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Does military and business have a common ground?

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VIP Interview with Cindy Gallagher, Liberty Source CEO

Cindy Gallagher joined Liberty Source in 2018 as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. As a Navy spouse, she was one of the company’s pioneers in 2014. Liberty Source has established the onshore BPO model as a competitive alternative to captive and offshore shared service centers, while creating long-term sustainable careers for military spouses and veterans. We ask her about her experience in the field of modern outsourcing business and how leadership skills and values that come from the military field can be adapted to business reality.

What is the role of women in today’s business? What are the aspects of modern business and life that women can make the biggest difference in?

Today, women are corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, data scientists, individual contributors and board members. There is no limit to the role women can, and should, play in business. Unfortunately, business history demonstrates a clear delineation of the value organizations have placed on male vs female leadership. Women are still all too often giving up family life in order to prove their worth to the business community, and yet, despite this dedication, they struggle for equal leadership positions and equal pay.

Today, women leaders are well positioned to rewrite the storyline related to the intersection of a successful career, family life and the value of a blended leadership team. Women and men both seek to find harmony between the demands of a long, successful career, and a happy, fulfilling family life. There is still a widespread belief that this is primarily a women only challenge and that women with families can’t devote the necessary time to excelling at work. Luckily, that mindset is starting to change and we are seeing more and more organizations place women at the leadership table, and more and more men taking on family related responsibilities. It is often found that organizations which embrace women leaders have greater diversity of thought, resulting in a stronger corporate culture and greater market share.

One of the biggest differences women leaders can make is to not give up on their dreams. It’s easy to give up on a dream, but a lot more rewarding to push through and achieve it. We must also continue to celebrate the benefits of a diverse workforce and inclusion at all levels of the organization. We have a responsibility to coach and mentor young men and women on this topic, shaping the future for those who come after us, and working to create parity at all levels of the organization.

My son was asking me this morning about my work and about this interview. When I told him that one of the topics we were discussing is the role of women in business he inter-

rupted me and said “why does that matter, it’s just the same for men and women”. I love his response because that is an indication to me that the next generation won’t see a difference in the capabilities of men vs women. My hope is that the next generation is telling a story of leadership, talent, sustainability and harmonization, not one of men vs women and the struggle for equality.

Please tell me what does it mean for you to be a true leader nowadays, and how has it changed since you started your career?

To be a true leader means to motivate people. To compel people to be better than they are today, to leverage their strengths, to dig deep and find new opportunities to challenge the status-quo. We must let our teams take risks, we must be ready to course correct if they go astray, and we must always offer alternative solutions to complex problems. We need to coach, teach and guide. We can’t give all the answers and we can’t be in every meeting or situation with our teams. We must instead be role models in our words and in our actions, treating each of our team members with equality and giving them comfort in knowing we are there for them every step of the way.

Corporate social responsibility driven mission of Liberty Source is surely inspiring and important – how does it help you find new clients, if at all?

Liberty Source was founded on the belief that business operations can, and should, be blended with a meaningful social purpose. For us, that social purpose is creating long-term, sustainable careers for US military spouses and veterans. In the competitive BPO landscape, we believe dedication and commitment to our social mission is a market differentiator.

Military spouses and veterans are dedicated, self-motivated and possess an unmatched fortitude, as compared to the traditional civilian workforce. These are qualities all employers demand, yet struggle to find. Liberty Source is focused on creating a culture for military spouses and veterans to grow, learn and leverage their inherent strengths. We understand the unique challenges of military life and are able to provide benefits to

support these families, whereas traditional corporations must appeal to a broad base of employees, often leaving military families feeling lost and misunderstood.

We have found that clients turn to us first for our social mission and commitment to a uniquely underserved population, and then for our ability to provide a blend of services, our cost structure and for our dedication to client service.

Our vision is to become the largest US based impact sourcing firm by transforming the way corporate executives engage with the outsourcing industry and revolutionizing the career paths for military spouse and veterans. Our clients buy into and engage in this vision directly.

We stand by our dual mission strategy and believe this is a true market differentiator for us:

1. Commercial Mission: To run a profitable outsourcing business by earning the trust of our clients and delivering reliable, flexible and competitive on-shore business services.

2. Social Mission: To provide long-term sustainable careers for military spouses and veterans, throughout and after their military service.

Does Liberty Source hire former military commanders too? And if yes, how does this “rigorous & hierarchical” leadership work in a very agile outsourcing & shared services world?

Liberty Source seeks to hire military spouses and veterans regardless of the position they held while in the military. Our talent pool was trained by the US military to accept nothing short of top quality during their time in the service. This training stays with them in their post-service life, including their time at Liberty Source. The training they received in the military and leverage while at Liberty Source, translates to top quality performance for our customers. Former military officers and service members alike provide rigor around the integration of new processes, and maintain control through a structure governance process throughout the life of a client engagement.

The military also trains its service members to prepare for the unknown. On the battlefield things may not go as originally planned and those in the fight need to think on their

feet in order to divert the enemy and win the battle. This flexibility and strategic thinking plays very well in the outsourcing and shared services world. In the outsourcing world, each client will have their own goals and objectives. They’ll have their own way of doing things, which may be different to the way some in shared services were classically trained. The team at Liberty Source is able to quickly identify these nuances, understand our client’s perspective and assess a path forward which will be most beneficial for a long-term engagement with the client. Our clients value the skill sets and fortitude this community brings to their relationship with Liberty Source. They know they can trust our team and rely on us to press forward and resolve problems.

The same is true for the military spouse community. Military spouses must be detail oriented, flexible, organized and able to provide structure as needed. These strengths are critical to a successful shared services career and are all strengths we leverage at Liberty Source.

Would you shortly describe client profiles that are particularly receptive and inspired by the CSR driven mission of Liberty Source?

Demand for our services typically comes from CFOs, corporate controllers, shared services executives, data analytics leadership and strategic procurement executives. These leaders are focused on finding the best value for their operations, including skill set, location, cost and more recently social impact.

There are several organizations supporting diversity in the corporate supplier base, including the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC). The GISC recently published an interview with the Rockefeller Foundation which highlights their challenge to the BPO industry to hire 100,000 new impact workers by the end of 2020. Through our customer centricity focus and our commitment to military families, Liberty Source provides corporate executives with a simple solution to their cost and skill set demands, balanced with their need to fulfil this social challenge.

Additionally the Veteran Jobs Mission, here in the US, is a coalition of 200+ companies who have pledged to hire 1 million veterans by 2020. Several of our current clients are members of this coalition, and we are looking to expand our footprint with other coalition members, offering them a unique opportunity to demonstrate and fulfil their commitment to this important mission.

Your company provides outsourcing services from an onshore location, which supposedly might be not price competitive. Please tell me what is your Value Proposition then towards your competition. And who is actually your competition?

As you know, the BPO industry is highly competitive. BPO firms have historically positioned themselves for growth based on offering a lower cost labor market and the

south of Washington DC. We look at our price competitiveness from a total cost of ownership perspective, which includes the cost per widget or annual employee cost (depending on the client engagement), along with travel time, lower retraining needs, and management structure. We also compare our cost structure to others within the US and are able to provide clients a clear cost reduction from their captive operations.

In addition to cost, our competitive advantage includes the strengths of our people, our ability to leverage technology, our proximity to our clients and our cultural affinity. We bring the strengths of the US military to the commercial marketplace offering our clients resiliency, strategic thinking, dedication and hunger to serve.

Military spouses must be detail oriented, flexible, organized and able to provide structure as needed. These strengths are critical to a successful shared services career and are all strengths we leverage at Liberty Source.

promise of business transformation. Liberty Source is a US based firm, which is actually more price competitive than you might think. We are headquartered in Hampton, VA, on an old Army Base named Ft Monroe.

Ft Monroe was decommissioned in 2011 and is now a National Monument. It is the largest stone fort ever built in the US and it hosted many US Presidents including Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, James A Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Harry S Truman. Ft Monroe is steeped in American History, which you can feel the minute you step foot onto the property. It is also located in a very cost competitive part of the State of VA, approximately a three hour drive

Tell us a bit more about Liberty Service. What does your existing pool of clients look like? What is your exact offering? How many employees does Liberty Source have now and where? What are your growth plans ? Where do you want to be in 3-5 years from now?

Liberty Source has just over 200 employees. Our clients today are all multi-national corpo rations who came to us seeking an onshore alternative to serve their US market.

Our model of employing military spouses and veterans enables us to scale very quickly. Those who are familiar with military service understand the mobility and flexibility which is required of military families. In the US, a military family could be asked to move every 2-3 years. They may move to a different state, or across the world. Our model allows our military spouse employees to keep the work they are doing for Liberty Source no matter where their family is stationed. This flexibility not only ensures we are meeting our social mission, but it also provides longevity and consistency for our clients who can rely on the team members assigned to their account for a very long time.

Liberty Source currently delivers a suite of services which include finance and accounting, data sciences (data research, data curation and analytics) and project management. Our services are transaction based, judgement oriented and analytical. We add value to our clients’ organizations by first understanding and preforming a process in the same manner as our client, immediately adding a layer of cultural awareness they may not have in other locations. We work closely with our clients to understand their objectives and long-term growth plans to create a tailored, fit for purpose service delivery program which is unique to their operating model and internal goals. In providing these services we are able to earn the trust of our clients, and therefore the privilege to introduce new service offerings throughout the life our engagements.

We work closely with our clients to ensure a smooth transition; addressing their concerns, understanding their goals and remaining flexible throughout the process. We seek to integrate clients quickly to ensure they reap the benefits of an engagement with Lib erty Source from the very beginning.

Over the next five years we project a 4x growth in our business. Our target clients are those who have proclaimed their support for the US military service men and women, and those who are seeking an alternative to sending work offshore. There will always be specific bodies of work that make sense to send offshore, however there are also certain bodies of work that corporations look to keep closer to home. We aim to be the onshore complement to those businesses which are sophisticated in their outsourcing capabilities today, as well as be the strategic partner for those who are just starting to dip their toe in the outsourcing waters and want someone to stand beside them along the way.

Having military spouses as your workforce is different to a typical BPO provider. What are your top 3 challenges & opportunities within the People Agenda?

There are over 750 thousand military spouses and millions of military veterans looking for post service careers. Over 88% of military spouses have post-secondary education and all veterans are educated, job trained individuals, however they are often overlooked for steady corporate roles due to their military commitments. These commitments include relocation every 2-3 years. For a military spouse this results in a resume that may appear spotty as they must change jobs every 2-3 years. This does not translate well into the commercial environment. As a result, military spouses and veterans experience unemployment and underemployment rates which are exponentially higher than their civilian counterparts.

Our commitment to people includes continuous training on customer service, commercial leadership and evolving technical trends. We have embedded commercial experience into our leadership teams to ensure we mentor and coach our team members in the right way; harmonizing civilian commercialization with the structure and strategic planning of military service.

We seek to instil job related confidence into our employees, working with them to understand their long-term personal and professional goals. We seek to provide long-term sustainable careers for our employees, which implies we are able to expand our footprint with our clients, constantly challenging the status quo related to the impact a service provider is able to have on a client’s operations and long-term objectives.

Technology revolution is a fact in our industry, what is the approach of Liberty Source to technology adoption ?

In this headlong rush to intelligent automation, we believe there is more opportunity than ever to layer judgement based, culturally empathetic work on top of process automation. To build upon our current base of ser-

vices we must learn to work with automation, not against it. We must leverage the power of automation to help future proof our organization and meet the expanding demands of our clients.

As we explore automation opportunities, we believe the greatest payback will be found in the digital transformation of the entire operation, not a single-threaded robot over a single process step. The quickest automation wins will be achieved in automating those process steps which are the most cumbersome, transactional and error prone for a human to process. However the longer-term impact will come from analyzing the process end-to-end and repositioning our human workforce at all points where judgement and empathy are required.

The life cycle of a Liberty Source engagement which is enhanced through automation follows a standardized growth cycle:

1. Human touch, transaction based engagement.

2. Automation assumptions identified, inventoried and discussed with the client.

3. Partner supported automation build.

4. Digital workforce management and exception handling.

And finally, do you have any experience with specialists and leaders from Poland? What do you think about our skills & capabilities? Do you see us joining 1st league of Global Leaders soon, next to our colleagues from US, UK, NL and India?

I have worked with leaders and teams in Poland for many years. Prior to taking the role at Liberty Source, I opened a captive operation in Poland to serve our European operations. We selected Poland in part due to the cost structure, but more so due to the leadership, experience, work ethic and transformation capabilities of the Polish workforce. Even though I’m not part of that organization any more, I am proud of what the team in Poland has been able to accom plish and their impact on the larger outsourcing and shared services marketplace. There is no doubt in my mind that the Polish market will continue to expand, the capa bilities of the talent will continue to evolve and the global marketplace will see Poland as a formidable player.

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