Pamela (Pam) Harper is Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Inc., a strategic growth advisory firm. Her critically acclaimed book, Preventing Strategic Gridlock®, has been used as a text in universities around the world. Pam advises and consults to CEOs, C-Suite executives, and Boards on issues of dramatically accelerating momentum for game-changing business growth. Clients have included CEOs, C-suite executives and boards in successful entrepreneurial, mid-market and Fortune 500 companies.
She has a track record of helping leadership teams find the hidden opportunities in their situations so they can more consistently create new value for their stakeholders. She has been quoted or featured in a variety of media including Business Week, Investor’s Business Daily, and CEO.com. She also co-hosts the podcast series Growth Igniters® Radio, now in its seventh year. It has been profiled in Marketplace, Seeking Alpha, MarketWatch and other media.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
For over 20 years, as a strategic growth advisor and consultant, I’ve helped visionary CEOs, C-Suite executives and Boards in a variety of industries to accelerate momentum for their company’s next level of game-changing innovation, transformation and growth.
We’re meeting more top leadership teams of successful established companies that are taking the game-changing approach of growing their companies in dramatically different directions, while building on their current success. They’re developing new visions and strategies to continuously discover new opportunities, bring them to life, and create new value for their many stakeholders.
My experience came from having a passion for working with organizations to make big things happen. Early in my career, I worked in Organizational Development positions with entrepreneurial, middle market, and Fortune companies. They were in a variety of industries, but they all had one thing in common. They were successful and they were experiencing unprecedented upheavals for growth in a rapidly changing world.
However, the same organization that enabled growth often constrained growth. Some people call this “growing pains;” I called it “strategic gridlock” because of the similarities to traffic gridlock. It seemed to me as though strategy and execution were fighting each other. Momentum for company growth slowed for a variety of reasons, and I experienced 3 major layoffs when there was turnover at the top. Although I kept moving forward in my career despite these twists and turns, I decided it was time to change my own game.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Business Advancement?
I realized that I needed to be outside to best help leadership teams and companies going through unprecedented growth. I decided to become an external advisor to CEOs and their teams.
As I helped leadership teams of successful companies that were also navigating in uncharted territory to respond and adapt to the challenges they faced as they grew, I also started to see patterns and themes behind the issues of gridlock. In order to help my clients, I needed to dig deeper on what I observed. So I decided to write a book.
I conducted research by combining my observations with interviews I conducted with top leaders and corporate directors and supported by studies that many others had conducted on organizational behavior and business leadership. This helped me gain a clear understanding of the organizational dynamics of rapidly growing companies.
My book “Preventing Strategic Gridlock®: Leading Over, Under & Around Organizational Jams to Achieve High Performance Results” was published in 2003 and is still available today. In it, I described patterns and themes that explained what I had been seeing. I also laid out principles that I called U.N.L.O.C.K.® These enable leaders and teams to respond and quickly adapt to unanticipated problems and minimize the snarls of strategic gridlock.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your firm?
Usually a CEO, corporate director or C-Suite executive is interested in getting to know me because they’ve experienced me in one or more ways: I’ve been referred by a trusted source, they’ve heard me speak at a conference, we’ve had a great conversation at an industry meeting; they’ve listened to my views on our podcast series Growth Igniters® Radio, they’ve listened to my perspectives as a guest on someone else’s podcast, they’ve read my book, they’ve looked at my bio and they’ve read my articles on the Business Advancement Inc. website or in the media where I’ve been featured or quoted.
All of this means that by the time someone invites me to meet with them to discuss the possibility of a specific high-stakes engagement, he or she has already made an initial decision about how I’m different from others. There’s enough interest and trust to have a conversation about their unique situation and needs, the context, culture, metrics for success, potential ROI and other relevant factors. I make initial recommendations for how we might work together; we mutually determine whether there’s a fit; and we agree on next steps for moving forward.
I also grow my firm by being alert to emerging trends that impact various stakeholders of my business, and then create new value based upon what I discover. This has included interviewing game-changing CEOs and best-selling business authors on Growth Igniters® Radio, speaking at industry events on topics of game-changing leadership, creating a Corporate Growth Conference & Awards Event for CEOs of companies based in New Jersey (where I’m based), serving on boards of directors of associations, and actively participating in a global consulting society.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
My overall goal is to keep evolving Business Advancement Inc. to meet emerging leadership needs as the world keeps changing faster than ever before.
For instance, I was recently asked by one successful CEO of an established company, “How do we maintain our leading position in our market? It’s one thing to be on top and quite another to stay there.” This inspired me to develop a new keynote speech and offerings that provide top leadership audiences with insights on this critical issue.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
One of the turning points for my business and my life was deciding to hire my husband to join my business. I knew that his deep background in leading innovation for beloved brands would be valuable to clients. What I didn’t expect was how strongly it would impact me to have a business partner after being a solopreneur for 10 years. While it was definitely an adjustment, it was a change for the better. We see ourselves as more than partners. We have very different styles and strengths and we’ve created a rhythm for blending these together that has benefitted not just our clients, but us as couple.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
I believe in the importance of gaining a variety of perspectives from all types of people. This includes different levels, backgrounds, skillsets, and cultures. I’ve found that this diversity of experience has broadened my ability to help clients face many different types of issues as they lead their companies.
To find these people, attend events where you don’t know anyone and make an effort to reach out to the speakers, event planners and others in the room. This has led to some of my best and most enduring business relationships and clients.