Faces of Fuld: Q+A with CEO, Diane Borska
Posted April 24, 2019| Kristina Markos , Diane Borska
Diane Borska, CEO and President, maintains a deep history working with Fuld + Company and has held a variety of positions within the firm spanning an almost 20-year tenure. Over the course of her career, she’s crystalized her values and emphasizes mentoring, problem-solving and client-service which is demonstrated in her leadership style. We sat down with Diane to learn more about her background, her approach to client service, and her take on Fuld + Company’s key differentiators.
Can you tell us about how your path evolved at Fuld + Company?
I’ve done many different things here, and what I think has been the most interesting was blazing my own path.
I started at Fuld + Company as a contractor in the 1990s, and at the time, we were small and without particular industry foci or specified areas of expertise; but little did I know that I would be a catalyst for major change.
Back then, I applied my background in Mechanical Engineering to my market intelligence research assignments because they had to do with home appliances and understanding competitors’ plans for new designs. In a nutshell, the work was somewhat technical, and it was helpful to have engineering training so as to explore the right issues and understand the implications of competitors’ planned design changes. Right around this same time, we noticed there was a change in regulations that restructured the electric utility industry. It was all very new, but this was an area in which I had prior a background, so I saw a place where Fuld + Company could add value. At the time, the industry players were experiencing new competition which was startling because this was an industry that had always operated as a regulated monopoly. I envisioned an enormous opportunity for Fuld + Company–we could be an important resource for these companies as they navigated a new competitive landscape. I said to our owner at the time (Leonard Fuld), “let me focus on this segment and try to build a book of business.” As a result, we re-thought how we went to market, and we evolved. From there, it was safe to say, “Fuld has people who can address competitive issues and dynamics in specific industries.” It was then that we focused our offerings on having relevance to specific industry domains.
Then, after a break, I was asked to come back as the head of our diversified practice and was tasked with growing that practice line. I enjoyed holding a senior leadership role because it allowed me to work on several different projects and manage a team. That said, being a leader here—was—and continues to be a great opportunity to ask questions like:
- How can we build a business or practice area?
- How can we all work best together?
- How do we harness the talent and expertise within the firm?
Over time, my roles have changed, but I’ve continued to place those three questions at the forefront of my work. Also, I think doing two tours here at Fuld + Company has given me a unique perspective on where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think it’s most important to lead by example and I will not ask anyone to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself. Every day that I come to work, I prioritize three major areas:
- I set an example in terms of professionalism, commitment, behavior and demeanor.
- I value priority-setting so that we can ensure we have set outcomes slated for all our projects.
- I lead by promoting collaboration—I feel like any work I’ve ever done is always better when I have ideas and perspectives brought to me by others.
As a leader, it’s important for me to recognize that it’s valuable to feed off others’ ideas and learn from them as well. Leaning on each other and embracing alternative methods is what builds trust—so I want to build trust and have trust with the people that work for me.
How do you feel your experience as a COO impacts your CEO position?
Because of the way my career path has evolved here, I’ve had “training wheels” on for a while—regarding all facets of the business. But now, as CEO, the training wheels are off and I have more responsibilities. Fortunately, I was empowered (by our previous CEO) to take on significant leadership responsibilities, so most of our challenges aren’t new to me. Further, I’ve sat in a lot of other people’s positions and I’ve actually been an analyst, a consultant, a director and senior director so I feel like I can relate to those in each level of our organization. It’s not just the COO role that has prepared me for this position, it’s been my entire Fuld + Company experience.
What do you believe are Fuld + Company’s biggest strengths?
It sounds so cliché, but it’s the people we have here; this is because we have talented and exceptionally capable people with amazing minds. It’s our people and their approaches that put us in a unique position because in a professional services firm, people and their way of thinking is a key differentiator. I feel very committed to our staff because of this and I want to help foster growth. I’d like our people to feel like they’re getting exposed to interesting work and contributing in a meaningful way— and what’s particularly invaluable is how we approach client work. I think it’s pretty clear that the way we solve issues for our clients is reflected in both our work and our culture.
Fuld + Company is known for competitive intelligence and competitive strategy; how is its approach different than other consultancies?
I always like to think of it in terms of client deliverables–if clients hire other firms in our space they should understand that the consultants will generally spend a lot of time interviewing the internal staff and drawing conclusions based on internal insights. However, we include an external approach—meaning we interview stakeholders and clients’ own clients or customers to gather insights beyond what is already known and understood internally. We use interviewing to take our clients further and gain deeper understanding than what they know, and what they’ve heard from only each other. This practice coupled with our deep research and analytics capabilities paint a clearer picture of the external marketplace and drivers impacting businesses across sectors. In essence, I’m confident saying that we go further in the right areas–especially because of our deep domain expertise and attention to detail.
I’d also say the way we elevate our people is different—meaning, we encourage people to learn from each other and appreciate the different perspectives we have in-house. Our clients are granted direct access to all our in-house expertise which allows us to be efficient, nimble and strategic every step of the way.
Speaking of client work, there is a lot of talk about innovation and disruption in the marketplace, what advice do you have for companies that are trying to navigate it?
These words are exceedingly popular, so it’s no surprise many industries are struggling with how to navigate both. I generally see two extremes when confronting these issues; the first is to fall down in the weeds. Meaning, the companies feel the need to benchmark and measure all their activity as a way to understand what’s happening during change. However, they can become so focused on the nitty-gritty that they miss the big picture. Secondly, I see companies look too far into the future, which is the opposite of what I first described. These players just take a look at the proverbial forest and forget about the trees. What’s missing from this approach is that they don’t take the time to understand the environment or indicators of change and establish where they are in the market.
The trick is finding the balance between these two scenarios. To do that, companies need strong internal leadership that values outside perspectives and internal perspectives alike. There are a lot of smart, strategic people leading companies and industries, and smart strategic people who aren’t sitting at the top. I always advise my clients to listen to their internal teams, find the visionaries and listen to alternate viewpoints to avoid getting too bogged down in the weeds or fixated on future-casting.
So, it sounds like you’ve consulted on a lot of projects that are rooted in fast-changing industries; how do you and your team make sense of these complex challenges?
During a project engagement, our team uncovers where the most urgent needs lie. Meaning, we show clients what needs to be done now, while ensuring that it doesn’t disturb the business’ current operations. Our research will generally reveal which actions are needed most urgently to solve the most complex problems.
Further, I want to underscore that many of our clients are being bold—and envisioning a future that’s a lot different than what we see today. During engagements that require a bold approach, we ask what we should be doing to prepare for optimum success now, and what we can do to confront future conditions.
The work at Fuld + Company is deeply analytical, strategic, and engaging. That said, what is one piece of advice you’d give to young professionals entering the consulting field, today?
Learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable things–like answering questions that you don’t have the answer to. Be curious, because being able to break things down and evaluate them in smaller pieces is the best method for solving complex issues. At Fuld, we’re very skilled at approaching complex problems, and they usually start with a difficult, complicated question. Our young hires develop confidence in breaking down big problems and doing so helps them reconstruct the pieces into something that reveals an answer–it’s invigorating! To tell you the truth, tackling a big, ambiguous problem and solving it for a client still gives me a rush, even today.