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Marla Kurz

Principal

Marla has spent over 20 years working in organizations holding leadership positions in general management and as a Human Resources Executive.  She has diversified experience across industries in both public and private sectors.  Experienced in managing within complex business environments, including global, M&A, divestiture, and business model change, Marla, is a trusted advisor to senior leadership who understands business and best practices and is able to successfully align people and plans to business strategy.  She is known as a strategic, innovative, and highly collaborative leader who delivers positive results and inspires others to do the same.

As a Principle at Kotter, Marla guides clients strategically and tactically through complexity and ambiguity to achieve transformational change; designs and implements wildly imaginative and powerful experiences to achieve client outcomes and coaches and mentors others, to lead and influence in different ways, achieving results they never thought possible.

Marla received a BA in Economics from the University of Detroit-Mercy and a MA in Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University.

Marla is based in Seattle, WA.

Why did you decide to work at Kotter?

For my entire career, I’ve worked inside corporations. A career in consulting had never appealed to me for many reasons. For one, I had had my share of working with consulting firms that frankly, were underwhelming. Many underdelivered results, didn’t roll up their sleeves to do the hard but fun work of implementation or operated as if they were smarter than anyone else in the room. But when I was introduced to Kotter, I realized just how different they were. Unlike so many, this firm has a clear identity and soul. They aren’t in the business to please or to be everything to everyone. They know who they are and what they stand for as a firm. They bring a point of view along with core expertise. This was refreshing to me. Further, Kotter’s team members emulate such strong values and standards of excellence, that it is evident in every interaction you have with them. It extends into their work with clients, colleagues and the marketplace. These are truly authentic, talented people. I wanted to work with them the moment I met them. Second, I enjoy being accountable for the results and impact that comes with implementing strategy. This firm is all about realizing transformation. They work side by side, as partners, WITH their clients to develop, implement and realize their client’s transformation strategy. I saw first hand the relationship that Kotter develops with their clients and it is the model for the industry. It is for all these reasons, that I was inspired to leave behind a corporate career and trail blaze a new one, with Kotter.

If you weren’t working at Kotter, what would you be doing instead?

Exploring and hiking our national parks. It is my lifetime goal to see them all.

What in your background helps you in this job?

The combination of my diverse experience working within global organizations, both public and private, along with my expertise in organizational development.

What’s the biggest transformation/impact you have seen come true?

When I worked for a CPG company, we had a very diversified portfolio. Among our portfolio was a collection of coffee companies that were separate and often competed with each other in the marketplace. Consequently, margins were low, overhead was high and the businesses were struggling to break even. Coffee was a core category in our portfolio with significant growth potential, but we needed to change our business model. Over a three year period, we set out to organize by market segment, reduce inefficiencies/overhead and dramatically change the culture to operate as one company not 3 to our customers. Our biggest obstacle was the culture — everyone was passionate and loyal to their coffee company. Instead of pounding over and over again all the reasons why we needed to change, we spent time asking and listening to why they felt loyal and why they were so passionate. What we learned was they loved coffee…procuring it, making it, creating recipes from it, selling it, servicing it, etc…in all three businesses. We found we were unified not divided in our core purpose. We deeply loved coffee and the experiences our customers have in their daily lives with it. From there, from the center, we shifted the culture to operate as one coffee company driven by our love and passion for our product and our customers. By year 2, the business turned profitable. We changed the business model with restructuring, taking costs out, shifting our mix and such. But we transformed the business by engaging the hearts of many for a common mission they all cared deeply about.

What’s got you thinking right now?

I am exploring the power of storytelling in seeding and mobilizing change. Humans are visual creatures. Stories inspire reflection, learning, imagination, motivation and action. How can we all tap into this powerful tool more? And in what ways can it serve to unlock barriers and propel us to “thrive” vs. “survive”?

Share something about you that would most surprise people.

Every year, my husband and I make the pilgrimage to the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City Utah. Over the course of 4 days, we see close to 25 films and documentaries, cramming in as many as 6 films in a day, waiting in lines in the brittle January winter, off a diet of coffee and power bars. After spending 40 hours in cumulative darkness, we come out looking a bit like the walking dead. But the experience is memorable. In our time there, we are transported into the lives of others and the stories they are there to share through film. We are smarter, more enlightened and enriched than before. And, we connect with strangers (remember those long lines?) in colorful conversation, often leading to surprising friendships.