RT: You set up APCO Worldwide 36 years ago. What milestones do you see the company achieving in the next four years as it turns 40?
MK: I want APCO to make a difference in tomorrow’s world by paying attention and taking on the issues of our day including things like climate change, equity, access in general, and to technology, and global health.
To continue doing this work, I want to keep client satisfaction high and to help our clients continue to see around the corner and operate with agility. And as we continue to celebrate our culture of collaboration and our global integration of services, I look forward to ensuring we are firmly established in all regions of the world and maintain our majority women ownership.
And, of course, being a great place to work for our employees.
RT: What led to the creation of APCO in 1984?
MK: At the time, I was on the founding team of the Close Up Foundation—a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic education organisation in Washington, D.C., which offers programming to educate and inspire young people to participate in their government. Working with the foundation, I met government leaders from both sides of the aisle and was introduced to the law firm Arnold & Porter (A&P).
When some of the partners at A&P wanted to start a consulting firm, they believed I had the right experience, and I was excited to test my ability to use the skills I had to develop something new and different. So I left a job I really loved for the unknown and that was the beginning of APCO. Over time, I led APCO through an exit from the law firm and eventually to its independence, making APCO one of the largest privately-owned consulting firms in its field in the world and the largest that is majority women owned.
Today, we have over 800 people around the world, based in more than 30 markets.
RT: You have said that you have no plans to slow down – or step down. What is the inspiration that keeps you going?
MK: From the beginning, APCO’s purpose has always been to have a place where really smart, and nice, people can come together and have a fulfilled career while solving important problems for our clients, and whenever possible, finding solutions that contribute to a better world.
I love the people with whom I work and their energy and creativity give me great passion for what I am doing. When you are providing that level of problem solving to clients and working with great people on a daily basis, it gives you energy and inspiration to tackle the next big idea.
RT: Instead of aiming at a work-life balance, you believe in ‘blending the two’. Can you elaborate on this?
MK: Being torn between the demands of work and the pull of family obligations leaves many frustrated and exhausted, and I’ve been asked hundreds of times about how to balance it. Everyone has to have their own formula, but for me, the answer has been blending the two, and finding ways to take lessons from home to work and vice versa. My professional success has been a function of a supportive and engaged family, and my ability to be fully engaged with my family has been a function of a fulfilled professional career. I have learned a great deal from both, which I have categorised in my recent book, Roots and Wings.
RT: What should the communication professional look forward to in 2021?
MK: During COVID, we have reaffirmed that communications is more important than ever. Helping our leaders find the right methods and words to lead their organisations and engage with their stakeholders is more important than ever. That puts us all front and center within our organisations and to our clients, helping them find ways to share their views and tell their stories. This means listening as much as talking and creating lines of communication that educate and inspire.
COVID has also taught us to look at our values and our purpose and to be clear about both. Communicating around these important topics and getting alignment among our staff and our stakeholders will be the difference between good companies and great companies.
Margery Kraus is Founder & Executive Chairman at APCO Worldwide. She is a Keynote Speaker at SPECTRA.
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