Credera announced that Justin Bell was promoted to CEO on Aug. 1, 2019.
We sat down with Justin to talk about his new role as CEO, his vision for Credera, and experiences that shaped his journey along the way.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN WITH CREDERA FOR OVER 15 YEARS, WHAT MAKES THIS PLACE UNIQUE TO YOU?
I really can’t imagine there are many companies out there that have such a high percentage of people, that as a parent, you hope your kids grow up to be just like those people—great at what they do, but even better people. That really is the secret sauce here. We’re loaded throughout the organization with amazing people with big hearts. That combined with having fun doing meaningful work for our clients is what makes us great at what we do.
WHAT GETS YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT CREDERA’S FUTURE?
That’s pretty simple. We have an incredible chance to create growth opportunities for our people. I’ve had an amazing 15 years here, filled with challenges, learning, friendship, and tremendous personal and professional growth. I want to continue to create that for our incredible people. Doing so both requires and enables growth. Healthy things have a tendency to grow, and we believe we’re in a great position with a bright future.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR YOUR FIRST FEW MONTHS IN THIS ROLE?
I’ve been fortunate to have a gradual transition into this role over the last year or more. Starting from my promotion to president three years ago, Rob and I have been progressively transitioning responsibilities and that accelerated about a year ago. Unlike a CEO from the outside, I know the business, know the people, and know what we need to work on.
We’re focused on a few key things:
Continuing to serve our existing clients with excellence.
Ongoing and intentional investment in our people.
Working with Omnicom partners to build relationships and deliver value to key clients through formalized playbooks (e.g., structured innovation, MarTech strategy and enablement, program leadership and benefits realization, etc.).
Opening an office in New York and Chicago in 2019 and planning on launching a London office in 2020.
WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE SHAPED YOUR JOURNEY TO CEO?
As you might expect, there are many. I’m a big believer that the really hard times in life and work and the stretch roles you are just barely ready for are the key to accelerated development. Being a CEO or leader is like anything else, it requires deliberate practice to be good at it. I’ve been fortunate (although it didn’t always feel like it in the moment) to be in many of these challenging roles over the course of my life.
Here are just a few that come to mind:
I went to a pretty rough and extremely diverse middle school and high school. This presented a lot of challenges at the time, but I believe became one of the foundations for my ability to work with many different types of people, find common ground, and learn how to compromise.
Meeting my wife, Karla, in college and marrying her as a 21-year-old—there hasn’t been a more important event and decision in my entire life journey. She’s an incredible person, helps to make me better, and is incredibly supportive of all of the things a role like this requires.
Very early in my career, I worked for a consulting company that was mismanaged, laid off a ton of people, and ultimately went bankrupt. I can’t imagine a better education on what not to do. This also distributed my fledgling professional network all over, which has been quite helpful in the long run.
At Credera over the last 15 years, I’ve had great leaders to learn from. In particular, Rob Borrego demonstrated the importance of culture and people on growing a consulting business and also on the importance of maintaining a very lean operation and paying attention to the little details that matter.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR APPROACH TO LEADERSHIP?
Still figuring it out…just kidding (sort of). Really though, I personally love and thrive in an environment where I have a lot of autonomy. I try to create that for our team. We have a great team of highly skilled and committed professionals. I try to give them a lot of room to operate, innovate, and create, and then my part is just to lead by example and maintain accountability for the key results we’re going after.
I also really like to meet with people at all levels of the company and really listen to their point of view. This helps inform my thinking and helps me identify my own blind spots.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CREDERA MEMORY?
The company trip in New Orleans—everyone dancing and singing to “Don’t Stop Believing”—was pretty awesome. There are so many little conversations and moments that really shape my Credera journey and make it special. Like life, it’s the little things and people that matter.