“How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, with Debbie Millin, Chief Operating Officer at Globalization Partners

Diversity drives innovation since it provides an organization with an expanded world view. Study after study has proven that diverse teams are more productive and more profitable — exactly what you need in a company as it is looking to grow. Diverse teams also offer a path to success in global markets. As your competitors scale up […]

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Diversity drives innovation since it provides an organization with an expanded world view. Study after study has proven that diverse teams are more productive and more profitable — exactly what you need in a company as it is looking to grow. Diverse teams also offer a path to success in global markets. As your competitors scale up globally, it’s critical you’re able to do the same. By having employees who speak other languages or understand other cultures, you’re more likely to succeed in the global market.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debbie Millin, Chief Operating Officer at Globalization Partners. With over 20 years of operational, project management, and client relationship experience in a variety of industries, Debbie’s specialization is supporting companies experiencing rapid growth scale their systems and processes. She has helped grow Globalization Partners to be the №1 fastest growing women-led company in America and has helped two different companies achieve the honor of №1 fastest-growing private company in Massachusetts — including Globalization Partners in 2017. Just prior to joining Globalization Partners, her consulting firm, offering part-time COO services, was named in Boston Business Journal’s “Startup Watch: Five to Follow.” Debbie is a contributor to Forbes.com and a frequent speaker on topics including entrepreneurship, fast-growing companies, global expansion, and women’s leadership. She serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for Special Olympics of Massachusetts, as well as the Corporate Advisory Board for The Commonwealth Institute. She is a long-standing member of The Boston Club, and has been a member of multiple non-profit and private boards throughout her career.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I never planned to help run some of the fastest growing companies in the US, have my own consulting firm, or be an expert in global expansion, but you never know where your path will take you. Growing up, I wanted to either be a teacher or be in politics. While I always loved teaching (and still do!) I decided to attend Bentley University, because I didn’t know anything about business and thought that would be helpful no matter what I chose for a career.

In college I ran a campaign for a state representative and interned at the State House, and after graduating served as a Legislative Aide. I quickly realized that I did not enjoy politics and decided I could change the world in other ways. I stumbled into project management and grew my career through a variety of industries (transportation, telecommunications and global expansion). I eventually started my own consulting firm as a part-time and interim COO to rapidly growing companies, and Globalization Partners was one of my clients. Since then, I have joined the team and we have been named the #6 fastest growing company in America (Inc. Magazine, 2016), and a best place to work in the country (Inc. Magazine, 2017).

Though I am incredibly proud of what I have accomplished in my career, the most important thing to me is my family. I wouldn’t be here without them! My husband and I just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary, and his support has been key to my success. My daughter got married this past summer to the love of her life, and my son is in his senior year of college and is on the hockey team — so we spend our weekends in the fall and winter traveling around New England to watch his games.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

A few years ago, we reached a bit of a tipping point for the business and stopped taking new clients for an entire quarter so we could build out the infrastructure to withstand everything that we knew would come. At that same time, we knew we needed to do something differently with our internal systems in order to function more efficiently. We built a complete system from scratch in three weeks and started using it immediately. A lot of people pulled together to make that work! I think those things speak to our core values of doing things right for our customers and pulling together as a team to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

A couple weeks after we started accepting new clients again, we were named №6 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in America and the №1 fastest-growing women-led company.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Globalization Partners places a heavy emphasis on its award-winning client service and company culture, key ingredients to its success. We are truly focused on what our CEO, Nicole Sahin, refers to as the triple bottom line: being focused on making our clients, employees, and shareholders happy. It’s the best culture I’ve witnessed and I’m proud to be part of it. There’s an open door to the management team and it’s genuine. Everyone truly cares about each other and our customers, and that starts at the top.

We recently launched our Dream Program with the idea that everyone has a dream or something that they’ve always wanted to accomplish or do. So, the Dream Program was launched earlier this year with the idea that if employees told us what their long sought-after dream was, we would do whatever it is possible for us to help make some of those dreams come true. The first recipient’s dream was to gift her mom with a scooter since her mom has very challenging mobility issues due to a terrible car accident. They live in Brazil, so a few members of the Boston team had to figure out how to get the scooter to her from Boston but ultimately, we gifted the scooter and thus make her dream come true. We have a dream committee, and this is the first of many dreams that we are looking forward to granting.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

My focus right now is bringing the entire company to the next level, in a wide variety of ways. Whether it’s building out our new headquarters in Boston, launching new advertising campaigns, bringing on new members of our team, or continuing to enhance our award-winning tech platform, part of what I love about my job is that I get to work across the company and pull all of those pieces together. It’s a really exciting time for us — even though we’ve already experienced tremendous growth that other companies only dream of; I think we’re just getting started.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

That it is possible to create a human, caring workplace while still being extremely driven and focused on the business. A more human workplace not only promotes people’s strengths and capabilities but leads to higher levels of productivity and happiness — you can support your team AND your bottom line.

It’s incredibly important to get the right people in the right seats, trust them to do their jobs, and listen. We have fantastic ideas come from all levels of our organization and from around the world — whether they are sharing those informally through conversations, or more formally through weekly summaries to their managers/exec team or our IdeaFest program, your entire team is your best source of ideas on moving the company forward.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. Can you share with our readers the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line.

I’m proud to say that currently, 64 percent of the team here at Globalization Partners is considered diverse. Diversity matters and is quite simply a good business decision on multiple levels. Having diversity of age, gender, race and ethnicity, or geographic and national culture in teams helps a company in many ways.

Diversity drives innovation since it provides an organization with an expanded world view. Study after study has proven that diverse teams are more productive and more profitable — exactly what you need in a company as it is looking to grow. Diverse teams also offer a path to success in global markets. As your competitors scale up globally, it’s critical you’re able to do the same. By having employees who speak other languages or understand other cultures, you’re more likely to succeed in the global market.

If that’s not enough to convince you, research shows that candidates are looking for diversity when searching for a job. To attract top talent, it’s imperative you incorporate diversity into the workplace.

Lastly, when you prioritize diversity things are far more interesting, productive, and creative resulting in happier more engaged employees and increased employee retention.

But having diversity in your company does not just happen — it needs to be a focus of your management team from the recruiting process through professional development and management training. Making it a policy to enable and encourage different types of people to work with each other everywhere around the globe in a highly professional way, builds a more inclusive and global community.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As the Chief Operating Officer at Globalization Partners, it is my responsibility to help set the tone for the company and that means helping to run Globalization Partners with honesty and transparency. This has meant a lot to our employees, partners, and clients. The result of that is a culture of kindness, compassion, and yes — goodness while still being laser focused on the business. You really can do both.

I think one of the secrets to happiness is helping others. At Globalization Partners we regularly conduct organized service days and encourage employees to give back. As we grow and become more successful, that success brings goodness to the world through our series of philanthropic initiatives with organizations like School the World, Rosie’s Place in Boston and the Greater Boston Food Bank to name a few. I am also a board member for the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, an organization that’s very close to my heart, and our company sponsors a team for their annual 5K in Boston. All of these efforts help bring our team closer together as we do things outside the office and support a variety of important causes bringing goodness to the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

I realized at a very early age that this was the theme of my life. When I was about five years old, I had an opportunity to go to a school for gifted children. I knew myself well enough to understand it wasn’t what I wanted and credit my parents with allowing me to make my own choice to not go. Fast forward to high school where I ended up being valedictorian of my graduating class. People put a lot of expectations on me about what I should say in my speech– but knew it needed to be ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’ which I’ve carried through to my career as well.

Those words have been a constant in my life reminding me to never let people keep me in a box or limit what I was capable of doing when I knew I was capable of more. Sometimes that meant making decisions that other people thought were crazy. Like September 11th, when most of our executive team was out of the office at a conference. As a Director at a telecommunications company in a department that had NOTHING to do with our roaming platform, I told that team to let all the calls go through without a charge when the World Trade Center fell. I knew it would cost the company millions of dollars, and that as a result of that decision I might get fired — and I didn’t care. I was true to myself knowing it was the right thing to do in that moment. (I did not get fired, I got promoted).

As we have grown Globalization Partners, I think one of the things I’m most proud of is that we have stayed true to ourselves. We are incredibly driven and focused, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We truly care about each other in a way I’ve never experienced before. We do what is right, not what is easy. We believe that the obstacle is the path and are literally changing the way companies do business around the world….and we have fun doing it. We are hopefully showing the world that you can be a business leader at the highest levels and still be who you are.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

That would be my husband.When my children were younger, my husband stayed home. That was not a common situation 20 years ago — we used to joke I was the only woman in the boardroom, and he was the only man on the playground. We both had to deal with the challenges and biases that came with that (there were no Tide commercials of the dad doing laundry 20+ years ago). I couldn’t have been successful without his support.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Tom Hanks, no question. I have been a fan of his since Bosom Buddies, for those of you old enough to remember that show His range of acting astounds me, and I think he’s one of the best actors of our times, but I also love (and share) his passion for making the world a better place, and for history — from stories of World War II heroism to typewriters. I was in New York when he was filming The Post, and my daughter and I were hoping to bump into him (#HanxHunt) but were unsuccessful. He just seems like a person I’d be friends with.

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