April Callis Birchmeier
President of Springboard Consulting
With 20 years of experience working in change management, April Callis Birchmeier is the president of Springboard Consulting, which has been in business since 2002, providing professional development workshops and change management services for a number of clients including Michigan State University, Michigan Dental Association, The University of Michigan and the Family Health Center.
“My job is to help people get ready for a change in their job or in the company they work for,” explained Callis Birchmeier.
Springboard Consulting exists to assist companies, employees and executives in preparing for and making changes in their business.
“It’s best to make sure that everybody participates in the change,” said Callis Birchmeier. “It makes the transition much smoother.”
Callis Birchmeier works with clients to assess the scope of the change and impact of the change on employees and the organization as a whole. This change could be a system change, such as moving from specialized software on local computers to implementing an enterprise solution that the entire organization can use. She finds that it’s important to develop a clear vision for the future and to communicate that vision with others, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
The next step, according to Callis Birchmeier, is to help people understand the need to change and to help the company assess who will be affected by the change. From that information, a strategy is developed to address communication needs, stakeholder engagement, sponsorship, learning and development and sustainability. Plans are then created to fulfill the strategy and on the most successful projects the change management plan is integrated with the project plan itself.
“More and more companies are seeing the merit in the change management,” said Callis Birchmeier. “The larger the company, the harder it is to get everyone on the same page.”
Callis Birchmeier doesn’t work as much with the system side of the changes that need to be made, she works directly with the people in need. She has a Project Management Professional Certification, or PMP, from the Project Management Institute.
“When working with the State of Michigan, we made sure that the people working with the new system had the support and help they needed in the transition,” says Callis Birchmeier. “If people don’t know what they are doing, they take longer to switch systems or to get back on task. Productivity is then hurt, but effective change management can improve success. We make sure that there is a high turnover rate for people switching systems and make sure that productivity stays high.”
Senior Consultant at Anderson Economic Group
As the director of market and industry analysis at Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing, Cristina Benton spends her days researching whether a donut shop or a gas station would be most successful on that empty lot in the center of town.
Originally from Romania, Benton relocated to Michigan 11 years ago in order to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning at Michigan State University (MSU). Her trip to the United States was intended to be a short one until she realized how much she enjoyed urban planning. She then continued through graduate school at MSU and now holds a doctorate in geography.
“At this time, I really enjoyed being here in Lansing and I met my husband. We’ve been married for six years actually,” said Benton. “When [I was] done with my Ph.D., we decided that we liked it here and wanted to stay in Lansing.”
She has been with Anderson Economic Group for two years, starting as a material analyst and advancing to consultant.
Benton said that on an average day, her work consists of meeting with her team to discuss the status of their work, sometimes providing an update on the progress with their client and answering any questions. They can then go into the analysis portion.
“So for example, we have a client now who is a developer that is looking to develop a project in the Chicago market. We are connecting a retail feasibility that looks at what type of retailers would work well in the location that they are looking at,” said Benton. “When the project is feasible, we give him information on what type of retailers would work best there whether it’s a grocery store, a pharmacy or clothing store.”
Benton has many favorite aspects of her job, but the two most prominent are her team members and the variety of work.
“I like the team I’m working with, they’re all amazing,” she said. “We don’t do any cookie cutter projects. We customize to the specific needs of the client and we have a variety of clients.”
Benton encourages students who are planning to major in urban planning at MSU to remain in the Lansing area and utilize the many opportunities that are related to that field and available within the community.
“There are people officially in graduate school that will encourage students to go towards the academia but I’d like to encourage people to follow their passion and pursue the career that they enjoy.”
Photos by Erika Hodges