Who Is Service Really About?

After being in this business for 20 years, I realize the businesses I respect the most are those that take a sincere interest in the betterment of community around them. This looks like different things based on the size of the organization, the needs of the community, and the desired outcome. Whether small investments or large, servitude and servant leadership matters, and here's a look at why.

Main Street vs. Wall Street

Yep, most of our lives are dictated by what happens in our local economies; not the national. Your local gas station's price of .01 cent difference is what you pay attention to - not the barrel price. You purchase groceries based on location, service, and price (not necessarily in that order). Your entertainment is often considered according to your location, which dictates cultural norms based on geography. Even your local government has more effect on your daily commute, education, housing, and ability to grow than any other group of like citizens you'll ever have to participate with. If we're to pay attention, Main Street is more directly impactful on our daily lives than Wall Street, and we're the most important citizens in our towns.

On Main Street, we actually know our CEOs, middle managers, and R&D personnel personally. We know their characters, their hopes and dreams, and how they go about delivering on promises. Main Street says that it is committed and focused on locals like you and me. What are the ways that Main Street’s leaders, including you, serve your community?

Articulating Leadership

There are different ways to influence change and practice servitude on Main Street. We identify four types of influencing archetypes and leaders. They are the pioneer, leader, manager, and driver. Each one of these roles uses different skills to serve. Pioneers are the visionaries of society. Leaders are the rally cry of society. Managers are the organizers of society. Drivers are the doers of society. It is possible that one person can assume multiple roles, however, it is unlikely that one person maintains all roles simultaneously.

It is important to articulate which role servant leaders are assuming at any given moment so that we can work with others to fill the gaps in the other roles. Assume that every problem is unique because we’re in a new moment every moment. There’s a method to the madness of saying this out loud. “This problem is unique because we’re in a new moment that hasn’t existed before.” This one statement moistens your brain for questions. Asking, not telling, is the foundation to authentic servant leadership. Have you asked your community to articulate their needs and how they want you to support them? If not, who are you serving?

Kickstarting Query

I segment solution finding into two categories: a) there are existing solutions that people need to be inspired or threatened to use, and b) things we don’t have answers for yet, but need and/or want to find them. It’s important to know which category we’re working in. I use the following four questions to kickstart the process.

  1. Is this problem common in humans?

  2. Is this problem a derivative of oppression, suppression, and/or enslavement?

  3. Does the system for this problem (or solution) exist elsewhere?

  4. Is there space for innovation and/or invention?

If the goal of organizations is to meet the needs of locals according to the nuanced issues of the community, it’s important to maximize all resources and tools towards that bullseye, right? Asking questions allows everyone the opportunity to do the work to articulate, research, acquire, allocate and implement solutions that work.

Integrity Builds Trust

Listen. People talk a lot of shit they have no capacity to implement. I don’t know how to say that politely in part because it infuriates me. I am most upset by the fact that folks actually could act upon their visions and commitments, but they don’t ask enough questions to get anywhere. We each have a talent that is meant to be used to sustain ourselves and serve others. The ego is set up to protect us from emotional harm, but it also blocks our ability to truly see ourselves truthfully. Asking questions about what is important to those we serve is vital to our ability to do business with integrity. We cannot serve ourselves in business and pretend we’re meeting Main Street’s needs.

We can only implement our talents as tools for service to others when we are humble and courageous enough to ask those around us if what we have is what they need. This is a frightening thing to do, I know. It comes with an entire industry of people waiting to “help” you cope with rejection, being wrong, and teaching how to coerce people to do what they don’t really want to do. These methods lack integrity, and servant leaders know it. Servant leadership in Main Street’s businesses create safe, flexible and innovative solutions that radiate something different. People don’t fear it and they are also curious to know more.

What is it that piques their interest and what compels them to go out of their way to explore what they may not even understand? Could it be an opportunity to be heard, understood, and catered to in a way that solves the issue they did the work to articulate? Yep. It’s unbroken trust.

Is Your Consultant Really Working?

If you do a general Google search on consultants, you’ll find more how-to’s on becoming a consultant than how-to’s on hiring the right fit. Why is that? This gap in information is what brings us here, now. Our primary goal as consultants is ensuring our work is sustainable, which includes ensuring our clients know what to expect and how to set expectations. (We found a decent guide on how to hire consultants, which we’ll share.) 

As with anything, there are pros and cons of hiring a consultant. Before we get into that, what do consultants do? How can you tell if your consultant is effectively working for you? What are the pros and cons of hiring externally and how can you maximize its benefits?

Consultants provide a knowledgeable and/or innovative third-party perspective on problem-solving and directly or indirectly solve a particular problem for you. Essentially, consultants do what you ask; which is why it is important that you identify what your end goal is with a consultant before the work starts. Hiring a consultant is not a totally hands-off process. In fact, if you only hear from your consultant at the beginning of a project and at the end to receive a check, your consultant was not working for you. 

How can you tell if your consultant is effectively working for you? Communicate. This may sound like an obvious answer, considering how FordMomentum! is an actual communications consulting firm. Even if we weren’t, communication is key in hiring a consultant for a couple reasons; it allows the client to clearly express ideal end goals and understand limitations and allows the consultant to know they are on the right track to get the job done for you.

In our work, we clarify steps in the process, what each stage looks like, and ask questions along the way. These questions are internal, to your organization and external to your audience through market research or interfacing. Your consultant should ask questions of all components of your project beyond the obvious questions of budget, scale, time, and measurement including internal and external usage, end users, and user experience. 

What are the pros and cons of hiring a consultant?
The con is consultants should be screened, which can be time-consuming initially, and if you are expecting the consultant to become a steadfast part of your company, it won’t happen. If it does happen, that consultant is no longer a consultant, they’re an employee. If you do not need a consultant, don’t hire one. I know, I’m shocked I said it too! (Want to know how to hire a consultant? Check out this article.) 

The pro is if you need extra manpower to navigate a dilemma or transition, strategize a new workable perspective, share expertise as a subject matter expert, employ a new and/or sustainable solution, or manage a rehaul of your existing infrastructure, consultants provide products and services to address those needs comprehensively. (You can find more explanations for these reasons to hire consultants here.) 

To maximize the benefit of your consultant, there are various structures that ease the process beyond clear communication. I’ll list my top four:

Designate a point of contact or internal project manager for your consultant. This person will act as a gatekeeper to your organization to ensure your consultant is on time and on budget and they will help your consultant provide the best outcomes for you. 
Know what went wrong. Often our clients come to us because they tried to solve something in-house or mistakenly hired a “cookie cutter” consultant that gave the client-generic, inapplicable suggestions. Sharing what hasn’t worked in the past saves time and allows your consultant to best cater to your where your organization is now and where you want it to be. 

Recognize when/if there is more work for your consultant to do. In one case, we identified that our client needed an entire communications team if they were to sustain and meet all the needs of the organization. For that client, we made recommendations for the team including measurement tools to ensure each hire could meet the organizations’ evolving demands. These suggestions were not in the initial scope of work but helped that client achieve their long-term goals. 

Be sure to check your consultant before they leave. Ask your consultant for actionable and sustainable advice and a pathway for knowledge transfer capabilities. Can the work continue when the consultant leaves? If so, how? These are questions your consultant needs to answer before moving on and will allow you to know what to do with the results of their work.

Although hiring a consultant is not a hands-off activity, your engagement matters. The more information your consultant has about your particular pain points, successes, and ideals, the best they can find and implement solutions that address the root cause and a pathway to actualizing visions.

Remember, if your consultant isn’t asking, they aren’t working!

What Makes Us Buzz

FordMomentum! Brand Story

Can we get straight to it?

Your business cannot afford to not recognize and include diverse perspectives in your communications strategy. Period.

We built Ford Momentum! on our empirical, cultural, professional and spiritual investigation into how people create, innovate and exchange ideas and values to positively impact profit and people.

We dissected our communications experiences in medicine, marketing, transportation, arts and culture, recreation and leisure, environment, disaster relief...nearly every U.S. industry. In addition, we examined domestic and international cultures of various nations around the world where we have worked (Australia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Morocco, Panama, and Turkey). We reviewed data from research companies, world organizations, as well as our own analyses.

Here’s what we know about communications: Your business, organization, or municipality must get it right.

You have zero reason to not do it, and to not do it is ethically, socially, and economically irresponsible.

Right now you could think of at least three communication failures in the media. Go ahead—Seriously think about it.

Even the most well-intentioned plan, conceived by the most well-intentioned people can find itself in a media uproar with consumers and clients asking, “What were they thinking?”

Can you afford to offend a consumer who represents $13 trillion buying power?

Do you have the valuable time and money to waste asking the same people for answers?

At the core of our approach is the belief that diversity and inclusion should not be specious jargon to mean talk like me, dress like me, think like me, operate like me; but just be a different sexuality, ethnicity or culture than me. Conversely, diversity and inclusion mean recognizing that there are more people who are similar to us than dissimilar in a 30-mile radius.

Within those 30 miles are layers of diversity that most don't pay attention to but if we did, we'd have what we need to solve everything together.

Our business is built on setting a new standard where we all earn with integrity and spend with integrity—we win with integrity.

(Whoa! So now that we’re acquainted…)

FM! gets it right and wins.

Our mission is to deliver sustainable communications strategies using a mix of data science, culture integration, and creative process was born.

Data supports or denies an anecdote. But data doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it cannot be used as an absolute truth. We use data to guide us to a holistic truth. This approach incorporates the perspective of everyone who is connected to your project. Additionally, we take it to another level by reading between the data lines.

FM! came across a figure that designated a US neighborhood, comprised of those included in that buying power, a food desert—a community where residents don’t have access to fresh, wholesome food and produce. Simple enough, right? Data revealed the problem. Very smart humans came up with a data-informed solution: open more grocery stores in areas where there are none. Aha!

Knowing the level of scarcity (Thanks, data!) in this community was a step toward identifying and solving such an egregious problem, right?

We’ll, wait.

When FM! came across this information, we found solid data, yes. But we went further.

We asked ourselves: Were residents asked about where they buy produce? What about bodegas and corner stores? Do those stores have fresh food options? And if they don’t, what about filling their shelves with produce, capitalizing on pre-existing infrastructure, instead of building a brand new big box store?

As communications scientists, Ford Momentum! asks the right questions to get the right results.

We want to know what the truth is, but unlike other communications approaches, we don’t believe truth is absolute; moreover, it certainly doesn’t come from an exclusive dataset of ones and zeros. We must ask questions.

Data is a method used to validate other conversions of non-traditional methods—query, observation, listening, language, and a recognition of others (your audience) in their natural state.

That’s why our communications approach includes cultural integration.

Cultural currency is the value(s), the ’why’ of a group or organization. It is the way in which a group of people conduct the exchange of humanity—the tools that individuals use within their own culture, and how they take that information out to other cultures in order to socialize, capitalize, or set value.

Furthermore, there are other ways people make sense of things than just money.

What is a zoo worth to a mom who doesn’t believe in confinement? The zoo’s currency is husbandry for science’s sake. The mom’s? Freedom.

What is the speed of a company’s electric train worth to a father whose son uses it to get to school? The company’s currency is time. The father’s? Safety.

What does this exchange look like? FM! helps you determine that.

We believe exchange doesn’t mean compromise. Although we may exchange or convert our currency, we get to spend it as we choose, and (here it is!), we can still accomplish the goal in a way that makes sense for all parties involved.

How we spend our currency after we exchange it is the creative process.

Culture provides a way of surviving. In business, surviving translates into sustainability. Sustainability is the level of productivity maintained over time that is exponentially profitable.

Once data shows you the problem and possibility in your communications, we identify the cultural currency and creative process needed to sustain your work.

Meet us where we are. Buzzing around our Houston, Texas lab. Pollinating. Investigating. Creating. Buzz us with something to solve, and explore, and let us help you build sustainable communications solutions.

Let us help you get it right.


The American Experience Based On Viewpoint

I am a product of a North American mother and Central American father. Both of my parents are black, meaning their ancestry is tied back to Africa. My mother is a native English speaker and my father is a native Spanish speaker. I am a curly-haired, coffee-colored, full-figured combination of two distinctly different Americas and the one I reside in has no clue.

According to my father, all of the Americas are identified as such - America. In Panama, where he's from, the United States is referred to as "Estados Unidos" - not America. Also, both my parents and I identify as black. My father may be considered Hispanic or Latino, however that's an identification of culture and geography, not ethnicity. I clarify these things because I'm often asked by other blacks (from the U.S.) if I'm "mixed" or where I'm from. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas (where I now reside). I actually grew up in a lower middle class black neighborhood. Most of our neighbors were professionals, students, or seniors. We had mixed socio-economic demographics from the welfare recipient to the executive. 

Until I became a parent, I thought most black neighborhoods were like mine. I realize today, however, that my black experience is considerably more privileged than most because I have a cultural, educational, and physical way out of the after-effects of a post-slavery society.

In the throws of political rhetoric, government mistrust over criminal justice, media whirlwinds, and brazen public commentary I must remember that I have an incredibly unique black American experience. In many ways I'm grateful, of course, as my experience helps me to step outside of the problem in it's current form and use tools I've acquired and learned elsewhere to apply a relevant solution. I also have the first-hand experience to know that man kind has some fundamentals that are the same around the globe. The nuances are what allow us to excel or decline, collectively. 

A tool that I teach as much as possible is how to engage with others that are not like you. It's important in my work that I get messaging with my client right every time. Many times I just don't know enough about a segment of a population to know if my message resonates or not. So, I teach and practice how to ask. Walk with me as I explain my trailing thoughts, here...

I saw a documentary on black women who belong to a fight club in Brooklyn this week. The gist is these women have promoters that work like a pimp and fight in a boxing ring with no head gear, no training, no rules. They're just thrown in there to duke it out until their opponent is down. Apparently they make a good living off of it, and they're heralded for it in their neighborhoods. For practice, they street fight for free. They are attempting to be good mothers to their children. They are tough in every sense of the word. They speak in round, garish bellows made of curse words and threats to anyone who dares to challenge them. When the documentarian asked one of the fighter's children what they knew about her work they replied that she's the best street fighter out there, and no one messes with her, not even the men.

Don't think for a second that I'm being judgmental of these women. I wouldn't dare. I'm a huge fan of any warrior who happens to be a goddess. I'm a fan of mothers doing what they have to do to protect their children, put food on the table, and clothes on their backs. I am not a fan of women doing it at the detriment of themselves, or being pimped for it.

I digress. My curiosity here is that I identify with these women in so many ways, yet our black American experience is so radically different. At one point my reality of managing basics for my children included working 2 jobs; 1 for an organization, and 1 as an entrepreneur. The only pimp I paid was Uncle Sam, and (in my mind) my worst enemy was time, lack of resources and the threat of an illness for me or my kids. If I were to try to influence them with a campaign about something like self-worth, entrepreneurship, non-violence, or love languages what would I say? What's their reality? Are these things even important to them, and why or why not?

Culture in America is equally, if not more, important as ethnicity (or race). What a community accepts as meaningful and/or useful for survival varies based on where they sit in the bleachers of the great American game. At the end of the day I intend my work to be authentic and a viable communications resource to engage others to support positive change in their communities.

The only way I win, you win, or we win is to continue to ask, ask, ask and then do it until we get it right. What tools do you use to become more informed about other's viewpoints?