Simon Associates Management Consultants: Bringing Anthropology Into Business
Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC) is an innovative consultancy firm drawing on the vast business and academic experience of its founder, Dr. Andrea (Andi) Simon. We caught up with Andrea to find out more about the firm and learn about the secrets behind the incredible success it has achieved over the past 17 years.
Established in 2002, SAMC offers its clients a wide range of consulting services and innovative resources, with particular focus on the unique tools and methods of anthropology to help businesses successfully drive change. Andrea talks us through her depth of experience in the corporate landscape and how she came to create the firm.
“Personally, I am a corporate anthropologist. Prior to founding SAMC, I was an executive for 20 years in a number of financial services and healthcare organizations, all of which were forced to adapt to rapid changes in their business environments. I built my executive experience from an academic foundation, having been a tenured professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey for 10 years. In 2006, I was a visiting professor teaching entrepreneurship to Arts and Science students at Washington University in St. Louis.
“These academic appointments provided me with an exceptional base on which to apply a social science perspective to the pressing needs of fast-changing businesses. At SAMC, we urge clients to pause, step out, and ‘see, feel and think’ about their organization with fresh eyes, much as an anthropologist might conduct ethnographic research on their company and their customers. The idea is to help them see what they are missing, the important opportunities that are happening all around them. We help them get past their biased brains and “see” opportunities, and then capitalize on them so they can better adapt to what’s coming at them, fast.
“Drawing on my experience, I founded SAMC to offer the benefits of my expertise to a wide range of clients. I felt the time was right for me to bring the theory, methods and tools of anthropology to industry. Once in business, we picked up clients rather quickly, including Montefiore Medical Center, Atlantic Health System, the paper manufacturer Marcal Paper, Centenary College and Elkay Manufacturing. We have grown successfully ever since, continually helping our clients find the way forward that is often all around them.
“My husband, Andrew (Andy) Simon is a serial entrepreneur. He sold his last business in 2017 and joined SAMC to bring his business experience to clients that are trying to shift from early-stage companies to scalable middle-market success stories. He grew his own company, Questar Assessment Inc, from a start-up to the fifth largest in the U.S. summative assessment field, so he knows what he’s talking about.
“Today, as SAMC continues to grow, I’m focusing on building the strategic direction of the firm. Having brought together a support staff of talented experts in their own right who keep things ticking along, my role is to carry out the majority of the public speaking and workshop engagements while Andrew leads our Inbound Marketing division. Together, we are certified HubSpot Partners, an inbound marketing platform.”
Offering a full array of idea generation, innovation and change management services, SAMC specializes in helping companies respond to new economic climates, capitalize on shifting customer demands, identify new unoccupied market space, and when necessary, change their corporate culture. Below, Andrea describes these services in more detail and outlines how they benefit a range of clients.
“Here at SAMC, as corporate anthropologists, our focus is in helping organizations change. Our specific expertise is in the areas of strategic change, culture change and new market development. We are trained practitioners in Blue Ocean Strategy®, having completed over 400 workshops on the topic since 2007.
“For our cultural assessments and change work, we are certified consultants with an organization in the Netherlands that licenses the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), a methodology which we use with many of our clients to help diagnose and change their organizational cultures. Developed by Drs. Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn at the University of Michigan, the OCAI is a highly successful methodology that helps businesses better understand the culture they have now and what they would prefer it to be for the future – as well as what they need to change to get there.
“Alongside our consultancy work, Andrew and I have produced a range of resources to support our clients in their change journeys. Our ChangeMap process helps them backward plan to reach their new vision for their organization. I have written an award-winning book, On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights ,” containing eight case studies of clients of ours that each came to us when they were stalled, or ‘on the brink.’ Highlighting the diversity of our expertise and our client base, they range from a small college to a pharmaceutical firm to a hospital to a house wraps manufacturer to a customer service call center. We also produce a weekly podcast, On the Brink with Andi Simon, which is ranked as one of the best 200 podcasts in business and recognized as one of the top 20 for consultants.”
By offering this wide array of solutions and resources, SAMC is able to service an impressively diverse range of clients. Andrea shares an insight into these clients and what they are looking for when they engage her consultancy.
“Our clients are typically those who have come up against a wall. Whether it is the declining enrollment of a university or the loss of a major client, more of the same cheaper is no longer an effective strategy. Even successful sales teams find that their previous sales tactics are losing their effectiveness as new buyers enter their markets and purchase their services differently. Each client wants SAMC to help them use anthropology to better ‘see, feel and think’ in new ways. To help them accomplish this, we spend time in their workplaces, “hang out” with their employees and observe how consumers use their products and services, all with the goal of helping them see opportunities that are coming directly to them which they are ignoring. Often, I ask CEOs to just listen in on incoming customer calls to hear what they are asking for and the company is just “not doing.” It is amazing to watch leaders see business coming to them that they are deleting.
“With our range of clients operating across many industries, we always custom-tailor our approach, helping each one better understand how their organization actually operates. Using observational research tools, ethnographic methods, story capture, visualizations and participant observation, we help them see their operations with fresh eyes. Overall, our approach can be summed up like this: we take observations and turn them into creative innovations that can help an organization reinvent itself, ignite change and re-invigorate a culture that can sustain its growth.”
Operating within the fast-paced and highly competitive business consultancy market, SAMC has worked very hard over the years to carve out a niche for itself and prove to its clients that both Andrea and Andrew have the skills and knowledge to drive their business forward and help them achieve real, meaningful change. Andrea highlights the challenges her business is facing on an ongoing basis and how she and Andrew leverage their unique experience to overcome them.
“Within the business consultancy industry, the biggest challenge facing any firm such as ours is, of course, the abundance of alternatives for every potential client. The key for us is to leverage our unique approach as anthropologists, while at the same time, convince clients why that approach is the right one for their unique situation.
“Not surprisingly, few businesses know what corporate anthropology is or why they should hire anthropologists to help them find sustainable growth. Part of our challenge is to overcome that lack of knowledge. Hence, my book focuses on how ‘a little anthropology’ can help any business grow. Each of the case studies illustrates our anthropologybased strategy and why it worked.”
As she looks to the future, Andrea is optimistic that SAMC will continue to flourish as it seeks to undertake new projects that will drive the company and its clients to even greater success.
“Throughout 2019 and beyond, Andrew and I have a number of initiatives in the pipeline that will drive us and our organization to even greater heights. The Simon Initiative for Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis is a three-year commitment in which we are working with the university to create a platform for women entrepreneurs to help each other build better businesses.
“In addition, I am working on a new book about women CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the types of company cultures they as women create that turn into success stories. With all of these upcoming projects, we will continue to focus on driving change within the wider corporate landscape and supporting clients to create real change within their own organizations. These are exciting times for SAMC and both of us are looking forward to the opportunities the future will bring.”
Company: Simon Associates Management Consultants
Name: Andrea J. Simon, Ph.D.
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.simonassociates.net. & www.andisimon.com
Twitter handle: @simonandi