Amita Sherwood, CEO of E Squared Solutions, is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt who is passionate about empowering people and organizations to achieve extraordinary results.
She has spent over 20 years partnering with organizations in a variety of industries including Insurance, Federal (DoD and Civilian), Health Care, Higher Education, Financial Services, and Information Technology to boost organizational performance and effectiveness in the areas of:
- Strategic planning
- Large scale Lean Six Sigma deployment strategy and execution
- Development and delivery of Lean Six Sigma training (all levels)
- Project and team facilitation and coaching
- Leadership development and coaching
- Change management strategy planning and execution
- Performance metric development, reporting, and monitoring
- Risk management deployment planning and execution
Amita holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Information Systems from The Pennsylvania State University. Between her personal and professional travels, Amita has had some notable experiences including seeing 2 wonders of the world (Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal), kissing the Blarney Stone, and being kissed by a stingray.
Connect with Amita on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Challenges between working IN the business vs. ON the business
- Scaling a services business
- How to share your knowledge through thought leadership
- Benefits of WBE/WOSB certification
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have Amita Sherwood with E Squared Solutions. Welcome, Amita.
Amita Sherwood: [00:00:30] Thank you so much, Lee. I’m excited to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Well, I’m excited to learn what you got going on. Tell us a little bit about E Squared Solutions. How are you serving folks?
Amita Sherwood: [00:00:39] Sure. So, E Squared Solutions, we are a privately owned professional services firm. We work with mid and large size organizations to really empower their employees to drive and execute transformation. And so, specifically, what we do is we offer workshops, which have been a lot more virtual lately, but have been in-person in the past. And advisory services, so consulting services that are either, you know, pre kind of packaged services or customized, in many cases. As well as content, meaning anything that we can offer as a workshop. Clients can purchase and license and really become more self-sustaining within their organizations.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:32] So, how did you get into this line of work? What was the catalyst behind the firm?
Amita Sherwood: [00:01:38] So, it’s a little bit of an accident, which is probably not uncommon for people that start businesses or entrepreneurs. So, I had been doing this type of work, process improvement, continuous improvement, for really my entire career, which has been about over 20 years now. But I had been working in other organizations. And I got my start within GE, which was well-known for their quality initiative called Six Sigma. And so, I got my own certifications and development there. And then, went into consulting with other organizations. And really kind of learned consulting through working as a consultant with other organizations. And then, just got to a period of time, almost nine years ago, when just balancing consulting and being on the road and having a family became a real challenge.
Amita Sherwood: [00:02:31] And so, you know, I couldn’t really be on the road as much as I was. And so, I departed with the previous company I was with and, you know, took a little time off. And then, in that time off, I had changed my status on LinkedIn and got some some requests for projects. And that just kind of snowballed into turning it into a business.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:55] So, now, do you find any similarities working with kind of enterprise level businesses and kind of the mid-market smaller firms?
Amita Sherwood: [00:03:04] I do. Because, interestingly enough, there are a lot of kind of similar challenges. Because transformation comes with change. And what transformation means is really kind of changing processes, changing the way people do work, changing the way, not only people that are doing the work, but leaders think about how customers are being served, and really making sure that internal processes are set up kind of in the most efficient and effective manner to provide the most value to customers. And so, that kind of changed aspect is really a challenge for any sized organization.
Amita Sherwood: [00:03:45] And the scale with a larger enterprise sized organization is higher than it is in a, maybe, mid-market smaller organization. I think sometimes the mid-market smaller organizations, you know, things may be get done a little bit more quickly. You know, you’re able to kind of change processes and there’s not as many layers that need to kind of go through to really get things done.
Amita Sherwood: [00:04:13] But I think also in larger organizations, some of the things that are benefit is, many larger organizations, whether it’s like Fortune 500 level organizations, they’ve been doing continuous improvement for many years at this point. So, it’s not really new. So, culturally, many of them are pretty mature. But, again, I think a lot of the challenges still go back to the fact that this type of work and transformation from a process perspective brings about change. So, we’re all people, not many of us like change anyway, so sometimes it doesn’t matter what side of the organization it is.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:48] Do you find that maybe the smaller firms are a little slower to implement these kind of systems and processes? That they’re more kind of winging it and kind of creating the wheel every time from scratch rather than having kind of these reliable systems that can kind of execute predictably?
Amita Sherwood: [00:05:12] So, that’s a great question. And I think the answer in short is yes. I do think that growth oriented, which smaller organizations who really are just focused on meeting the needs of their customers and really just delivering what it is to their customers, there’s not a lot of capacity internally, whether it’s people, whether it’s materials, equipment, technology, to really establish robust, consistent, established structures and processes.
Amita Sherwood: [00:05:47] So, to your point, it does end up becoming a lot like inventing or reinventing every time, because we’re just trying to kind of keep our heads above water. Whereas, in a larger organization, there’s usually more access to resources. Again, it could be people, it could be technology, it could be other types of materials or equipment. And so, the fact that that infrastructure exists, it typically comes with more structure in their processes and more ability to have, you know, more consistency in how they’re delivering their processes.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:26] I know. I interview a lot of small to midsized business owners, and it feels from them that it’s like Groundhog Day. It’s like every sale is a heroic sale. Every kind of process is a one off that it’s slightly different. It’s not exactly like the other one. And that’s part of their nimbleness when they’re smaller, a solo entrepreneur or have their own practice, that they can customize. But when you start doing that, then it’s hard to scale that. It’s hard to replicate yourself.
Amita Sherwood: [00:07:00] Exactly. And that’s something that, I think, as I have experienced, when you establish a business and you’re kind of the founder of it and you’re the one that created most of the processes, you know, sometimes you can feel like that is a unique or that is a value-add to clients. However, what I will say with the methodologies, like with lean thinking and kind of the Six Sigma type approaches, what we’re not trying to do is take away uniqueness and take away the ability to customize. But it’s really figuring out what are those things and activities that we can do and standardize so that we’re not wasting our time or wasting our resources on doing some of those things that are standard one off. And we actually can create capacity to treat our clients in a more unique and valuable way so that we’re saving some of, maybe, those time or resources on standardizing and making more consistent processes. So, there is this capacity to actually add more value from a customer perspective.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:11] Now, can you kind of share with our listeners that maybe they have been struggling kind of with the challenge of working in the business versus working on the business? What are some of those kind of first steps? What are some of those kind of low hanging fruit that can help them kind of maybe take their practice to the next level?
Amita Sherwood: [00:08:30] Sure, well, I will say even after nine years, it’s certainly still a struggle when you are a small business. I think one of the things which is certainly a bias of mine personally would be, to really identify some of the core processes in the organization. And, honestly, depending on how big your team is, work with some of your team who either manages or works in those processes and really look to document and clarify roles. And, hopefully, make some standardization around some of those key processes, which should free up a little bit of time to then create more opportunity to work on the business.
Amita Sherwood: [00:09:18] A couple other things, I think, working on the business – and this is just more from an individual perspective – is really just managing your calendar. One thing I think I failed to do for the first several years is, I was so focused on client delivery. I really failed to build in on a daily basis planning time. And time to kind of work on either strategy, or work on thought leadership, or things that were not necessarily directly client delivery related. So, that was something that I had to learn just by not doing it. It’s just on a daily basis working with 15 minute segments, that will really take you far.
Amita Sherwood: [00:10:04] And I think there’s even just something to be said about having either monthly or quarterly practices with yourself as a leader or other of your leadership team, you know, to do things like some basic either strategic planning or reviewing of objectives for that month or that quarter, especially around things like your KPIs or key process indicators for your organization. So, just establishing kind of habits periodically and scheduling that time in advance and sticking to it, really, to be able to build that time to work on the business versus in the business.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:43] So, you think it’s possible then to scale a service business? That’s not a dream that can’t come true. It can if you kind of put the right systems in place.
Amita Sherwood: [00:10:54] Absolutely. I absolutely agree. I think, you know, is it an easy thing to do? No. But I do think that it’s absolutely possible. One of the things I’ve learned about a services business is, there’s an element of productizing your services. So, you know, while being in the field of consulting, you do want to treat each client uniquely. And that is the way we look at our clients and each of those relationships. But what they are also is, is there are standard services between either the workshops or advisory services.
Amita Sherwood: [00:11:31] So, to really identify some of those standard productized kind of services and then focus on delivering those, focus on building a team that can deliver those for you and support, whether it’s the frontend, whether it’s marketing, sales, or backend around customer service or client delivery. Yes, I think there’s absolutely big opportunities around scaling a services business. I mean, I don’t know. I haven’t even really gotten into this phase of what technology can do. Right now, as our business is, it’s just more of a people related business. And I look forward to kind of growing even through the use of technology.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:12] Now, I think that that’s one of the challenges that some solopreneurs or maybe leaders have a practice run into. It’s almost an ego issue where they think I’m the only person that can deliver this. You know, I’m the secret sauce. And if you can productize some elements of your business and you can still be the secret sauce at a high level, but put kind of resources in place to execute maybe some of this stuff that you’re not critical in delivering.
Amita Sherwood: [00:12:43] Yes. And yet again, I’ve gone through the same thing. You know, there were things that I was doing and when I finally realized, you know, I just have to write something down, even if it’s a couple of bullet points, somebody could probably easily do this for me. And it was really also through kind of going through my own experiences of doing kind of entrepreneurship, learning, and growth to figure out you have to delegate. To grow, you have to delegate and you have to bring in other people and resources.
Amita Sherwood: [00:13:18] So, for things that were typically in my head, you know, it was as simple as whether it’s using certain spreadsheets to write out plans. Or just even a Word document to list out here the things that I might do to when I talk with a client. Or even if it’s an internal bookkeeping or something of that nature. So, yes, in some cases, it is as simple as kind of writing something out that’s in your head. But, again, that does take a little bit of time. But when you do it and when you can pass it off to someone, it creates that capacity to continue to do more strategic work. Which when you’re an owner or a founder or in a leadership position, that’s what you really should be doing versus doing the paperwork.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:07] Now, what’s your feeling and your philosophy regarding the sharing of knowledge and thought leadership? Now, is that something that you feel that you should be holding close to the vest and that if they want that information, then that’s what they’re paying you for? Or is it something you feel that it’s something that you should be sharing out there? And if they want your specific expertise, they’ll hire you to help them kind of make that come alive.
Amita Sherwood: [00:14:35] Sure. So, I would say, probably more the latter of what your two statements were. I think when you are in a services and, really, almost more of a knowledge based business – meaning I don’t offer technology solutions or anything somebody could take a demo of or watch a video of as easily – I think you almost have to provide thought knowledge upfront and in a free and transparent way for people to get to know you and your brand and what your skills and capabilities are.
Amita Sherwood: [00:15:15] And, again, it’s been kind of a struggle in a sense resource-wise, because, you know, even just doing things like a monthly blog or LinkedIn posts or videos, again, take time, and things have to be written and edited and researched and all of that. And so, it is something that I would say we’ve been focused on more for the past, probably, year-and-a-half to two years. And I do actually have a part- time resource that helps me with that because it was something I realized I couldn’t do. I just couldn’t do it on my own.
Amita Sherwood: [00:15:47] So, yeah, I do think it is a very important aspect of being a services business to really be sharing thought leadership in an open and transparent way. And, especially, I think, now there’s just so much information out there in general that when you don’t do it, it almost creates a sense of why not. What is it about your business or who you are that you’re not doing it? And so, I certainly wouldn’t want to convey ourselves in that manner. We try to be very transparent and collaborative with any of the clients we work with. So, any thought leadership I’d want to be in that manner as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:27] Now, speaking of collaboration, why was it important for you to be part of the GWBC?
Amita Sherwood: [00:16:35] So, I think there were some things that I was looking at going into it. And honestly so, since I’ve been part of GWBC – which has been September of 2020, so it’s only been several months – I think there are even more benefits or value than what I was expecting. I was kind of expecting that as a women-owned business, maybe they were going to be opportunities to be exposed to organizations that were in our target markets and, you know, create some of those relationships.
Amita Sherwood: [00:17:11] I think what I wasn’t expecting, but have been so pleasantly surprised and appreciative for, are the learning opportunities that are available on a constant basis. I’ve done an enterprise operating system program to kind of build infrastructure in your own business. I’ve actually been a recipient of a monetary grant that was a huge positive in our business that we had never applied nor had I received any kind of a grant from a financial perspective. And just even continued educational programs and even opportunities like this. I just really honestly didn’t know and understand the value and just seeing it more and more even in these first few months.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:01] So, now, if a client or prospective client was interested in services from you or services like the ones you deliver, what is kind of the pain that they’re going for where E Squared Solutions is the solution? Is there a kind of a first contact, like an early project that you guys work on, that helps kind of introduce your services?
Amita Sherwood: [00:18:27] There are. And it is dependent on, in some cases, maybe the size of the organization. In other cases, really, where they are in their journey of transformation or continuous improvement. So, you would mention like smaller or mid-market kind of clients, you know, many of them may really not have any formal continuous improvement structures built into their organizations yet. So, in those cases, it may be that we’re really just being brought in because there’s a specific business problem they’re trying to tackle.
Amita Sherwood: [00:19:06] Like if, for example, I had a small retail client a couple of years ago, they had recently had a huge growth. They were hiring a whole bunch of new operators. And when I say operator, this is retail manufacturing, so there were a lot of people that were actually sewing handbags. And their challenge was, you know, they really couldn’t get these people on board and train and making quality bags in a shorter or fast timeframe. So, we went in and helped to just set some standard processes. Really watch and record what people were doing, how they were doing it, some of the experienced operators, and then documenting and training on those new processes. So, that could be just addressing a specific need and problem and kind of working in the lead on that.
Amita Sherwood: [00:20:02] Or for other organizations who are having continuous improvement program and they are just maybe not getting out of it what they need. They’re not completing their projects in a timely fashion. We could come in and do an assessment, which usually could be a couple of days, again, depending on the size of the organization. And from there, we then may have some recommendations on some combination of workshops or advisory services or content going forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:30] And if somebody wanted to learn more and have more some sort of conversation with you or somebody on your team, is there a website?
Amita Sherwood: [00:20:37] Yes. Absolutely. Our website is esquaredsolutions.biz or biz.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:47] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Amita Sherwood: [00:20:53] Thank you so much, Lee. I do appreciate it and having me on today.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:56] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
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