Karl Krochmal on Doing What Scares You and Redefining Business Transformation

Karl Krochmal is the Managing Director of the Krohmal Consulting group, a boutique advisory firm that specializes in business and cultural transformation. Karl is a seasoned management consultant with over a decade of international experience helping clients adapt and change in the face of business transformation. Karl holds a MBA from the University of British Columbia and is PROCI Certified. He currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Looking back five/ten years where did you think you would be by this point in your career? How did you get here? 

For most of my career, I've been working in big multinational consulting firms and have really loved that kind of work. Looking back a few years more recently, I saw myself continuing to progress along that path to the point where I would enter a senior position. Along the way though, I slowly became less fulfilled by what I was doing and saw that I needed to make a shift. Healthcare specifically is an area that I've always been passionate about so after leaving the corporate consulting world, I entered internal consulting in healthcare. The time eventually came however where I decided to go out and start my own consulting practice. It’s a very exciting time because I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I started my first business when I was doing my undergraduate degree and then another one before starting my MBA so it feels great to be an entrepreneur again.

How do you define business transformation? What don't others understand about what transformation really means? 

The word business transformation is used quite loosely these days. People tend to think that just because something is changing that constitutes some sort of transformation. Change is not a transformation. In my view, transformation is about fundamentally creating things that are not being done currently and redefining an operating model through people, new processes and technology.  Change is constant, but transformations are about something much bigger than that. Transformations also don’t happen often. They are a product of major shifts in markets. The biggest misconception that I've seen overall however is that transformations are about technology only. Transformations are about people.  

From your experience, how do people need to start thinking differently about their careers on the back of all the transformations going on across industries?

The way we plan our careers needs to completely change. In the old days, planning a career was all about answering the question of "what do I want to do for the rest of my life?". Based on what is going on with technology, traditional and seemingly stable careers like Accounting are going to look very different in the future then they do now.  Jobs that involve repetitive or transactional work are going to be replaced by automation. Professional knowledge worker type jobs are not safe. As result, we need to shorten the cycle of our career planning and not look too far in the future. A more valuable approach would be to focus on building a set of in demand skills and developing your creative muscle. The future of work is all about human creativity. 

Tell me about an important lesson you had to learn the hard way. How did it make you better? 

I was once leading an international consulting project in Germany while my team was working in India. Despite the fact that I was leading the team, I didn’t take into account the fact that my team was from a very different culture than I was used to and that caused problems for the success of the project. Because of the cultural and time zone differences, our deliverables to our client in Germany were often late. I didn’t coordinate the work the way that I should have and didn't adjust my planning to account for how my team worked. The problem persisted to the point where my manager ended up telling me there was an issue with my performance and that the client wasn't happy. In retrospect, I should have taken more time to understand the needs of my team, how they worked and then adjusted my approach to ensure that we met the client's expectations.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone in the workplace today to get ahead and find a fulfilling career? 

When I was a child, my mom always told me that if you can find a way to turn your hobby into your profession, you will never work a day in your life. While that might be not possible for everyone, there is something to be said about looking at aspects of what you do for fun and seeing how you can bring that into your work. Building a career that you enjoy comes down to a few things: The work you want to do, the industry you want to be in and the environment that best suits who you are. Think about the things that you innately want to do and do that.

As you become more experienced though, it becomes increasingly important to keep yourself open to the opportunities that come your way. Just because something scares you doesn’t mean that you shouldn't do it. I've come to learn that it’s the scariest opportunities which provide the best moments for growth. Do the things that scare you because that is how you get better.

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Aubrey Chapnick