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Meet Stefanie Thelen,
GM of St. Louis

Q&A: A conversation with Stefanie Thelen, GM of Slalom St. Louis

August 3, 2016

St. Louis is one of Slalom’s newest offices and is poised to be one of the fastest growing in the Midwest. Home to a burgeoning start-up scene, storied Midwest companies, and loads of talent, St. Louis is a city on the rise. We sat down with Stefanie Thelen, the office’s new general manager, to learn why she chose Slalom, her perspectives on the market, and what inspires her.

You’ve decided to make Slalom your home—and we couldn’t be more excited. Tell us a little about why you chose Slalom.

I love my Slalom story—I didn’t know I was looking for Slalom until they found me. I happened to pick up a call from a Seattle area code, and it was Troy Johnson, co-founder and general manager. After 30 minutes on the phone with him, I felt incredibly inspired by his energy and vision.

The more people I met across Slalom, the more I kept thinking, “These are my people. These are the people who want to give more, learn more, risk more, and be more for each other and for our clients.” It’s important to me that we have the skills, experience, and perspectives that come with our broader national and international presence—but I’m really here because I’m inspired by our people.

What are the key things you see in building that type of culture in St. Louis?

On my first day on the job, I got some great advice from our president, Tony Rojas. Tony reminded me that my number one responsibility as a general manager for Slalom is to be a steward of the culture. I’ve thought a lot about what that really means and how I can best serve my team.

Culture has a lot to do with fostering connection and commitment to bring out the best in people. Companies don’t have ideas—people have ideas. Companies don’t solve problems—people solve problems. And we, as individuals and as teams, do our best and give our best when we’re connected to each other. When we have trust and loyalty, we feel safe enough to fail. That means we can be bold and have the courage to take risks and drive truly amazing outcomes. That’s the environment we want to build and sustain in our market.

That alone was inspiring—you are going to have a team of very inspired people working for you in St. Louis.

I appreciate that. I’m really impressed and thrilled with the team that we already have in place here. I’m excited to grow from such a strong foundation.

“It’s so inspiring to watch people discover their gifts and experience what they’re really capable of achieving.”

What do you think makes St. Louis unique from a business perspective?

There are some incredible companies here and, many of them—from mid-market to Fortune 500—are homegrown. They’re deeply connected to this community and committed to St. Louis. There’s also a strong entrepreneurial spirit here. You can see it in the growing number of startups we have and the amount of investments being made, but it’s also evident in the innovations coming from more established companies.

What are some of the biggest challenges your clients are facing right now?

An interesting thing about the St. Louis market is the diversity of industries that are represented. Companies here, like everywhere, are being impacted by significant disruption and they’re facing similar challenges. They need to take advantage of what’s made them successful, but they have to innovate and be agile to stay relevant. No matter what business you’re in, there’s a big focus on how to leverage technology as an asset, particularly to get closer to your customer and to create new opportunities for revenue.

How do you begin building trusting relationships in a new market for Slalom?

Trust is the most important thing, and the way you build it now is the way that you’ve always built it—by being authentic, honest, and by coming through. One of the things I love about Slalom—that I felt from day one and I’ve felt every moment since—is that we collectively do whatever it takes to come through for each other and for our customers. And that’s how we’ll build trust here.

What do you think makes a great consultant?

Great consultants are thinkers and fixers. They’re humble, curious, and positive. They see opportunities in challenging situations and are willing to take risks. The best consultants I’ve ever worked with have two things in common: they can put themselves in others’ shoes and they have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. I see that in the people that I’ve met at Slalom so far, and it’s certainly core to the kind of talent that we’re focused on attracting here in St. Louis.

“Trust is the most important thing, and the way you build it is…by being authentic, honest, and by coming through.”

What inspires you?

It’s so inspiring to watch people discover their gifts and experience what they’re really capable of achieving. I love the adage that a rising tide lifts all boats. We’re going to create opportunities with and for each other to maximize our potential. We’re going to create the kind of positive energy and momentum that’s infectious. That’s how we’ll have the greatest impact on our clients and drive the greatest outcomes—by raising everyone’s game.

What are some of your goals in the year ahead?

My first goal is to build a team of people who feel engaged, connected, and inspired. A year from now, if we can say that we’ve been true to our values, made an impact for our clients and the St. Louis community, and learned and grown together as people, I’ll call the year a success. If we love the work we’re doing and our clients love working with us, I’ll call it a huge success!

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