Strategic Advisor Profile: Sandy Hubbard–From Operations Leader to Trusted Advisor

Now what? I asked for the role and I got it. Now, what do I do?” ~ Sandy Hubbard 

Sandy Hubbard has had a long career in media production. She started out in video production and moved into publishing, specifically magazines in the B2B space, where she served as an editor and later as a publisher.

Sandy is the latest profile of folks who have transitioned from an operations leader to a strategic leader. Our conversation covered the same questions asked of the previous three people profiled.

How Does Being an Operational Leader Differ From a Strategic Advisor?

“Production, especially on the magazine side, is like manufacturing. There’s a new chance, every month, to do things better, faster, more cost-effective; get more sales, and generate greater profit.”

Sandy aspired to be the publisher of her magazine. She mentioned to her boss — the incumbent publisher — that she would like his job when he retired. In preparation, she attended corporate management meetings and learned to read and interpret P&L statements. 

When she was elevated to the position of publisher, she realized that she had to reassess her role in the ecosystem. “I couldn’t just run around ‘being strategic’ right off the bat. That would alienate a whole lot of people who know their jobs. I had to take a breath and figure out what being strategic looked like.”

What Sandy found was her relationships with her customers became much more strategic than with her staff and the Board to whom she reported. “As publisher, I was on a whole new level with my customers. Now I was a peer, a confidant. I was part of an entirely new inner circle, where I was more trusted. My goal was how can I help my customers in ways that will also benefit my company.”

After a while, though, it was clear to Sandy that her magazine’s corporate owner couldn’t adequately support the publication. Their expertise was in another publishing space. Seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall, Sandy approached her customers and began providing strategic advice, based on her “banked trust” with them. 

What’s Most Rewarding About Your Current Role?

What’s most transformational, for Sandy, is helping clients see possibilities that they hadn’t seen previously. “Many of my clients are smart and strategic in and of themselves; many are ahead of the curve in their space. I help them stay focused and present with their unique ideas in ways that can be understood and monetized.”

What Do You Miss Most About the SME/Operational Part of Your Career?

Like the other folks profiled in this series, Sandy misses the relationships she had forged over a 22-year tenure at her magazine. 

In addition, over that 22-year timeframe, she had 264 times to improve the process of bringing an issue to publication. She loved improving systems; making things better. Each month was a fresh start. 

What Aspects of Your Operational Roles Prepared You for Your Role as a Strategic/Trusted Advisor? 

As Sandy became more familiar with P&L statements, she realized an affinity for financial analysis, which gave her an appreciation for not only her publication but for the challenges faced by her customers. 

Sandy made sure to keep up with industry trends, as well as global trends and their impacts on the industry. She followed thought leaders — both inside and external to the industry — and determined how their fresh ideas impacted magazine publishing. 

“In production (operations) you’re watching and telling and fixing. As a strategic advisor, you’re listening more and telling less.”

If You Could Change One Thing About What You’re Doing Now, What Would It Be? 

Also like the folks profiled for this series, Sandy wants to work with more clients who are aligned with her worldview. She wants to use this time in her career to make a difference for her clients, the industry, and the world in general. She looks to evaluate potential clients more on aligned philosophy rather than profit generated.  

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