Marla Bace is an active speaker and moderator on a number of subjects, including business operations and customer loyalty. She is currently the General Manager of Marketing and Operations at Circles, a division of Sodexo, providing concierge services, even management, and customized rewards and experiences for customers and employees. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Bace.
Q: Tell me a little about being an executive manager.
Bace: The biggest difference between being a manager and an executive manager is the level of responsibility. As a manager, you are solely responsible for the day-to-day operation of a single function and your direct reports. As a general manager or executive manager, you are also responsible for the organization, including ensuring that the goals of the management committees are executed and met, as well as developing business plans and products to shape and facilitate the future of the organization.
Q: How do you and your team define customer care?
Bace: Customer care is the delivery of seamless customer service before, during, and after a transaction. When a customer experience is significantly better than anything they could have expected, you have a customer for life.
Q: How do you drive strategic business changes?
Bace: Collaboration. Being part of the management team often requires a hard look at all aspects of the business. This may mean building out areas and in some cases reducing resources in others. If one is not a collaborator—forging bonds between people and entire departments—the strategic change necessary to grow the organization will not occur.
Q: What do you do to mentor the individuals on your team (men and women)?
Bace: This is the part of my career that I enjoy the most. Each person on the team brings a different strength to the table. As a manager, I strive to recognize and leverage everyone’s talents. Being an effective mentor also means helping your employees identify personal development opportunities, such as some personal one-on-one career training with another team member who has a particular skill in spades.
Q: You have been very involved with mentoring young ladies in your career, whether through your career positions or your affiliations with non-profits like the NJ Sharing Network or Liberty Science Center. Why is this important to you?
Bace: I have only had male mentors throughout my career, yet I believe women encounter different challenges and have to address situations with a different perspective because of the many hats they wear—career, home, and family. It’s 2013, and the hot topic is should women “lean in” or not. Young women need to know that they can be themselves, enjoy work/life balance, and be successful. I enjoy helping them realize and achieve this.
Q: Do you think that all managers have the capability to help others with their careers?
Bace: When someone is coming up through the management ranks rarely do they start out as a perfect role model. This doesn’t mean they can’t learn how, however. While some will be better at it than others, all can develop the capability, leading by example and through nurturing.
Q: What do you consider your strongest strengths in dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Bace: The ability to draw awareness to circumstances by identifying public opinion and gathering other data and then facilitating conversation to develop a plan and drive results. In short, working with the team to reach right solution to a business challenge. I never leave the team to execute against a deadline alone; we are always in it together.
Q: As a woman, do you believe it is easier to work with coworkers, senior management, or customers?
Bace: I have found it both easier and harder. It depends on the audience and the topic. If I have a strong opinion and a hard conversation with a male colleague, it is a “good” discussion. The same discussion with a female colleague could still be called a “cat fight” in some quarters. We have come a long way in business, but some stereotypes are still there. You have to be aware of it and work around them and in the process hold yourself to the highest ethical and professional standards.
Q: What skills would you recommend other women develop to help them advance in their careers?
Bace: A thorough grounding in whatever field you are working in and the ability to exude confidence, graciousness, optimism, and ambition. And always have a good sense of humor.