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Accountability, Acumen, and Aspiration

February 8, 2018

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Actualize Consulting is a professional services firm who specialise in business process engineering and technology implementations for financial institutions. Recently, we sat down with Chief Operating Officer (COO), Kerry Alison Wekelo who revealed to us the secrets behind both the firm’s success as well as her very own.

Established in 2003, Actualize Consulting specialises in business process engineering and technology implementations for financial institutions. Having officers in New York and northern Virginia (both of which are key financial areas), the firm are able to maintain a firm grasp on the everchanging pulse of the Capital Markets, Treasury, Mortgage and Fixed Income areas.

Beginning this interview, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Kerry Alison Wekelo starts by providing an overview of the company, as well as the market that is operates in.

“At Actualize Consulting, our mission is to be an industry leader in the management and automation of financial functions and corporate financial events. We place a strong focus on serving mortgage firms, banks, corporates, insurance companies, and other financial institutions as well as Federal and State Government. Our consultants have extensive experience in the field and are accustomed to the challenges involved in working in demanding atmospheres.

“Also, we offer expertise in creating and maintaining corporate culture that leads firms to thrive and become sought-after workplaces.”
Focusing more on individual accomplishments, we ask Kerry to explain her responsibilities as COO, her leadership style as well as the key attributes that helped to shape her success.

“In my role, I manage all the internal operations of the firm. My leadership style is very hands on, empowering each person to focus on their aspirations, skills, and gifts as they align with our firm’s goals. I model open communication and valuing of individual and team relationships, teaching and expecting other employees to do the same. This keeps energy and creativity flowing freely throughout the firm, which in turn results in greater efficiency and productivity.

“The key to my success is the diversity of my skills, the integrity of my approach, and a positive attitude that seeks to identify the best in people and situations. Growing up in a family business and then establishing a career in
consulting, I have the attitude that there is always a way.

“Below are some specific attributes that continue to shape my success:

• Proactive • Consistent and effective communicator • People centric • Customer focused • Intuitive leader • Active listener • Excellent time manager • Go above and beyond • Extremely well organized • Resourceful under pressure.

“When I first started working for Actualize Consulting, I thought I could compartmentalise my personal life and my work while maintaining distinct cultures in both worlds. After a while, I found that I showed up differently for each section of my life; my puzzle pieces did not match, and I was drained. When I discovered that the same principles I was applying in my personal life could translate to my corporate life as well, everything shifted and started to flow; I was infusing the principles I strove for into all areas of my life, and I had more capacity than I ever thought possible. It is this experience and discovery that fuels the centre of my leadership and my desire to share this way of being and leading with other firms.”

With such strong leadership that Kerry demonstrates, it is no wonder that those who work for Actualize Consulting are key attribute to the company’s success. Kerry goes into detail about the culture with the company, and the key principles the firm adheres to.

“The culture of our company is one of holistic wellness, where employees are inspired to be their best selves. Thriving organisational culture is actually our focus. So much so that I just launched a Culture Infusion service offering and book. Over the years, we have focused on our people first and implemented programs to improve our corporate culture. We infuse our culture with principles and practices that constantly reinforce that our people come first. With the new service offering, we are training all our internal staff on what we have already implemented at Actualize, an we are preparing to share with others how to improve their own corporate culture.

“In our day-to-day operations, we focus on three As: Accountability, Acumen, and Aspiration: 1. Accountability – We believe that everyone is responsible for their own success and plays a role in every situation. We encourage our employees to take charge of their lives and to let us know if there are problems or things we need to improve upon. Through open communication, we work together to formulate goals and ensure we are on the right track. 2. Acumen – We want to make sure our team feels they are adding value to our operations. We ask them to determine what they can do to become better known, and we offer training allowances for both professional and personal development. 3. Aspiration – We listen to our employees’ visions in order to direct our corporate vision, and we link their goals with what they enjoy. Success comes from passion, and with passion comes hard work.

“Also, we provide a robust and generous benefits package, linking even that to employee wellness. We are not afraid to think outside the box to implement our culture of wellness. For example, we told one employee that her bonus would be impacted if she didn’t use her personal training allowance; as a mom who never took time for herself, the employee was encouraged to attend classes and seminars that were of personal interest to her, and she came back with increased energy!

“As for key principles, I manage our staff with the nine principles in our Culture Infusion service offering:
1. Provide intentional leadership – be self-aware and know our teams are not one-size-fits-all
2. Prioritize personal wellness - full and well-functioning emotional and physical tanks empower us to be our best for our teams.
3. Insist on a healthy work/life balance – greater balance leads to greater happiness and production
4. Practice effective communication – time expands as we are communicating effectively and efficiently
5. Handle conflict directly, openly, and immediately – many times we are triggered by our own agenda; the 3P Method—Pause to Pivot to a Positive—helps improve corporate culture
6. Focus on your people -- our organization is only as good as our people
7. Regularly conduct employee surveys – listening to your people is an easy way to increase employee satisfaction
8. Align performance rewards with employee goals -- aligning firm-wide and employee goals is a winwin, allowing you to see the value of each team member as all focus on the same vision
9. Encourage team connection – the team that plays together stays together. Ways we have fostered this connection include a book club, sporting events, house party (making sandwiches for local homeless shelter), field trips (cooking class and painting night), company retreats, contests (online contests during football and basketball seasons), and wellness programs (such as Alex’s Million Mile virtual event raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer through walking, riding, biking).”

Drawing the interview to a close, Kerry provides some advice to those who are looking to achieve success similar to her own.

“You must thrive personally in order to lead others effectively. Infuse the principles that you strive for personally into all aspects of your life, so that you free yourself to live an integrated life rather than a compartmentalised one. Work hard, yet in the midst of all, prioritise your own personal wellness; do something you love each and every day. If you take care of yourself first, you will have more capacity for others.

“Extend this integrative and holistic approach to the corporate level by infusing your firm’s values throughout the corporation’s entire culture. Once you make sure your team’s needs are met, both professionally and personally, good things will follow for your company. If your people are happy, your clients will be happy.”

Looking ahead to what the future holds for Actualize Consulting, Kerry highlights the hopes and aspirations she has for the firm, as well as reflecting on key factors that have helped to form the company’s success.

“I believe our firm can expect to grow still stronger as an industry leader. Proven relationships of trust and a history of working together will, paradoxically, give the stability needed to work within a creative flow that can address the ever-changing needs of our society.

“Our firm’s new Culture Infusion service offering is now available to the public, and I am excited to shift into working with other firms to improve their corporate culture. Resources include consulting to improve corporate culture with a customized plan; executive coaching; my Culture Infusion book; and e-courses and seminars, such as ‘Focus on Your People,’ ‘Provide Intentional Leadership,’ ‘The 3P Method to Practice Effective Communication,’ ‘Prioritize Personal Wellness,’ and ‘Wellness Program Development.’

“Lastly, Actualize Consulting is expanding to include the TRIDen Toolkit, an offering of certified MISMO-compliant software developed by our firm— everything needed to seamlessly facilitate the mortgage data process.”

Contact: Kerry Alison Wekelo

Telephone: 001.703.868.1506

Web Address: www.actualizeconsulting.com

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0203 725 6844