Oxana Razumova is the co-founder of Sensemakers and the head of the board of the Friends Charity Foundation. An expert in communications and strategy, she has also built a long career as a strategy facilitator and a philanthropy consultant. Aside from her ventures, she is also a process communication model and emotional assertiveness trainer.
At Sensemakers, Oxana Razumova and her team offer a variety of products that “help [you] elevate your organization in this new decade.” The company gives its clients the ability to look closely at their own organization and its environment, and then “implement the mechanisms that will help [you] achieve long-term organizational health.” At Sensemakers, clients also receive “proven models and tools” to achieve perfect health for your company in the long term. In all, Sensemakers helps clients “build a responsive and resilient organization that can navigate uncertainty and prolong its healthspan through the development of inner wisdom.”
Oxana Razumova and Sensemakers deploy a holistic approach in their service toward their clients. They “diagnose organizations, focusing on connections between people.” They also “offer the best toolset to help them,” effectively becoming a “tandemee for organizations and their leaders helping them to increase their healthspan, boost speed of development and prosper their wisdom.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Oxana Razumova: For 20 years of professional activity, I managed to switch from law and finance to PR, working in the largest media holding in Russia “National Media Group” as a Director of internal and external communications. Simultaneously became the head of press service of one of the Russian news TV channels. It was active and exciting. People from a large financial сorporation and people from a large media holding company were surprisingly different. The Corporation valued strictness, seriousness, restraint and clarity in everything. However, the first colleague I met on the TV channel said “be simple”. That was the recipe for success. The main place in this world of media was occupied by such strengths as creativity, spontaneity, imagination and speed of decision-making. The media sphere attracts diverse people-analysts, producers, actors, presenters, a whole platoon of employees from Directors to lighting designers. And they are all very, very different. Over 5 years of working in the National Media Group, I have learned exactly that the main thing that a Manager should be able to do is not set goals and KPIs, but manage relationships in the team, and reduce conflicts based on employee communication to a minimum. Always be an accurate tuning fork for everyone in your team. Create an atmosphere of mutual assistance and understand how and when to motivate someone. And I won’t reveal a secret if I say that we are all motivated by different things. If you want to be a first-class boss, you have to be a great Communicator.
After that, I moved into the charity industry, becoming the first Director of the Friends Foundation, a platform designed to help other non-profit organizations become more professional and successful. I still remain in the Fund, but now in the role of Chairman of the Board.
And at the moment, together with my three partners — Victoria Mikhailova, Dr. Eyal Ronen and Gor Nakhapetyan we are building an international company “Sensemakers”, engaged in personal and organizational development.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Oxana Razumova: My first two years at the Charity Foundation were the most difficult in my entire career. There were no people, no money, no office. We worked on almost naked enthusiasm, but in truth there was an abundance of it. I was passionate about the Foundation’s ideas. We came up with the concept of professional philanthropic education, started promoting the idea of intellectual volunteering, and created a program to help other NGOs. And that’s where all my previous work experiences came in handy. But at the end of the first year, I obviously felt like I was breaking down. It was simply too much for me. I made the decision to leave the Foundation, realizing that I couldn’t cope with the amount of work and the rest of my life — children, home, friends — there just wasn’t time for all of this. I was greatly helped by the founders of the Foundation, who on the one hand understood and supported me, but on the other kept me in the Foundation. The solution was to attract more people to the team and delegate more. We invited an operations Director, and I moved to the level of global management.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Oxana Razumova: I remember very well that when I was studying at the University in Moscow at the law faculty, I dreamed I would become a famous attorney or finally a famous lawyer in a large international firm and there would be a queue of people who would like to get to my meeting at my big and important office. And so I graduated, got a master’s degree, and diploma with honors and … randomly got a job in a large telecommunications company, but not in the legal department at all. I was hired by the securities department, where, as an employee who spoke English very well, I was involved in the programs of American Depositary receipts placed by Russian communications companies at JPMorgan at that time. That’s when I faced the first and not the last challenge in my life — I didn’t even know what it was — American Depositary Receipts. On my first day at work, a stack of documents in English was placed in front of me, behind which I was simply not visible. None of my colleagues could help me for the simple reason of not knowing a foreign language. I learned to work carefully with documents, what helped me many times in the future. However, it did not save me from one funny mistake, which my boss later recalled all 5 years of my work. While preparing a large set of documents to send to JPMorgan, verifying each letter and number, I did not notice that an error crept into the header of one of the documents, which probably only a young employee like me could do — the document had a horrible misprint which i cannot mention in the interview, but I still remember how my boss both swore and laughed at the same time. That’s when I decided that I would only work with people with a good sense of humor!
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
Oxana Razumova: In transactional analysis, there is a model of human relationships — the Stephen Karpman triangle. This is a psychological model of interaction between people. At the same time, there is a triangle of positive interactions, where happiness and joy are born, and there is a negative one, in which people play at happiness, but do not achieve it. If you shift it to the organization (and the company itself does not exist without people), then the most important aspects of the functioning of a great company become clear.
First of all, it is a vision. The idea that the business is built around. And everyone in the company should see this “picture” the same way. This is incredibly important for synchronizing everyone’s understanding of their roles, feeling and appreciating the importance of the project being built. When there is a vision, it is sense’s turn. Why is this important to you? Why does this motivate you? What do you find in the project that resonates in your heart? And if there is such a thing, then a person will go to work every day with a light heart and a pleasant anticipation. When there is a common vision and sense, there should be a clear plan of action for everyone. What, when and how do we do it?
All of the above seems so clear and even banal. But from experience, I can say that most companies lose positions or “do not take off” to a new height precisely because of the lack of a unified vision. And it is relevant not only for executives, but for every person in your company.
A great company is one that employees are proud to work for.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Oxana Razumova: Participating in the creation and promotion of a new international commercial project Sensemakers is a life project for me now. From the very first moment of the company’s creation, we promote the ideas of social impact, which are shared by all employees of the company and this unites us incredibly. And this is very important for me. But not only these ideas. We are building a new profession “sensemaker” — a person who promotes the idea of creating a wise world around and who has the tools to share his wisdom with the world. Wisdom can be created within ourselves, in companies and organizations, and even in countries and global movements. Our goal is to help these communities apply wisdom, using insight and understanding together to achieve something more productive, more enriching, and more profound.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Oxana Razumova: The best strategy is to be always different, try new approaches, new channels and forms. In the modern world, everything is changing at a fantastic rate. It’s not the time when a business could use one approach for years on end. Now the business must keep up with the speed of changes in fashion, social agenda and global movements. Videos, animations, webinars, live-talks, social media, game integration, and much more.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Oxana Razumova: Nowadays, a brand is no longer just a company name and logo. These are the values you bring to the world, your social contribution and positioning. But first of all, these are personalities who are the faces of the brand, its real creators, employees. Every person in the team is important. For example, at Sensemakers, we make posts in social media channels about each of our new employees, regardless of their position. People are the main focus of the company. Therefore, the team that shares your ideas and values is your ambassadors to the outside world.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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