Making Personal Connections Across Global Teams: 3 Continents, 7 Countries, 8 Time Zones

An interview with Jeff Ash, CFO at Welocalize about the upcoming 2014 Executive Roadshow

Jeff Ash Welocalize CFOAs technology grows, the different ways to communicate are endless: email, mobile, Skype, tablet, social media. In business, we all use these tools extensively. To successfully lead and guide a global team, face-to-face communication is still one of the most important communication tools. Each year, members of the Welocalize Executive Team tour all of the Welocalize offices around the world. They present corporate updates, share insights and listen and collaborate with our talented team members.  Of course, they also socialize and reinforce company goals and local, as well as global strategies within the Welocalize communities. One member of the Welocalize team members out “on tour” this year will be Jeff Ash, Welocalize CFO. I interviewed Jeff – admittedly, over Skype – to find out a bit more about the thinking behind the Welocalize Executive Roadshow.

Where are you based and can you tell me a bit about what do you do at Welocalize?

I’m based at Welocalize’s headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, USA. I’m the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Welocalize, overseeing the entire financial operations of the company. I joined Welocalize in January 2013 and work towards leading Welocalize to further profitability and sustainable growth.

What is the Welocalize Executive Roadshow?

The Roadshow is a series of trips where members of the Welocalize Executive Team visit all of our offices to meet Welocalize employees and share company news and ideas. We tend to target the second quarter for our trips and we plan our visits regionally. So, in three separate weeks we’ll hit all the Europe offices, Asian offices and US offices. The schedule is coordinated with our existing travels schedules during the quarter and we try not to do the trip in back-to-back weeks. Smith and I tend to be constant on each trip. Other members of the Executive Team will attend, depending on the main function of the site.

Can you tell us what happens at a Roadshow?

We spend at least a day on site and always make sure we have some form of social event in the evening. The day has a formal and unstructured format. We have a set session where we have prepared materials and messages we want to share with the teams: like goals, strategies and updates. In some cases the local leaders or staff, or leaders from other functional areas from outside that office may participate as well and share information about their own teams and initiatives. We also run a “town hall” style session where we open the floor for collaboration, questions and discussions. These open sessions are fantastic at getting new ideas, airing any frustrations and seeing what is really affecting the business on a daily basis. The day then tends to roll into a social event which, as well as being very enjoyable, is a really important component of the day.

Why do you have the Roadshows?

I strongly believe that personal connections are important to the success of our business. This can be a challenge in a large, growing, global company. Welocalize has over 600 employees in 11 different offices. Personal connections are important for success and motivation and effective teamwork. Welocalize people are very personally connected to members of the executive team, especially Smith (Yewell), the company’s CEO and founder. They are motivated by him and his passion and enthusiasm has a positive impact on everyone when we visit.

What are the benefits to Welocalize and Welocalize employees?

Seeing people face-to-face enables people to stay connected with the Executive Team and aligned with our company vision. It is so important for us to meet individuals in the company and learn about what they do and the contributions they make to our business and for our clients. We can establish and maintain those personal relationships, talk about initiatives, strategy and goals and provide clarity where it is needed.

We also recognize people for their achievement against the company’s four pillars: customer service, quality, innovation, teamwork. A bit like a mini-Oscars ceremony. We reward and give credit for individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty at a local level. We then share this with the company worldwide using email and our company portal.

The social aspect is beneficial to all. Each office puts on a pretty good party. You get to know the real people and we have awesome people located around the world!

Do you enjoy the Roadshow trips?

Absolutely. It’s the best opportunity to get exposure to individuals, to understand their world. It also increases my awareness of cultural differences.

One of the best things about the trips is the feedback we gather. It gives the Executive Team the opportunity to provide the proper direction, solicit new ideas and define opportunities for new initiatives. On last year’s Roadshow, we got a consistent message that people would like to actually meet, face-to-face, with some of their global colleagues. As a result, we developed the Welocalize Office Exchange Program which, so far, has been a great success. We have had a number of employees visit other global Welocalize offices. It helps them not only improve their own personal connections;  most of these trips have resulted in tangible improvement to processes, cross-functional teamwork, and improved overall client service.

Where are you heading out to next?

Smith and I are visiting Portland in mid-April and Europe in early May, where will visit our offices in Germany, Dublin and UK. I’m really looking forward to it.

You can read about the Welocalize Office Exchange trips in some of our blogs:

Jo T goes from England to China

Ritsuko Yoshimura: Tokyo to Portland, USA

Heiko travels from Germany to China

Kaitlin Seymour: From Seattle to Dublin

Eva Zhi: 6,730 miles from Beijing to Boston

Biddle travels from San Mateo, CA to Frederick, MD

Andy Mallett: 5,078 miles from San Francisco to Dublin