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Q&A with Daniel Cross: General Manager, Kansas City

Slalom General Manager Daniel Cross

We spoke to our Kansas City leader about his vision for the team, the power of curiosity, and why—after living all over the world—he’s proud to call Kansas City home.

You’re originally from New Zealand and lived in Australia and London before moving to Kansas City in 2013. What brought you here?

I co-founded a company in London, an agency specializing in customer engagement. We offered a wide spectrum of services—data management, analytics, strategy, digital development, and creative and omnichannel communications. In 2011, we sold that business to DST, a financial and healthcare technology company headquartered in Kansas City. After bouncing back and forth between the US and UK, managing the integration for 18 months, DST offered me the opportunity to stand up an analytics business in KC. And away we went!

A year later, we had a one-year-old son, and we needed to decide whether to stay or go back to London. We realized KC really works for having a family, a great quality of life, and a rewarding career. Because it’s a hub for so many things across the Midwest, it punches so far above its weight for culture, education, entertainment, food, and healthcare. But the city is also small enough that it’s easy to get around, meet people, and just live your day-to-day life. Oh, and it’s probably the best place on earth for spring and fall.

How will your international background help you in this role?

I’ve lived in and visited a lot of different places, and with that comes a level of comfort with new people and environments. I guess in the background is my sense of curiosity and a love of making connections between people and ideas. This really helps when I’m engaging with clients to understand their business, objectives, and challenges. It also carries over to how we’re building the team in KC. I want us to have a diverse team with different backgrounds and perspectives who are curious about people, technology, and problems.

We realized KC really works for having a family, a great quality of life, and a rewarding career.

What’s your vision for Slalom Kansas City?

So many things. Kansas City is such a relationship- and family-oriented town. People are proud to live here. I want to take that and the Slalom culture—which focuses on people and community—and build a team that loves this city and is passionate about making an incredible impact on organizations here. I’m looking for people who have the talent and drive to make it anywhere but choose to make Kansas City home.

In terms of the type of work we’ll be doing, in addition to strategy and business transformation, we are going to double down on product, design, and data analytics. There is a lot of demand for that in Kansas City and across the Midwest.

What attracted you to this role as our GM of Kansas City?

My background is in new venture development, technology, and strategy. When I started my search, I was looking at roles within purpose-driven product organizations or starting my own thing.

I wasn’t looking to join another consulting firm or agency, but Slalom felt incredibly different. The pandemic has really re-enforced the importance of communities, and I love Slalom’s focus on building a business with a team that lives and works in their community. After working virtually for so long, being able to be present for each other, our families, and our clients feels more important than ever. Another big thing for me is Slalom’s focus on values. Everybody I spoke to before starting—who I work with now—truly focuses on doing the right thing and putting people first. Everybody I’ve met here has been outstanding.

I’m excited to build something special in a city I love—to work with exceptionally smart people on really interesting projects and make a big impact on local organizations.

How do you keep a team motivated and inspired?

It comes from having a clear purpose and ensuring everyone sees their part in it. Beyond this, you should hire great people, give them opportunities to grow, recognize them when they do, and remove as many roadblocks for them as you can.

A sense of perspective—and humor—also helps. There will always be ups and downs in life and ups and downs in business. Sometimes you are working on something you absolutely love, and sometimes you are doing something you know is important but you can’t wait to get back to the things you absolutely love. If you can see how your actions help the team achieve its purpose, that really helps you stay motivated.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One lesson that seems super simple now but made a big impact on me was learning the power of the recipient’s narrative.

I learned the power of narrative from a communications professor who worked occasionally with our agency. We were doing cool things with big data, analytics, and behavioral nudges, and I’d often get carried away with why our solution was what the client needed, diving into exciting technical detail. We won a lot of work, but we won even more when we stopped focusing on our solution and started telling stories about the client’s problem, in their words, and wove our solution into the narrative.

Other than traveling, what do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love getting outside. Hiking, diving, climbing, paddleboarding, and skiing are all firm favorites. KC is a great cycling city and has some wonderful trails that can be really kid-friendly. We’ve got a five-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, and we’re now at the stage where the kids and our giant goldendoodle Milo can come on rides with us. I also help run a Cub Scouts den and coach basketball.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

I love live music. It’s another good thing about KC: Many major bands come through here as they travel from one coast to the other. You can see amazing gigs at outdoor venues that hold only 8,000 people.

My favorite concert ever had to be in Hyde Park in London back in 2010. It was two of my favorite bands, Ben Harper followed by Pearl Jam. In between the crossover, just as the sun’s going down, Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper do a cover of "Under Pressure" together. And London has incredibly long summer evenings. So it’s like nine, ten o’clock at night. The sun’s going down. Those two unexpectedly start covering this amazing Queen song. It was brilliant.

Slalom General Manager Daniel Cross and family sitting in a leafy field.

Let’s solve together.