I am the founder and CEO of Envoy (www.envoyworld.com) – a disruptive platform changing the way organizations leverage their employee networks. Prior to Envoy, I co-founded Trestle Group – a consultancy firm dedicated to enhancing business performance. I also co-founded Trestle Group Foundation – a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs around the world. My experience working with Andersen and Ernst & Young, as well as an enriching education from Goucher College, prepared me for my entrepreneurial ventures.
From who or what do you draw inspiration as a leader?
Leaders who have impactful visions and charismatic personalities inspire me. The ability to build a strong team, and remain connected to the issues of the employees, is critical. Self confidence? Yes. Egomaniac? No.
In your own organization, how do you feel your style of leadership is exemplified?
We have a very talented management team and we rely heavily on each other’s expertise. We have our focus areas and we make decisions accordingly. If someone is uncertain, we discuss the situation and come to a conclusion together. I am not a fan of either consensus or micro management. Our approach allows us to move forward in a very agile manner.
Would you care to share your greatest failure – and what you learned?
Any failure where one learns and develops from the experience is not a failure from my perspective. If I had not left corporate life and jumped into entrepreneurship, I would consider this my greatest failure.
What has been you most satisfying success as a leader?
When everyone in the organization is excited about the vision of the firm – this is extremely rewarding. Taking big risks to follow a dream and getting positive feedback from the market is exhilarating.
Do you think professions such as law and accounting are still “safe” jobs?
The question, from my perspective, is “Who is looking for a “safe” job?” As an employer, I am not seeking talent looking for a safe job. I am looking for people seeking an inspiring adventure, and understand the risks. If a law or accounting firm is hiring a profile looking for safety, are they able to find the talent that impresses their clients?
Do you think technology developments such as Automation, Robotics and AI can ever replace the critical thinking of professionals?
These developments will be disruptive, and it is difficult to predict the impact. I believe that there will certainly be a reduction in the number of people required to manufacture or deliver a service. The concept of a universal basic income will become relevant much sooner than we expect.
Do you think colleges and graduate schools are keeping pace with what graduates need in the workplace?
Similar to the disruptions seen through automation or AI, there will be radical changes in how we deliver education and earn a degree. My bigger concern starts at a much earlier stage in the education process – ensuring that young people have an opportunity to even have a chance to decide whether college is an option.
Are you more – or less – optimistic about the likely success of the millennial generation than you were when you were starting out?
Every generation is shaped by the events of that decade. For me, the question is whether or not each generation will find the “business-as-usual” model attractive? If organizations are not able to attract talent, then the challenge becomes much bigger for the corporate versus the millennial.
How will reliance on networks change in the future?
Our networks have expanded exponentially with the advent of social media. Where initially our focus was connecting with everyone we met and beyond, we will experience a shift in desire to actually nurture the parts of our network that are relevant. Networks will continue to be an asset and people’s reluctance to share everything with their employer will increase.
What advice would you give to the younger generation entering the workforce?
Find some mentors and be open to learn. Understand different perspectives and be bold.
Ralph Schonenbach has held senior positions with the firms Andersen and Ernst & Young. He co-founded Trestle Group and Trestle Group Foundation. In his role with Envoy, Ralph is able to pursue his passion to help people and organisations understand and engage their networks more effectively. Ralph frequently speaks at events and has authored a variety of publications. He earned a degree in Business Management from Goucher College.