Forum Solutions’ three co-founders and managing directors – Shelley Holm, Paul Lambert, and Geeta McCormack – were interviewed by Seattle radio 101 KXL’s Business Briefing with Brian Bushlach. They were asked to speak on topics ranging from how they got their starts with Forum to the sectors and the projects that they are actively engaged in.
Holm, Lambert, and McCormack started Forum Solutions in 2013, after having all had successful careers working together and building a strong reputation for consulting in the Seattle area. Despite the relative surfeit of consulting firms in the region, Forum has been able to distinguish itself along three key matrices.
“First, we help clients define their strategy and also help them implement it,” said Shelley Holm, one of the three managing directors at Forum. “We actually come in and help them define [their strategy] and make real measurable impact on achieving it.”
The second is being agile. “We didn’t want to necessarily bring ten people to solve a problem when it really needs two. For us, it was very deliberate in leveraging some great networks that we’ve built over our last 15 years together and adding that value to the client.”
The third key principle, according to Holm, is being rooted. “This is where we live, this is a big piece of it. We’re all very committed to Seattle; we’re all on non-profit boards here. It’s important for us to see the local market thrive.” Not only that, when consulting firms get bigger, they tend to move outside of the market and lose that relationship with local clients. “We found that having that deep relationship sets us up for long-term success with the client,” Holm said. “Some of our best friends are current and former clients and people we can actually grow with and help develop.”
One of the sectors that Forum is most actively engaged in is healthcare. The Seattle region has been a model for other healthcare systems around the country, and Forum has been at the forefront of pioneering those successes.
“The regulatory environment is changing quite a bit…and our local healthcare market is invested in trying to stay ahead of those changes and continue to provide uninterrupted service and care for their folks,” said Geeta McCormack. “There’s so much passion in some of our healthcare research here. They are committed to solving things like cancer and childhood disease.”
When it comes to the value Forum has been able to provide for local firms, a lot of work has been done to create avenues of communication between healthcare providers and healthcare insurers, in everything from strategy to execution, in order for the industry to work together more effectively. “Making sure that there is continuity in communication and ensuring that the lessons we learn when we work with one provider are shared with other providers [is integral],” said McCormack. “It can be our neighbor, our friend, our own family member that’s impacted, and if we can make that a more positive impact, that’s the best thing we can leave as a legacy.”
Forum understands that client needs are evolving and giving way to new challenges: shorter time frames, more variables in the business, and increasing competition. “We decided that we wanted to create a firm that really helped them in addressing some of those evolving needs and provide that real value for the client,” said Holm “That’s exactly why we named our company ‘Forum.’ We bring great minds and great thinking together to produce tangible and actionable results.”
So far, Forum has achieved great success in attracting new and returning clients for consulting projects. “If you think about our diversity of clients in the first two years, we’ve done business with approximately 20 clients, 15 each year,” said Paul Lambert. “Many of them continue on when we solve one problem for them, and it turns into having them ask us back to solve another.”
In addition to healthcare, Forum clients run the gamut from healthcare and technology, to transportation, higher education, and non-profit. Regardless of the sector, one key principle that Forum upholds in all of its engagements is client value. “Clients are a little tired of expensive consultants,” said Lambert. “We try to hit that value point that’s very powerful for them where they can access a very senior leader and somebody’s who’s got a ton of talent and the right experience.”
Part of delivering value is knowing when and how to innovate, a concept that Forums stresses with all of its projects. “One of our theories is that innovation is best for a client,” said Lambert. “When we approach a strategy project for a client, we think about innovation, not necessarily going deeper in their industry, but using things we’ve learned elsewhere and applying those in that particular client’s problem.” He added with a laugh: “Those sorts of things really turn us on.”
Listen to the full interview below.