Management Tips

Okapi’s Spotlight on Data: Interview with Jennifer Sertl

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This month, we’re featuring author, thought leader, and Okapi partner Jennifer Sertl in our latest installment of the Okapi Spotlight on Data Q&A series.

Jennifer Sertl is an author, thought leader, and the founder/president of Agility3R, focusing on strengthening the strategic and critical thinking skills of companies to make their leaders more resilient, responsive, and reflective. She is the author of the book, Strategy, Leadership and the Soul: Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflection for a Global Economy which she co-wrote with Okapi Advisory Board member Koby Huberman.

We talked to Jennifer about the many challenges surrounding organizational data & strategy and her approach to this.

Okapi: As someone dedicated to strategic critical thinking, how well do you think companies are handling the challenges they face around the data they collect and how they distribute & deliver it?

JS: I think Clay Shirky said it best: The issue today is not information overload, it’s filter failure.
I believe that companies have yet to sufficiently codify their strategies to enable them to truly leverage information that they’re collecting. The result? Many businesses attempt to accommodate everyone without a clear strategic intent. But if companies create a strategic filter to streamline the data, it can be more easily leveraged to reinforce certain themes. This allows the disseminated information to be used to increase productivity, employee cohesion, and ultimately optimize brand strategy. This strategic filter reveals the company’s level of innovation, know-how, and collaboration.
Many companies are preoccupied with just “getting the data” and using machine learning to do so. But are they actually executing a strategy and going to market using this data? Many are not there yet.
Okapi: What’s your approach to this challenge?
JS: There’s a business simulation game I run called Interplay. It allows teams to choose out of six strategies: synergy, know-how, velocity, collaboration, cost, and delivery. What we see, (e.g., in a company of 3000 employees with a 12-person executive team), is that a small subset of people each select a different subset of strategies. That means that even at the executive level, there an absence of alignment of priorities. And that impacts execution, for example: If cost is at the epicenter, there’s one way to execute. If it’s delivery, there’s another. So marketing and data can be acquired, but the core issue is getting a consensus around what we care about the most as an organization—strategically.
Okapi: So how do we change the mindset?

JS: If we think of every employee as a strategic agent, we know that every choice they make can bring us closer or further away from brand alignment. So it’s not just what they do, but how they execute that impacts the cumulative outcomes of an organization. By changing how we think, we can hierarchize our choices, rank them in terms of our organization’s priorities, and communicate that at the customer interface level to impact perception and outcomes. It gives us a behavioral blueprint. And it has allowed companies a way to ground themselves, sharpen their skills, and be more productive.

Okapi: That’s what our customers are saying.

JS: That’s what I love about Okapi. With the dashboard in your solution, you’re creating grounded criteria to generate visibility and feedback. Our behavior models are aligned. It just blows my mind that we actually have to strategically convince people that they need to be doing this.

Okapi: Why do you think that is?

JS: I think that understandably, people are reluctant to give all that information away. It can terrify people that everything is so transparent. Company leaders must understand that it’s their job to create clarity and a framework via which information can be leveraged as quickly as possible to win. That’s when the magic happens.

Want to make some operational and organizational magic for your business? Contact us for a demo today. Okapi is a custom data filter, a personal virtual assistant and an integrated, web-and-mobile-enabled dashboard—designed to help you reach your business goals.

Iris TsidonOkapi’s Spotlight on Data: Interview with Jennifer Sertl
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Identifying Your Main Challenges

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Over many years of working with organizations, we have encountered numerous challenges and misses that have repeated themselves. These are the main mistakes which you should look out for in your organization. By heading them off at the pass, you can prevent them all together and move forward with your strategy:
People are not connected enough to the larger business needs; rather, they are motivated by professional considerations, without seeing the prices we pay in the commercial aspects.

Lack of progress:
The tasks truly important for the growth of the business are not progressing. People here work very hard and are very devoted to their work, however, the assignments we need to perform in order to grow the business are not given priority

Unable to change to stay competitive:
In a competitive market, you need the ability to adapt your management infrastructure to change. However, this process as to happen quickly and efficiently. Many organizations do not succeed in changing courses in time to keep up with their competition.

Data is to complicated to understand easily:
To receive a picture of the state of the company, you should not need to dig through intricate Excel reports. Complicated reports and their preparation of consumes lots of valuable time. Creating a system to enabling the receipt of a timely, readily available picture on a current basis will add a great deal of value.

No coherent management plan:
There are many people who think that systematic management is not important, or they don’t use one because setting it up and following a plan is not one of their strong points and they pay too heavy a price for it. They get too involved in facilitating transactions, leading business development, and creating solutions to immediate problems in the company. Managers need to learn how to delegate responsibility for their own current management so that others can work towards the shared objectives we have defined.

To download the full “Six Steps to Operational Excellence” FREE E-Book click here:

Iris TsidonIdentifying Your Main Challenges
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Okapi’s Spotlight on Data Series: Q&A with Dr. Cindy Gordon

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In the latest installment of Okapi’s Spotlight on Data series, we talked to Dr. Cindy Gordon, CEO and Founder of Saleschoice, a predictive and prescriptive sales analytics cloud company. Cindy is a leading expert and recognized thought leader on the subjects of Big Data, SaaS, business innovation, early-stage software commercialization & sales business practices. She is the author of 15 books.

Okapi: What’s your take on the relationship between the data that companies collect & disseminate internally and sales performance?

CG: Data is a huge asset to any organization; a sacred resource, if you will. But it’s also a liability—and we have to treat it that way. Firstly, organizations need to lead by example from the top. A CRO should be using tools that they expect their sales reps to use to promote harmonization amongst the processes.
The second point is that we must reward good behavior when it comes to data. That means laying out very clearly—in every job description—responsibilities around data quality and cleanliness. Too often, information and knowledge are hoarded in other repositories for self-serving reasons, namely sales commissions. But if we can tie awards and recognition to KPIs and data responsibilities, we can actually improve sales performance across the organization.

Okapi: How is this best achieved?

CG: The key is mandatory fields: If you make fields mandatory and tie the completion of these fields to rewards, you get results. The goal is to not allow the salesperson to advance to the next sales gate unless all of the fields have been populated. That’s the only way to manage the gate. Right now, the mistake that companies are making is having too many open fields that are not mandatory. If it’s not mandatory, chances are it won’t be filled in. And when you tie these inputting tasks to commission, (i.e., withholding commission until the data is accurate and complete), we start to see the data coming in.
It comes down to this: if you measure it, you will succeed and if you don’t you won’t. And in order to measure it, you need consequences.

Okapi: Who is doing this well?

CG: In terms of pipeline management and sales forecasting and supply; advancing those opportunities and those target accounts and demonstrating closure to drive top-line profitable growth? There are many companies that do this well.
Take Intel, for example. They have gone through a long journey where they had 30-50 different workflows or instances of Salesforce running in North America. They consolidated everything into one unified workflow across all the different product and solution sets, giving them a 360-degree view of every product cycle, every segment in the lifecycle, etc. They know how many proposals are at the introductory phase, how many of them are in negotiation, etc.—across the whole product solution services portfolio. That’s smart thinking. They care about data quality and controls because of who Intel is and what they stand for.

Okapi: What about Artificial Intelligence? How does it fit in?

CG: When we leverage AI, we are predicting the future. And to do that, we need to rely on good quality data in order to achieve accurate sales forecasts. But science aside, as long as we’ve got 40 to 50 percent, we can at least get a baseline if there’s enough volume of data. And at the end of the day, it’s not about the workarounds. It’s about a clear vision and understanding.
The companies that have really anchored their operating processes with good control systems will be able to take advantage AI more skillfully than others. Take the manufacturing sector, for example. They have worked so hard for so long and may be in a better position because of their dedication to ISO standards and the quality improvement cycle. The hi-tech industries—despite their success—are always a little bit more cowboy-ish in this area and their processes aren’t always as tight. They are driven more by innovation than operations.

Data is one of the most significant resources in our economy and our future. And if we ever hope to get to a true AI layer, we need the best quality, reliable data. It’s like running on a dirt road vs. a bullet train.

Want to ride the bullet train? Contact Okapi for a demo today. Okapi is a custom data filter, a personal virtual assistant and an integrated, web-and-mobile-enabled dashboard-designed to help you reach your sales and operational goals.

Iris TsidonOkapi’s Spotlight on Data Series: Q&A with Dr. Cindy Gordon
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Business Performance KPI Word Puzzle

How knowledgeable are you in the world of business performance improvement based on objectives and KPIs?

In the word puzzle in front of you are some of the core words associated with business performance.

Experts will be able to spot 20 different words 🙂



If you got to this page then you are probably wondering what they are, so here is the full list:

Smart, Objective, Perspective, Scorecard, Okapi, Value, Performance, Vision, Trend, Transparent, Align, Goal, Business, Management, Success, Result, Plan, KPI, Insights, Data

Iris TsidonBusiness Performance KPI Word Puzzle
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Embedding Your Strategy

Last week I visited a big conference at San Francisco which focused organizational objectives.

One of the lecturers was Dr. Donald Sol concluded his research on 300 companies and shared some of his fascinating findings. In his research, he approached the CEOs and COOs of the companies and asked them to interview the people in charge in their organization regarding transforming goals to results.

These interviews discovered that an amazing 60% of the participants could not name the top three objectives of the company for the upcoming year.
Makes sense??

There is a well-known philosophical question: Does a tree falling in the woods with nobody around make a sound?

Does a manager, who has an excellent strategy, think he can steer his company into the right direction if no one is aware of his strategy?

Iris Tsidon,

Iris TsidonEmbedding Your Strategy
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How using KPIs promotes successful M&As

We were recently informed that two of our clients had entered 2016 after being purchased by large international companies. We know that companies are not sold, but actually acquired.

What is the difference?

The difference is that an acquisition or an IPO is a byproduct of a successful business, whereas a purchase of a company can be due to unsuccessful business as well.

In most M&As today, the buyer checks management’s approach and routines in order to make sure that the asset he is purchasing will be successful over time and will yield the expected return.

This kind of management due diligence will focus on examining the company’s main business processes in various domains: sales, service, supply chain, IT, human resource, marketing, project management, finance, etc.

The goal of every manager is to produce good business and do so by always improving the quality of the management culture. A good business is based on a market needed product or service, which grows from a systematic management that is target driven. A system that keeps us on the right path and focused on the company’s main objectives is a necessity.

The first question a manager needs to ask himself is: What do I need to improve in my company?

The second question is: How do I know that we are steering the company in the right direction?

One of the key tools that successful companies use is a measurement model based on KPIs. The target is to serve as a GPS which directs everyone in the organization to focus on where to place their energies. Identifying the important KPIs for each company is the first step in order to understand the right path to increase growth.

Iris TsidonHow using KPIs promotes successful M&As
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Why some CEOs almost always achieve their goals

Is it sufficient to determine clear financial results such as income, profitability or booking KPIs?

In order to achieve improved business performance, it’s important to integrate procedural and action-based KPIs. These clarify for managers what actions they need to focus on in order to achieve the result-based KPIs.

Managers who succeed in combining between result-based KPIs and process-based KPIs –  show their employees the route to success and by doing so guarantee meeting the objectives of the company.

In 1992, Norton and Kaplan, two professors from Harvard University, developed a performance management method named Balance Scorecard. This method combines quantitative and qualitative KPIs, which are at the highest priority for the company, giving the manager a tool with which he will be able to lead the company to success in a competitive market.

Managing the scorecard in a wise and balanced way – allows the manager to clarify his vision by translating strategy into measurable goals and monitor the company’s performance through determining precise execution goals to all of the company’s units and level of employees.

In a business organization, the objectives and the KPIs in the balanced scorecard lead to achieving the required results in the financial perspective, resulting in financial value to the company’s stakeholders. Moreover, the balanced scorecard focuses the company on the cause and effect relationship in other perspectives such as Business Process, Customers & Growth and Employees.

For Example: in order to support the business objective of Employee Retention, two KPIs can be adequate:

A result based KPI: % Attrition of core employeesthis is a result based KPI which we would like to improve.

A process based KPI: # of employees with a personal development plan – in this KPI we will measure the required actions the manager believes need to be done in order to achieve its goal.


Good luck focusing your company on its most important KPIs which will lead to growth and performance improvement – throughout all company levels.

Iris TsidonWhy some CEOs almost always achieve their goals
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Manufacturing Challanges

Today we are going to focus on manufacturing and describe a scenario we often see.

You are a manager in a manufacturing company and face several challenges:

The delivery time of your products is not competitive, and this is hampering your company’s growth potential. Furthermore, the ratio between your work hours and your extra hours in general is not in accordance with the production rates which directly effects your profitability.

What do the successful manufacturers do in order to solve this challenges?

One of the best methods is management using KPIs

The main idea is to give the company’s employees tools to help them focus on those actions that have the highest priority, to which they need to give their attention.

Each factory has its own KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which are its key drivers to achieve its main goals.

The following are examples of common and powerful profit effecting KPIs:

“Average Delivery Time per Unit” 

Many times employees will argue that the variance between the units is large and therefore it will be hard to keep track of such a KPI. However from experience with our customers we see that measuring the KPI on a weekly/monthly basis works well once you measure the average time of all units, giving you a number to address that defuses the variance.

The same goes for the KPI “Number of Units per Work Hour”.

A CEO of a factory, where Okapi is implemented, testified that “the method improved my quality of life“. Before the system he encountered many requested for extra hours and was almost the only person in the factory who had to make the hard decisions while his managers also thought about their employees who wished to improve their salaries. Does that sound familiar?

After deciding to use KPIs, the managers themselves understood their importance and it motivated them to color it green – meaning to achieve their target value. As we can see simply by using a KPI and giving the matter a sign of importance we can influence our managers’ and employees’ behaviors.

The same CEO testified that his employees began performing one of two actions:

Either pressuring the relevant departments in the factory to give them more work orders or decline extra hour requests by themselves! He didn’t believe his eyes when he witnessed that by choosing and implementing the right KPI, you can affect the behavior of your managers.

Iris TsidonManufacturing Challanges
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How to Run Effective Management Meetings

We’ve all been in this situation: it’s 10pm, we look at our schedule to see what tomorrow holds and our hearts sink as we see those two dreaded words ‘management meeting’. The meeting itself was completely forgotten amidst the uncontrollable workload and now that it has resurfaced we have no idea what to talk about, how to pass the two hours allocated for the meeting. The first thing that comes to mind is to cancel, but we already canceled last time… management meetings are important, indeed, that’s what everybody says, but we struggle to pinpoint its importance, and definitely don’t understand how to manage one in such a way that will truly transform it into a valuable management tool.

There Must Be A Better Way

It happens in every aspect of our life. We get a pointed recommendation, or read a well-reasoned article that explains how this or that tool will alter our life. We hear from friends who tried it themselves and yes, it works! “You’re not gonna believe what change it brings, you have to try it as well!” We approach it with skepticism – this isn’t the first time we listen, try and get disappointed – and indeed, we are disappointed again. Why does it work for others but not for us? The answer might be in our willingness to put in the time and learn about the tool before using it. We can cut ourselves some slack and blame the lack of time, but it is actually us who don’t do the work properly.

And so it goes with management meetings. Like any other managerial tool, there is a method to running an effective management meeting, and there’s the other ‘method’ – doing things for the sake of doing them without grasping the tool’s implications and capabilities.


Whoever has tried baking a cake without a recipe is familiar with the result. It comes out somewhat cake-like but hasn’t quite earned the title of “cake”. The texture isn’t right, the taste lacks balance and often the appearance is somewhat sloppy. For baking, precision and planning is needed, you can’t just wing it. For a management meeting to come out ‘just right’ and promote the company’s goals, an agenda must be set and followed.

The first thing to set is a goal. What is the goal of the meeting? Indeed the meetings are weekly, at a fixed day and time (we’ll get to that in a minute) but still, routine does not relieve from the need to set goals. The opposite is true. The way to fight routine is by setting goals and routinely checking goals vs. accomplishments.


For every meeting, a leader must be appointed from within the management team. This person is in charge of the meeting’s professional agenda. She needs to prepare all the documentation, collect and fact-check the data, and if needed, have a pre-meeting with the CEO to get approval of the data that is to be presented in the meeting.

An effective meeting should run with a plan. A time keeper makes sure that ten minutes are indeed ten minutes. A wooden hammer can be provided, or a whistle, a bicycle horn or download the app that makes your favorite noise – what’s crucial here is time management to allow the meeting to move forward with vitality rather than swallow a full half-day with discussion that can (and should) be taken offline.

The CEO opens the meeting with 10 to 15 minutes to set meeting goals as well as to update, give pointers and re-focus on the big picture.

Next, go around the table allocated each team member – 5 to 7 minutes for updates from the different divisions. The updates should be those which are linked to other divisions and thus all must be aware of them. Intra-departmental issues that bare no consequences on the strategic goals and general work plan should be saved for water cooler chit-chat. Management meetings time belongs to everybody.

After everyone is clear on the day-to-day, it’s time for the main attraction.

To expand the sum of knowledge around the table

The main discussion shouldn’t deal with the day-to-day which has already been discussed during the roundtable updates. The main discussion of every meeting should be used as a tool in the hands of the CEO to make the necessary connection between goals and work plan, thus pushing the company forward.Four businesspeople in a boardroom with paperwork

The recommendation here is to have an open discussion in the first meeting of every quarter in order to pinpoint topics the team believes have value and promote success, and is interested in learning them together and acquiring the tools to tackle them heads on. The topics need to be extracted from the goals that are most challenging for the team. A list of topics is prepared, a schedule of discussions set, and a leader assigned to each meeting.

The leader should prepare the discussion beforehand. The idea is to create a true and meaningful discussion, a brainstorming session. In order to do this, a catalyst must be identified and knowledge must be shared. If there are experts in certian fields from within the company who will inject knowledge and depth into the discussion, summon them. If not, an external expert should be invited. The leader can co-lead the discussion with the expert if the need arises.

There is no point in rolling the same ideas based on the same sum of knowledge around the table. It is crucial that the discussion opens with new knowledge, a fresh angle, and on occasion with a fresh voice from outside the company who will provide a different point of view. Otherwise the discussion will die quickly and conclude the same way as the last week, or last year.

In an effective management meeting the CEO:

  • Promotes the topics most important for the company’s growth
  • Creates a dynamic agenda
  • Empowers team members in preparation and management of the discussions, and their own personal growth
  • Allows herself to listen to other opinions, be generous in giving tools and delegating insights

In cases there are urgent matters on top of the day-to-day it is advisable to schedule a special meeting to deal with these matter exclusively. There’s also the option of extending a scheduled management meeting but it should be kept in mind that in order to be focused and driven, we all need our routines, the anchors that prevent us from being carried away from the tasks that really matter, pushing the company toward growth. ‘Urgent’ and ‘crisis’ aren’t a management philosophy.

And so,

  • A fixed day and time for management meetings (Preferably Mondays)
  • The fixed day and time should not interfere with client relations
  • No lateness, no no-shows, everybody clears their schedules
  • First week of every month – first fixed topic (for example: development status, projects, production)
  •  Leader is VP R&D / project manager / production chief
  • Second week of every month – second fixed topic (for example: budget vs. execution)
  • Leader is CFO / head accountant / chief economist
  • Third week of every month – monthly goals meeting, Top Down meeting
  • Fourth week of every month – monthly sales meeting
  • Leader is marketing chief / sales chief / account manager

Do you want your managers to be more effective? Contact us today to get started.

Iris TsidonHow to Run Effective Management Meetings
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Wrapped Around Your Finger

We all know the type, the guy who wants to do everything on his own. We know his type so well, and there are so many out there that they’ve earned a nickname – Control Freak. He has to know what everyone is doing at any point in time. He has to be involved in every matter. He wants to know about stuff as soon as it happens and if you don’t update him after the deed is done, oh my. Who does he trust? Pretty much only himself.

Don’t let the ‘he’ misguide you – women can also be control freaks.

Annoying though he may be, he is a gifted entrepreneur, an expert in his field, and the number one sales person of the product or service he created. And it’s not a coincidence he is sticking his nose in everyone’s affairs. The clients always ask for him, want him to be personally involved in their project and the investors also demand him at the helm, as CEO, as COO and as Head of Sales. It’s not easy being a one-man-show.

The hubris sometimes raises its head and the talented man who decides and does everything on his own wishes he could clone himself, since it is only he who could bring in the thunder (these are the thoughts that go through his head). And there are times that this feeling of ‘only I can prevail’ gets reinforcements; an employee makes a mistake that costs the company a great deal; a client calls to complain about the account manager; a potential investor finds mistakes in a financial statement made by the accountant… see? He exclaims in silence, is it any wonder I insist everything will go through me?

Push, Push, Push!

After the chips have been cashed, and the realization of the heavy toll that this scenario is taking on the company sinks in, the way to let go of the control and to start trusting more is by undertaking a dramatic change in the flow of data in the company. The data should reach the CEO at the right moment, meaning, before the fire erupts. To give him the chance to quickly slide down a poll and race forward in a red truck to the rescue, not summon him after everything is scorched and the only thing left to do is list the damages. The CEO must know where each assignment stands, what is the status of each and every project, how sales are performing, how satisfied the clients are, what’s doing with R&D – all this data must be pushed to the CEO.

Data that is being pushed to the CEO, at the right moment and in accordance with specifications that he defined, provide the CEO with much needed peace of mind. He knows that the assignments he marked as important for achieving the strategic goals are moving forward as expected or that his help is required. Either way, he’s got his finger on the pulse and there is nothing CEOs like better than hearing the heartbeat of a company forging forward.

Balance that Scoreboard

In 1997, The Harvard Business Review declared the Balanced Scoreboard strategy performance management tool as the most important development in business in the last 75 years. Nothing that happened in the 15 years that have passed since poses any threat to the validity of this claim. So we can update the claim and say: the Balanced Scoreboard is the most important development in business in the last 90 years.

The methodology was first presented by Robert Kaplan and David Northon in 1992 – an iconic piece of business trivia. The Scoreboard provides tremendous added value to the CEO and the organization as a whole by providing precise, concise and relevant data. One of the great achievements of the methodology is the ability to secure a balance of budgetary allocations for short-term goals on the one hand, and resources for long term goals on the other. A focused and in-control management of the Scoreboard allows the CEO to better communicate his vision through translating the strategy to measurable goals, and follow-up on performance by defining clear performance expectations from all ranks.

After everyone is clear on definitions of roles and performance, it’s time to implement a system that manages the company’s goals and sets KPIs for every management team member (Okapi anyone?). From now on, the CEO can log into the system and immediately see the successes and failures, the status of every goal. The control is still in place, sans control freak.

Roll Up the Sleeves

In order to be in control without controlling, the CEO should use these managerial routines:

  • Personal work meetings – face to face, over the phone, video chat, or any other forms of communications practiced in the company
  • Fixed and effective management meetings
  • A performance management system that allows data to be pushed

Also, the CEO should communicate clearly at the beginning of every quarter / half / year the company’s goals for the upcoming period in four spheres:

The financial perspective – “In order to succeed financially, how should we present ourselves to our shareholders?”

The customers & growth perspective – “In order to achieve our goals, how should we present ourselves to our clients?”

The business procedures perspective – “In order to satisfy our clients, in which procedures should we excel?”

The people perspective – “In order to actualize our vision, how should we continue to invest in our people?”

And so,

The Balanced Scoreboard translates strategy to measurable goals. All employees and operational arms get clear KPIs. The CEO’s vision trickled down and reached all the troops.

A system that holds the company’s goals and personal KPIs allows the CEO the be up-to-date on every task and goal, without driving the team nuts by micro-managing the hell out of them.

Data that is pushed to the CEO, at the right time and in the specifications that he defined, gives him the power to manage and the confidence that everything is in control – basically, with his finger on the pulse.

Want to improve your management style? Contact us today to get started.

Iris TsidonWrapped Around Your Finger
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