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|Member Intel Q&A - Lisa Hicks|
Member Interview - Lisa Hicks
In this interview with SCIP Advisory Board member Lisa Hicks, we talk about the importance of going deep on understanding why the current strategy is in place before starting a research project.
Tell us about yourself, and a couple interesting projects you've worked on.I live in Charleston, SC. I moved here just a short while ago. It is a dream come true for me. I am a serious baker and have taken professional coursework and have done some professional baking for local restaurants. I’m an animal lover and have experience breeding and showing dogs, and breeding pet birds. I love to camp and have a large 5th wheel camper that I’ve used to tour the eastern seaboard. I’m also an amateur historian and huge travel buff. I’m especially interested in European history.
Professionally, I worked in the Property & Casualty Insurance industry for about 20 years. I came up through the industry in Marketing, Corporate Communications and Business Strategy. About 16 years ago, I entered the Competitive Intelligence industry. I was in a client-facing role, where I created client relationships, built research plans, and provided analysis and consulting to primarily the Fortune 500 group. I’ve been a part of SCIP since that time.
What are some of the greatest joys (and challenges) in your work?As a member of SCIP, I’ve served on the board for about 3 years. I’ve only missed a few annual conferences and have conducted sessions at several events. I’ve also authored for SCIP publications. In addition to SCIP, I’ve served on two other boards: 1) The Society of Insurance Research (SIR) and, 2) The Communications Board for the Insurance Information Institute. In 2009, I created the first Life/Health track for the SIR and co-chaired the annual conference that year.
I turned 60 this year and find what I love most about my work is the interaction with the hundreds of people I have the chance to speak with each year. They are across a large number of industries, job functions and geographies. On any given day I might be speaking with people in the U.S., Canada, France, Japan, etc.
Working in my line of work is incredibly challenging. You have to learn very early on in your career how to move from one industry to another and from one type of research study to another from hour to hour, and day-to-day. You also have to quickly become enough of an industry expert, for each of your client industries, to be fully effective. If you are a student of business, and enjoy helping others to succeed, it is a great job.
What’s one thing you’ve done in your current role (or a prior one) that you’re particularly proud of?
I once had the opportunity to be part of a small corporate team that raised $1M for Cancer research. After completion, we were flown into California where the Cancer Research facility (City of Hope) is located. They work to find cures for Cancers for which there is little hope. We met children who were not long for this world, and doctors who are trying desperately to find a cure for their rare form of Cancer. We visited a beauty salon and spoke with women who were going through chemo treatments and have lost all their hair. The salon helped them to feel and look prettier in makeup and natural wigs. It was an incredibly humbling and heart wrenching trip. But it felt so good to have the chance to play a part in helping future children and others to win their Cancer battles. It was one of the highlights of my life.
CAREER ADVICE & LIFEHACKS
WHAT'S BEEN THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
It came from my Mother. She taught us we could do anything we wanted. So, I did. I never knew I couldn’t. Even when everyone around me said I couldn’t. I didn’t pay attention. She drilled so much confidence in me that I was impenetrable. The second-best piece came from my Father. He said, “Put a price on your head, and that is what people will pay.” What he meant was know your true value and never accept less in payment for your work.
WHAT PRODUCTIVITY TIPS OR LIFEHACKS DO YOU OFTEN USE?
Productivity-wise, electronically log everything that you can, because you will forget. Prioritize everything to avoid working on the tasks you only enjoy. Use something like Outlook’s Task feature. I keep on task, and manage priorities, very effectively this way. Lifehack – Finding happiness takes work. It’s already hard enough, so push all toxic people and toxic workplaces out of your life. It’s not you, it’s them.
How has SCIP helped your career?
Do you have an hour? The association has exposed me to so many superb professionals. Many that are the best at what they do within their industries, both across SCIP’s leadership and our membership. From attendance at the annual conference through to utilizing the resources online, I am always growing and learning. By volunteering to speak, author and serve on the board, my abilities in these skillsets have much improved, which in turn has helped me to grow significantly as a professional. There is so much to learn, and when you own your own Research and Strategy Consultancy, the sooner you can learn more about what there is to understand across industries, job functions, and corporate objectives, the more effective you will be on behalf of your clients. There is no better way for me accomplish this than through SCIP.
Another enormous benefit are the networking opportunities it creates. What a lot of people have not really come to know is that when you are a member of SCIP, you can participate in almost any way you would like. Just raise your hand. We are always looking for authors, presenters, coursework developers and any other type of contribution you would like to make that would benefit our membership. Never wait to be called on. Step up. We need you!
An example for me is that through our work on the Board, I’ve been helping with lots of changes that are taking place at SCIP. What the experience has taught me is some of what is involved in moving such a large ship into another lane. I’ve not had to do anything like this before and it has been such an interesting experience. It is also so rewarding to be a part of a team that will leave a positive mark on the Association for a long time to come.
Where are intelligence and insights professionals going wrong when it comes to influencing the C-suite? What are they doing well?
In my view, research within an organization must be prioritized based on the organization’s strategic objectives. Within each company there are strategies within strategies that need to be built. As an intelligence and insights professional, you must be looking at the big, 20,000-foot view, as well as from within the trenches. What is the CEO’s vision? What’s the plan? Where do the biggest challenges exist? What are the needs of the various direct reports in order to accomplish their parts of the plan?
As an intelligence and insights professional, you must be looking at the big, 20,000-foot view, as well as from within the trenches.
At Valeo, the people that buy our services only do so when they are either in some type of business related pain, see potential growth opportunities that they want to consider, or due to their intensely competitive environments, must always remain on the cusp of adding new value to their customers. So, I think understanding this about my industry, can help practitioners understand where their “internal customers’” greatest needs may lie.
Keep your eye on the corporate strategy and results. By helping to achieve the CEO’s strategy through the development of an intelligence strategy that delivers the following type of intelligence will make you part of the solution: · Highly targeted · Insightful · Immediately actionable
Develop a deep understanding of that strategy, why it was developed, why do they believe in it? What do they want to accomplish? Where are the biggest challenges? Then when working with all of your internal clients, you are in a stronger position to enter discussions about strategy, versus be purely a “go to” for insights. Doing so should cause them to take notice that you have even more management/leadership potential than they may have realized.
What should companies do to prepare themselves for the future (e.g. technology, megatrends)?
As I mentioned, many clients reach out to us because they need to keep on top of all of the innovation going on in their industries. Publicly available information doesn’t tell them all of what they need to know.
Many have new competitors regularly entering portions of their market. Often there is a focus on potential acquisitions to bring new technology into the company.
What we hear many of the leading corporate strategists asking for, both domestically and around the world, are insights such as these:
“Working in my line of work is incredibly challenging. You have to learn very early on in your career how to move from one industry to another and from one type of research study to another from hour to hour, and day-to-day. If you are a student of business, and enjoy helping others to succeed, it is a great job."
Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer
Valeo Strategy Group
Articles by Lisa