Jen McClure is founder and CEO of JEM, a Silicon Valley-based global management consultancy and publishing group. She oversees the company’s consulting and advisory services division, Consultants Collective and its media business, including Biznology. JEM serves clients in a wide range of industries, including aviation, financial services, healthcare, life sciences, pharmaceutical and technology.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I’ve been working in media, technology and information services industries for more than 30 years. I started as a media researcher, then became a business journalist, moved into public relations, marketing and then got super interested in the power of digital and social media in the very early days about 15 years ago. Six years ago, I founded JEM to offer a new approach to management consulting, with a focus on digital transformation. JEM has evolved and expanded and is now a global consulting, research and publishing group that connects and serves executives and innovators, experts and thought leaders through our online community, our consulting division, Consultants Collective, our digital magazine, Biznology and our soon-to-be-launched online community JEM Networks.
Q: What motivated you to get started with JEM?
My last corporate executive role was at Thomson Reuters, one of the world’s largest media and information services companies. I was vice president of digital and social media, responsible for digital strategy, transformation, enablement and governance. I often found myself frustrated with the traditional management consulting firms with whom we worked. I didn’t think they understood the complexity of the challenges I faced and the changes I was trying to make across our global enterprise. I felt like there was a better way – management consulting and advisory services provided by former executives who have literally been in the shoes of the clients we serve. That’s how JEM’s consulting division, Consultants Collective, was born. It’s a unique model that serves clients and independent consultants well, and it’s been very well received. Last year we were honored to be named a “Power Player” by Business Insider in its first list of the top disruptors in management consulting.
In 2018, we had the opportunity to acquire Biznology from one of our member consultants to complement our professional services with a media and thought leadership platform, and we’re about to launch an online community and learning platform JEM Networks.
I love connecting ideas and I love connecting people. I can’t wait to see how JEM Networks further delivers on JEM's mission to connect executives and innovators, experts and thought leaders from around the globe to re-envision leadership for the 21st century. It's going to be a safe and private social platform to be real, authentic, honest, humble, thoughtful and supportive. It will allow members to engage in frequent, regular contact with fellow business leaders – a place where they can share their thoughts, challenges, accomplishments, ideas, tips and more. It will bring together content and community to provide business leaders with fresh new ideas and new practices that leaders can put into practice right away – all the positive attributes and potential we first saw in social networks more than 15 years ago.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your firm?
Over the past five plus years, we’ve been very fortunate to get most of our business through my professional network and the networks and referrals from our member consultants and clients. We’re blessed to have great relationships with our clients, several of whom we’ve worked with for many years now. It’s now time to scale and grow beyond sales to those who know us. We need to raise awareness and demonstrate the value we can provide. We’re using content marketing, thought leadership initiatives, and social media marketing to do that. Our media platform Biznology, our webinars, a podcast, email marketing, LinkedIn advertising and organic social media – encouraging our member consultants to use their social networks as ambassadors and advocates – are all helping us to expand our reach. We believe our new online community strategy will also be a key element to our future growth.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
My top goal for JEM is to continue to grow and scale the business and explore new, innovative ways to meet our mission and serve our clients, member consultants and other business leaders – helping them to achieve their goals and be even more successful.
My personal, professional goal is to continue to expand my participation on boards of directors. I really enjoy this role and believe that my experience, expertise and perspective can add value, and it’s important that all boards become more diverse.
And finally, my personal goals are to support my son as he finishes college, discovers his passion and purpose and goes out into the world as an adult; to continue to grow in my faith and to see more of the world and figure out where and how I can best serve and offer my talents, gifts and blessings.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
The biggest challenges all have to do with limited resources – time, money and people. There are always a million ideas, but only so much money and human resources to pursue them. And while you can always make more money, you can’t make more time, so we have to be choosy about what we pursue. It’s really important to find the right people and building the right team in order to be able to get out of the day-to-day, focus on the bigger picture and be ready to deal with unexpected challenges and opportunities. To be honest, that’s an area I still find challenging because sometimes it’s more comfortable to stay in the weeds.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
There’s an old saying, “If they won’t give you a seat at the table, pull up a chair.” I say, “Get out your tools and build your own boardroom table.”
There’s another phrase, “All I need is within me.” A friend recently gave me a bracelet with that engraved in it and I wear it every day. For me it’s a reminder that anything I achieve comes from a Higher Power.
Be brave, believe in yourself and follow your passion. Identify a problem you can solve, and figure out a unique and creative way to solve it. Be your authentic self. Get comfortable with the unexpected – there will be peaks and valleys. And, make sure to take time for self-care and some digital fasting. Remote work and digital technologies are fantastic, but also a double-edged sword. There’s no such thing as work-life balance for women – especially female founders – but if you love what you do, you can sometimes achieve work-life integration. But for me, sometimes it’s a little like the Tree pose in yoga, I can sometimes do it and think, “Wow, this is great! Look at me!” And then I lose my balance and tip a little and have to put my foot down. And that’s OK. I’ll try to do it a little better tomorrow.