Picture the scene. It’s the mid-eighties, corporate America. An up-and-coming entrepreneur arrives at a major financial institution for the pitch that will make or break her fledgling company. She walks into the office wearing a red suit. Everyone else is in black. Heads turn. The executive she’s meeting likes the pitch, so before they head on up the hierarchy for the final meeting she takes off her own black blazer for the entrepreneur to put on, in order that her words will be given more weight than her outfit.
That entrepreneur was cSubs’ President and Chief Cultural Officer, Julie Auslander, and that radical act of sponsorship was a transformative moment.
“These are the kinds of opportunities that women in business really need,” says Julie. “Mentorship is all well and good, but there’s a sense that mentors tell you what to do, while sponsors extend a hand to help you get to where you want to be.” Julie feels that women are still generally over-mentored and under-sponsored, and observes that the “old boys’ club” is all about sponsorship, not just mentorship. “How do we provide a seat at the table for women to get introduced to opportunity? To enable them to be part of the business conversations where the decisions take place? That’s sponsorship.”
This innovative perspective is something of a trademark for Julie, as she brings fresh thinking to all aspects of her business practice. Take her title: Chief Cultural Officer. What is the significance of that? Julie describes it like this:
“Companies don’t buy anything, they don’t make decisions or identify solutions — people do.
So doing business is actually about talking to people, and understanding how to connect with them as people. People connect through culture, shared motivation, dreams and desires — these things drive society, and they drive business. Understanding and delivering these things on a daily basis is therefore a key business driver. That is what’s different about cSubs. This kind of subtle messaging prompts a different kind of engagement, and is reinforced by the actions of the company. We are client-focused and employee-centric. In order to deliver client experience takes frontline employees, so this is just as important to them.”
This commitment to the employee experience is grounded in Julie’s perspective on diversity, and respect for the individual:
“Diversity circles back to culture. How can you fill the seats around the table with each person being a different representative of culture than the person next to them? The challenge is to get people to step out of their own box and speak to people who differ from them — we get stuck in the fact that the human experience craves sameness. We think it’s easier, cheaper, faster to have the person next to us be like us, it creates less friction. But brilliance comes from that friction.”
This also drives the cSubs approach to business. “People buy from people, so if your pool is only filled with the same people having the same thoughts delivered in the same way in the same language then you’re not speaking to everyone.” Having a diverse staff clearly attracts a diverse range of clients, and the company works with businesses including scientific and medical companies, financial and insurance organizations, and entertainment firms.
Julie’s long-standing personal commitment to living and working with authenticity is evident in every interaction. One small but powerful example of this is her practice of signing every email and document with “namaste”. She explains her choice of this unconventional closure thus: “In a business context this means that my closing expresses a wish that we see eye to eye, or come to some mutual understanding, even if we disagree. I wanted to put something in that valuable space that signifies something, and which conveys my hopes and dreams for what I’m sending.”
The business world may not be quite as rigidly conventional as it was back in the 1980s, but it is clear that Julie’s independent perspective has stood the test of time: “I learned a long time ago that the only person I can be and do well is me. Every day I get to contribute to the life of our employees, change in my small way the way in which business is done, and provide opportunity for people to think about things. I stand in authenticity of who I am and what I believe in, and I’ve never regretted it.”