“I strive to make the experience of working with Creative one that is fun, delightful, and easier for our clients.”

At the start of 2024, Lara Williams, previously a Strategic Account Manager, began her new leadership role as VP of Sales. Lara has been with Creative since 2016 and has earned a reputation for delivering exceptional customer service to our customers. With dedication, confidence, and creativity, Lara is ready to tackle the new challenge of becoming a leader. Follow along to learn more about Lara as we delve into her personal values, history, and unique qualities that make her a leader:

Q: There is a lot of change going on in the world, and things are evolving at a breakneck pace. I know you talked to many of our clients and partners, and I am curious to hear from your perspective what the most pressing challenges for our clients and partners are today. How do you see Creative helping to overcome and assist with those challenges?

Hybrid work has been a mixed bag, hasn’t it? On one hand, it’s been a lifesaver, but on the other, it’s thrown some real curveballs into the workplace. Getting folks back into the office is proving to be a tough nut to crack for many organizations, and our clients are feeling the pressure to rethink their office spaces to keep their teams happy.

While attracting talent has always been a priority, these days, it’s all about hanging onto them, especially with the economic uncertainty looming overhead.

And let’s talk about speed – everything’s moving at lightning speed! Whether it’s rejigging their current setup or scouting for a new space, there’s no time to waste.

But here’s the thing: space isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. To get people excited about coming back to the office, you’ve gotta create an environment that ticks all the boxes – people, places, and tech. It’s like a three-legged stool; you gotta balance it just right.

Luckily, we’ve got an amazing team that is great at helping our clients figure out this stuff. We’ve got the skills to whip up solutions that are quick, cost-effective, and hit the nail on the head. It’s what we do best!

Q: As a new leader, you are fortunate to have inherited a team of a mix of people who are deeply knowledgeable about the industries that they serve. Many of them have a lot of industry experience. We have a core group of veterans and some really good, exciting new young energy from a sales talent standpoint. What do you see as a key challenge in assuming leadership over the sales team?

When our clients have a project, it’s almost always because they’re at some sort of inflection point—a change is happening. Our central challenge is to build a team that is deeply skilled at helping our clients navigate change from the design and planning stage all the way through occupancy. We’re working hard to build better change management and communication skills for all team members, especially our sales staff. Ultimately, we’re in the business of change!

Q: On the topic of change, there are bound to be a couple of things that you’re looking forward to changing, and then maybe some things that you want to preserve. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Creative has a very clear viewpoint about how we approach space and why we would provide a particular solution to one client and not the other. That viewpoint is born from our collective experience, in addition to industry research, and I wouldn’t want to change that. I think that’s what makes us unique. When it comes to the things I would change, that would be anything that helps make the process easier, faster, and more pleasant for our clients. As a new leader, I strive to make the experience of working with Creative one that is fun, delightful, and easier for our clients.

Q: Tell us a few things about you. What do you want the world to know about Lara?

Well, when it comes to my values, continuous learning is above all. That is number one for me. I feel there’s a forward momentum to learning, so I’m kind of addicted to that feeling. I love learning and being around people who like to learn. I love to figure out and explore how stuff works and enjoy that process. I’m not looking to be the queen of anything, but I am looking to understand it. I approach my work that way, too. I tend to dig into things and try to figure out how everything works. If you want to make a change, you need to understand what you’re changing. You have to know more than just the surface level. 

I think a lot of my past might be surprising to some people. I had a multicultural upbringing. I wasn’t born in this country, and I’ve found a way to be at home in many places in my life. That experience has made me good at being comfortable with being uncomfortable and not knowing where things are. I have a pretty diverse career path and have done a lot of different things. For about 20 years, I worked in the wine industry, and I’ve even loaded UPS trucks at one point in my life. I know what it takes to get things done. That practical experience makes me feel connected and relevant to the work that is happening. I would never ask somebody to do something I wouldn’t do myself, and I think that is important.

Q: What is your favorite bottle of wine?

The one that is given to me. I get joy from the wine that is given to me because somebody put some thought into it. They labored over it, especially when they heard I was in the wine business. Whether I like the bottle truly that much or not becomes almost immaterial because I believe somebody spent a lot of time on that choice.

When buying wine for myself, I favor Italian reds. The taste of red Italian wine is a bit nostalgic for me. It reminds me of my time in Italy when I was younger. Sitting with my adopted family and having dinner, being served wine. That is where I learned about wine.

Q: Favorite Steelcase product?

You know, that’s a really hard one for me. I love clever products. The Thread is one of those for me. It is a brilliant idea to make distributing power easier. It’s a very simple product that is well-designed and solves a problem.

Q: Favorite place to visit?

That will be hard because I love to travel and visit many places. I never go anywhere thinking I’ll never return. I want to see and do it all. Out of all the wonderful experiences I’ve had and beautiful places I’ve been to, my heart draws me back to Vienna, Austria. What I love the most about it is the grand boulevards. It’s a type of architecture and city planning that is very elegant. If I think of an American city that I like to go back to, it’s New Orleans. It’s also based on a European aesthetic but in a different way. It’s a place that feels familiar to me because it’s similar to the European cities I grew up in. 

Q: To close out our time together, what are you most excited about at Creative as a new leader in the next year?

We have a great year ahead of us, and there are a lot of things to be excited about. From what we’re forecasting, it looks to be an excellent year. Because of my previous position, I’m excited to be able to provide the other leaders in the organization with more perspective around our sales function. I’m able to look at the things that we’re doing and simplify them as well as make the experience fun.

We have so many initiatives this year that we’re advancing. I can’t recall another time when Creative had so many exciting things on the horizon. I feel very fortunate to be a part of leading these initiatives and can’t wait to see how they progress throughout the year.