We had an opportunity to interview Zuleka Kaysan, the Managing Director of The Cornerstone Advisory. With over 18 years of experience in business excellence and change, she helps leaders achieve greater performance through enhanced customer experience, innovative service design, and simplified operations.
Learn more about Zuleka Kaysan through our interview below.
Give A Brief Overview Of Your Background And That Of The Company
I’ve spent my career working directly with C-suite to operationalize strategies and business direction; across functions and industries.
Very early on in my career, with a multinational in 2003, I got an insight into how digital transformation can single-handedly improve the customer experience and disrupt an entire organization.
I went on to spend 15 years working with companies with ambitious mandates in the Middle East to build sustainable foundations that supported growth and innovation. And I continued to find newer and better ways to mitigate those recurring challenges – the resistance and obstructions to change.
Seeing the volume of startups with great ideas that faltered within a couple of years, and the inertia of larger companies to disrupt their business models, gave me the push to set up The Cornerstone Advisory in 2021.
Our mission is to help leaders build their businesses for the future and deliver impact through their people. We do this by looking at the business as a whole – cultivating the right cultures to deliver results and creating the right structures to enable those results.
In What Ways Do You Hope To Succeed?
My main goal is to bring humanity back to business.
For many traditionalists, that translates to reduced performance, less work, and less efficiency.
But the leaders at the helm of thriving businesses recognise that people and performance are inherently linked. You can have a strong work ethic with people that help you achieve milestones and innovations without treating people as mere cogs in a machine.
And that’s why I co-launched the Simply Human Pledge, which focuses on prioritizing human value in business – through values and actions. We have had a positive response to the campaign, and the number of pledges from startups and established entities are steadily growing. I believe this community will inspire others, and with this movement, we can expect to see a positive transition in workplaces.
What Motivated You To Start (or Lead) This Business?
I’ve worked with companies that have grown from zero to a hundred in an incredibly short period of time. And I’ve seen first-hand how they struggle to keep things together if they don’t have the right foundations in place.
When people don’t have clarity, they build walls; silos begin to form, and there’s a noticeable fragmentation in processes and systems. The end result significantly impacts customer experience and grossly inflates the cost of delivering the mandate. The bigger organizations get, the bigger these problems become.
Many think that getting a functional expert such as IT or HR will be enough to solve their biggest challenges, but that usually compounds the problem. Focusing on one piece of the puzzle is generally at the expense of all the other pieces.
That’s why I started The Cornerstone Advisory. We take a birds-eye view of the whole business and orient it to what the business wants to achieve. And by the whole of business, that means all parts – the people, structures, processes, and technologies, across functions.
Tell Us About A Project That Forced You To Be Innovative And Creative.
We’ve recently started to work with a not-for-profit entity with extremely limited resources. My goal is to help them maximize their existing investments in digital so that the bulk, if not all, of their funding, can go directly to their cause. We have to be savvy, balancing efficiency and effectiveness with cost and thinking up newer, more innovative ways to help the teams achieve their goals.
Many startups and SMEs are in similar positions, especially in the current economic climate. I apply the same thinking and approach to all client engagements – to get the most out of existing resources so that teams can be self-sufficient and effective in the long run.
What Are The Services/solutions Or Products Offered By Your Company On Par With The Current Industry Standards? Tell Us Something About Your Upcoming Products Or Services.
We help businesses at each stage of their growth, whether they’re ready to scale, want to optimize the way they work or want to transform their businesses.
“Our main point of difference is that we anchor operations to customer experience, which eliminates all the noise and excess costs,” says Zuleka Kaysan.
The entire business is then focused on achieving enhanced customer experience, which elevates the performance metrics that matter – profit, customer retention, and growth.
Our other point of difference is that we’re a hands-on advisory. We don’t just deliver ideas; we embed them into how businesses operate. This creates a degree of self-sufficiency, so leaders can steadfastly rely on their internal resources for the expertise and future innovations.
Our most popular service is the Performance Accelerator, a bespoke offering that bridges the gap between performance and culture. Depending on what a business or department needs to achieve, we define and cultivate the necessary culture and develop the structures, processes and technologies that support that culture.
Since its launch, we’ve engaged with several SMEs and enterprises. Not only have we seen a significant shift in their ability to deliver on existing performance goals, but employees are actively going above and beyond.
What Advice Would You Give To Fellow Entrepreneurs Or Leaders?
Two things. Firstly, leading a business, in whatever capacity, is a huge challenge. It’s not just perseverance and resilience that will help you succeed in the long run; it’s knowing when to pivot – even when that’s not the easiest thing to do.
And secondly, when you’re hiring employees, hire for potential and work ethic over experience. People can always learn functional skills, but work ethic is much harder to teach and invaluable in a business.