a career where you have as much control over your own destiny as we do here — and one where you aren’t out on your own. That’s not to say that I / we have complete autonomy, but the freedom and flexibility to work on clients and accounts that I find the most fulfilling, to build the types of business that I’d like to build— you just can’t find that type of opportunity everywhere. Over the years, one or two times I’ve found myself at the edge of choosing a different path, and each time I think about the relationships I have here at Blue Beyond, the authenticity of the work, and the ability I have to control my own experience and build the type of life I want for my family and me, I always find myself taking steps back from the edge — and I have never regretted it.
Mariah: Having been with Blue Beyond for 10 years, I get this question a lot. For me, it’s several things:
1. I was fortunate enough to find a great leader who I wanted to follow early in my career. Great bosses and great leaders are hard to come by. I know that Cheryl truly cares about me, and I know that I will learn and grow in working with her. I have been so LUCKY to never have had a “bad boss”…and I have no desire to go find one somewhere else. 😉
2. Blue Beyond allows me to do work that I love with people I enjoy and care about. I love the variety of projects and the diversity of our clients. It means I get to keep learning and growing, and have an interesting career without having to switch jobs. I get to “switch” jobs all the time without having to leave my Blue Beyond home. I could get bored easy, but I don’t get bored here. I look forward to going to work and find it intellectually stimulating. And I truly love our clients and our team members. This is a “low drama” place without all the politics and I like that. I get the perks of working with large organizations, without having to be in one!
3. I truly believe in and appreciate our values. I feel total alignment in what we profess to the world and how I live my life and how I operate at work. The level of authenticity, caring, trust, etc. is super important to me.
4. I greatly value that I can manage my work and life without feeling like I have to make constant trade offs. As a working mom, I can have an interesting career, contribute to the world, and still be present with my children and be a great mom and partner. That is NOT easy to find.
5. Finally, the company continues to evolve and grow, so there continue to be ways for me to grow in my career without having to look elsewhere. I feel like I can build a career here and be in a place where my contributions and growth are truly valued by others.
Erin: I love being part of growing this team and our business. Our team is a big reason I stay — even though the team has changed so much over the years with new hires and departures. There’s a quality of person here. I also like to go into different companies — help people with their challenges, and be able to chameleon into and out of those client environments; and at the end of the day, return to our BBCness.
Blue Beyond has [insert power] that makes us effective. And many organizations have this within their reach, if only they ____________.
Caitlin: Blue Beyond has a keen sense of emotional IQ that makes us effective. And many organizations have this within their reach, if only they put as much emphasis on ‘how’ they work together vs just the ‘what’ of what they are creating.
Tom: The vision and the people — if only they would pause to identify their greater purpose and tap into the collective genius of their people.
Erin: Blue Beyond has curiosity and focused execution that makes us effective. And many organizations have this within their reach, if only they made the time to look up from the daily to do list to have the critical conversations with the right people. (A lot of what we do is structure the right conversations with the right people at the table — those unlock all kinds of possibility, clarity and focus).
What do you hope the next ten years holds for Blue Beyond?
Caitlin: I think that’s entirely up to us and the intentions we want to set. We have a way of setting an intention and achieving it, “thoughts become things” as Karen Papa would say. I don’t feel a strong need to set markers in the sand around $X of dollars, number of clients, or number of employees (though there are baselines we need to set and maintain to build the business we imagine)… but I do think the more we can focus on what we want to do, how we want to do it, what is it that only we can do — and most importantly the types of wholistic lives we want for ourselves and the team — the rest will fall into place. A part of me wishes we had a clear “let’s put a man on the moon” mission statement to go after, but the truth is that that’s not who our company is either.
Our moniker is “creating the future we yearn for” — not the future Cheryl yearns for, or any one individual yearns for. It’s really about the future “we” yearn for. If that’s truly the case (which I believe it is), that is going to mean different things to different people. We have created a business where many outcomes are possible — and while we need to meet basic business needs to ensure those things happen, to me it’s all about setting and communicating intentions around the types of lives we want and the work we enjoy most, the rest will come.
Tom: Total global domination (!) — but only in the sense that our vision for a better future continues to ripple out into the world, bringing joy and growth and fulfillment to our clients and our people.
Erin: I hope we continue to provide great careers (interesting work, lots of growth and learning, financial prosperity) for great people — and help lots of clients along the way.
Blue Beyond is a boutique management consulting firm focused on the people side of business – leadership, communication, change, culture, organizational effectiveness, talent management, and employee engagement. Learn more