Ron Thomas: A Global Thinker & His Business Enhancement Ideas
Ron Thomas: A Global Thinker & His Business Enhancement Ideas: Ron Thomas is the Managing Director of Strategy Focused Group. He’s one of the top global leaders and focuses on the growth and development of organizations. He was also cited as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the MENA region by CIPD. Furthermore, Mr. Ron Thomas is even listed as one of the top global thinkers on leadership. Over his entire career span, Ron has worked with outstanding brands. He has a global HR background spanning different cultures, industries, and countries, including the Middle East, Europe, Brazil, China, India, and Pacific Asia.
He’s also a keynote speaker and part of several leading businesses. Through the Strategy Focused Group, Ron Thomas aims to help businesses and organizations to become more effective and tackle their challenges. What he believes is that one should stay persistent and keep on trying. Ron Thomas has a tenacious character and doesn’t take no for an answer. His company, Strategy Focused Group also has social media on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Let’s take a look at the approach of Ron Thomas towards his business and learn more about him along the way through our interview with him below.
Ron Thomas: A Global Thinker & His Business Enhancement Ideas
I have worked with some of the most outstanding brands over my career. IBM, Xerox, and Martha Stewart, to name a few. So, my career was grounded. While working for Xerox, I received an email from an executive search firm about an opportunity as Chief Human Resource and Administrative Officer in Riyadh, SA.
That role took me on my first ex-pat experience as I moved to Saudi. Eventually, that role landed me as CEO of Great Place to Work UAE. The next step for me was starting my own firm as Strategy Focused Group based in Dubai, Singapore, and now a new office in New York.
Mr. Ron Thomas, what are your goals?
The goal at this point is to build better leaders throughout the organization. I am obsessed with that, from the C-Suite to the HR Teams. Covid has exposed fissures in leadership competency. We need different leadership capabilities.
To take it a step further, we require a better selection process and development of upcoming leaders and leaders in place. We have been putting our most important asset in the hands of technical experts. Sure, we need that expertise, but the soft skills need to be placed into the selection equation of leaders.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of yourself/company right now?
While having a background in HR, I have always gravitated to the intersection of HR (People Strategy) & the organization (Strategy). If you weave those two together, your organization will be unstoppable. We try to help leaders see this dynamic for success.
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
When I was CEO of GPTW, I was speaking across the region, and I would get so many business cards as organizations needed help. This help that they were discussing, for the most part, was that they felt their organization was showing signs of severe “symptoms” of non-effectiveness. The more I heard those conversations, the more confident I felt that this was an opportunity to start my consulting firm.
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
As stated above, during my time as a CEO of GPTW, I understood how businesses needed help to be effective and get valuable results. It made me realize that it was a perfect opportunity for me to start this consulting company.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not many challenges, but covid caused some disruption in delivery as everything went virtual. So overnight, we had to come up with a different approach. Our services are now basically virtual. However, we do offer in-house in-person, but that is minimal as each country has other protocols.
When we started, our primary focus was the Asia Pacific region. During the pre-covid period, we had an office based in Singapore. A significant portion of our work to this day is based in Singapore, China, Malaysia, and Thailand. We have created partnership firms based in Europe as well as Africa.
Give us one word that describes you the best.
Tenacious. I never take no for an answer. Someone mentioned to me at one time after I had repeatedly come back to her asking or to rethink her NO. “Wow, you never give up,” I said yes, that is the way I operate. I believe in what I do, and I can provide solutions.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
When I saw these questions, I laughed. It is called Sunday night angst. The end of a weekend was always unpleasant. However, there is something distinctly modern about the anxiety many people feel on the eve of a workweek. In our case, it is Saturday night angst as our workday starts on Sunday.
I always tell people to turn that “Sunday night angst” into a “can’t wait to face Monday.” You have moved from a job to a passion. It is the most rewarding experience.
What do you value most about your culture and vision?
Culture dynamics played a role in my transition from the USA, specifically from New York to the Middle East. I found that listening, being more personal, and showing the soft side was more strategic. I have been known to focus exclusively on the business side without spending time trying to understand the person in front of me. Now, you can go to any website and see beautifully crafted words from the Org side. Every website has them. However, do the people at the bottom of that organization chart know that and believe it?
How is that org culture and vision exhibited each day? For the most part, it is words with no meaning. Covid has driven companies into a corner as they struggle to define themselves. They will have to do this post covid. They must create the “employee experience.” That is from the first click to your site, through the recruiting cycle to onboarding, learning, development, etc. We also must understand that NO ONE is coming to join you in their working lives.
Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
I do not feel that I was ever forced into a different thought process around innovation or creativity. I learned that my time as VP HR at Martha Stewart Living was a learning process for me. I came there from IBM, where technical expertise was paramount. Coming to MSL, the audience was basically all creative: designers, artists, and deep thinkers.
I took a lot away from this experience, and it was tremendous learning for me. Interacting with this new mindset caused me to rethink my approach and explore a different solution approach. It led me to rethink the boundaries for solutions. I started using focus groups, one-to-one discussions, structured interviews, etc. The more I pulled into different “lenses,” the better the solutions I could provide.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
We are unique in our global approach to solutions, and our clients come from across the globe. Our clients come from across industries, including banking, investment companies, retail, automotive, etc. So, for a small firm, we have a vast footprint. Some weeks I am working with a group out of China, then Singapore, and the next could be out of Europe.
What key values helped you overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about your memorable incident in your leadership?
We had a new CEO, and my first meeting with her was not good. I had prepared a kind of “symptoms” presentation. In other words, what are the ills of the organization? I thought I had a good diagnosis. However, in the end, she told me something that sticks with me today.
If you identify a symptom/challenge, bring me a possible solution, and then we discuss it. She said, “I have enough challenges as it is, and you come in and pile on. Next time we meet, I need your solutions to each one of those items” That sticks into my mind today.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
We are looking into representing more companies in the Middle East. US/Global companies that we can represent and drive business opportunities without the cost of setting up operations. We provide the leads, drive the conversations, and at a strategic point, we bring out clients at the close of the deal.
Our first representation when we started was the Human Capital Institute www.hci.org, which we partnered with and built out the international component of their organization. They went from a USA focus to now being represented in the APAC region, Africa, and Europe. We are currently in negotiations with other companies to do the same.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
The leadership model has changed dramatically as a result of covid. Sometimes I feel that Covid was a gift as it is causing organizations to refocus on something even as simple as the new work model: virtual, hybrid, 4 day week, etc. On top of that, leaders will have to learn new skills as the dynamic of managing people has changed.
The role of the manager/leader requires new skills, the same as the future of work. So our value proposition is that we have to start over again literally. We design workforces through the lens of the post covid environment. I like the term Organisational Architect as the new focus of HR.
What services/solutions or products does your company offer at par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services?
We provide organizational consulting. This entails the development of better leaders, developing better teams that operate under those leaders. Our other offering is upskilling the people strategy (HR) and HR teams to connect with the Organisational Strategy. Once those 2 are synced, an organization will become unstoppable.
Find Ron Thomas On LinkedIn!