You may know Ashlee Aldridge as a transformational executive who dares to challenge the status quo from the C-seat, and who has a history of delivering results. Cathy Hotka caught up with Ashlee to learn about her latest transformational pursuits at Reach Partners, and the launch of a new ecommerce business, reachXOD.
Ashlee, what is reachXOD, and why now?
While in Patagonia, during the initial murmurs about COVID-19, I did a lot of hiking. It gave me time to think about the pending global crisis, our clients, and what challenges businesses might face. I reflected upon the sense of isolation I felt sitting in the C-seat during the recession of 2008-2009, and again with each major business crisis that I’ve faced throughout my 20+ year CxO career. As anyone who led through crisis can attest, the urgency, activity, and round-the-clock vigilance is intense. There were many “firsts” for me in those times, but I also struggled professionally to overcome the sense of loneliness.
Upon return, I asked, “How might it be different for leaders in this crisis?” I took that question and challenged the Reach Team.
We researched loneliness and isolation and learned how pervasive this is in business. COVID-19 is going to leave behind a massive wake of consequences for us all, no doubt. Within 3 weeks, we went from a concept idea to a delivered solution and soft launch. We created a business that connects seasoned CxOs with other leaders seeking input, advice or just a sounding board. reachXOD is a separate, consumer service, confidentially and virtually connecting leaders who are seeking insight with those who have the experience to give it, on an hourly basis.
What has been the response so far?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The overarching feedback is “What took so long?”
This is a new brand, and that is not easy to build. What do you see as the strength behind it?
The strength behind the reachXOD brand lies in our seasoned, vetted and certified Executives on Demand (XOD). To be certified, one must meet a long list of qualifications. This is not a group of “consultants” who are hired out for hourly advice. Our “advisors” are NOT career consultants. They are real CxO leaders, who faced real challenges, and simply want to offer those lessons learned to others. To highlight a few of the requirements, an XOD must have: a minimum of 5+ years sitting in the CxO seat (78% of our XODs have 16+ years as a CxO); be an exceptional communicator; successfully led teams through a major crisis and transformation; demonstrate a passion to help others succeed. We have multiple XODs who still sit in the seat and are excited they can confidentially help others during this time.
You use the word “confidential”, but what does that really mean, and how does that practically work?
We learned that confidentiality is critical for both the customer and our XOD advisors. Our XODs are highly experienced, as some sit on active Boards, others are still sitting in the C-seat. Therefore, we evolved the operations to ensure double-blind confidentiality. We even have a process to confirm conflict checks, if requested by either person. We protect the identities of the Client and the XOD advisor so both sides can be assured their conversations are confidential. Asking for advice means putting yourself out there, and it’s a key characteristic of resilient leadership. Oftentimes, a third party is better equipped to offer objective advice.
Who are the reachXOD customers and what is hot right now?
Any leader seeking input, advice, or a sounding board on business topics. Those seeking sound advice usually get it and with 56%+ more actionable insights than those who do not. We have business owners looking to reopen their stores, and just want to talk through a few concerns they have with a seasoned CCXO. We have finance leaders who ask for insight on how they are managing their cash right now versus what they need to watch for in the back-half. We have leaders who are facing a “bad news” discussion with their CxO or with their Board, and they want specific advice on how to best position that conversation. There are a lot of “How would you ….?” interactions.
You offer a hopeful message in a time when business can use it most. Any parting words of encouragement for leaders as they enter this next phase of the COVID19 crisis?
You may feel isolated. You may think that no one has been where you are, facing the choices, decisions, complexities, personalities, culture concerns, and difficulties you face. That is simply not true. There are extremely seasoned, talented, knowledgeable executives who faced crisis situations and scenarios, and successfully navigated their businesses through it. Those same executives stepped up, and are available to you, to confidentially discuss your specific situation. Solidarity is better than solitary confinement, wouldn't you agree?
Reach out. Don’t go it alone. Book a call with one of our XOD advisors HERE.