A Conversation between Liz Reitman and Jeffrey Bowman, Co-Founder and CEO Reframe
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For our latest Founders in Focus series, Liz connected with Jeffrey Bowman, co-founder and CEO of Reframe. Reframe, the first tech enabled change management platform helping to build inclusive experiences at scale, is Bowman’s solution to a decades old problem that nearly every organization faces. Liz had the opportunity to talk with Jeffrey about his professional journey, his passion to modernize inclusive experience design from the inside-out and outside-in, and his path to entrepreneurship. Take a listen and check out some of Bowman’s thoughts on DEI, cross-cultural and multicultural marketing below!
Liz Reitman: Hello, everyone. I’m Liz Reitman here with Jeffrey Bowman today, our latest co-founder in our Founders in Focus series. I’m very excited to introduce his company, Reframe, and what they’re doing to tackle an industry old problem in terms of DEI and multicultural marketing. We’re excited to have him here today.
Jeffrey Bowman: Awesome. Thank you for having me. Really excited to dive in and answer any questions that you or your audience may have about Reframe.
Natasha: Amazing. Thank you, Jeffrey, for being here.
Jeffrey: I spent about 15 plus years on the client side. I started my professional career in the Southeast at Pepsi – literally on the back of a Pepsi truck. It really gave me a good context and background in terms of: what are the issues that people face on a day to day basis? How do you convince them to buy stuff that they don’t want? And then, how do you introduce new products and services? So by the time I’d spent time doing that, someone said, “Hey, you should go back to business school”.
I was first generation in terms of college – I had to go secure the bag a little bit and then come back and figure out how to change the world. And for me and my generation, you had the dawn of a new age; obviously, with the Internet, but also for people of color and women that were entering the workforce. A lot of the tactics [corporations] used to acquire us were pretty reflective of what was happening post-Civil Rights. And so you begin to kind of take a look at the old and say, “Is there a new?”
Because no one had really written the playbook of the new thing, right? But the way that companies were targeting, attracting, onboarding and engaging people of color, it’s like: “Hey, here’s our general pop customer, here’s our general pop employees, and then here’s the ‘other group’”. So that was pretty consistent. For me, I was right at the intersection; like, I’m going to follow this marketing track, but I think there’s a bigger problem. And so as I began to get more in the new, the old kept drawing me, pulling me back in terms of like, how do you solve this other issue?
So I ended up with Ogilvy Consulting. The smart people were coming in the room with the creatives and helping them develop more effective creative — not just creating creative for the sake of creative, but merging the two around this idea of planning, strategy, and then deploying those assets, measuring how effective they are, and then optimizing them so that you get a better outcome from a business standpoint, not just from a creative standpoint.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I think a couple of things. I was really at that pivot moment where [I was thinking], who’s going to hire me to be a CMO? So I was a non-traditional hire [that] came into Ogilvy, but because they had Ogilvy Consulting, that meant that I had an entry point. So when I got there, my mentors that were assigned to me were the CEOs. And as a result of that sponsorship, I was afforded the opportunity to say, “Hey, agencies, here’s what you need to improve on. Here’s the things that you need to fix”. Why did that work? I’ve been the client, and so as a result of that, they said, “Hey, we think we’ve got another problem we’d like for you to tackle Mr. Smarty Pants”. And that was the question from my book, Reframe The Marketplace: if David Ogilvy were here, what would the agency look like?
So how do you solve for the inequities associated with something that was created pre-1970? But unfortunately, and fortunately, you know, America had to mature. No one had really begun to solve for it using a change operating system. And that began my journey in terms of building a change operating system for inclusive customer experience design, which modernizes multicultural marketing and inclusive employee experience design, which modernizes the practice of DEI. And no one had ever done that up until then.
In 2040 minorities will become the majority. And so when you think about my journey now, you’re trying to now impact systems and structures for the next 100 years. But my original thesis is that you can’t use the old approach because we’re moving from segregated to integrated to now [an] inclusive [approach].
We’re the first to innovate around a problem that everyone has, right? And so where we’re headed requires a new approach to change organizations so that they become more inclusive at scale. And that’s what we’ve done: develop a change operating system for the workplace that reflects this new majority population. That’s my mission for Reframe.
Jeffrey: Change Management is a practice. The first thing that people have when you go in to change an organization is you have to assess them. So we developed the first cultural maturity assessment tool: The Reframe Cultural Maturity AssessmentTM
So when you think about Reframe, we’re service first software, second company; meaning Cultural Maturity AssessmentTM, and then we have a six step change approach from an enterprise perspective. But that’s inclusive experience design.
Now, once we’re able to figure out the ambition of the organization, then we have to go back and redesign the entire experience of the customer, redesign the entire experience of the employee, because every system, every structure that exists today was not designed with people of color at the center. None. You then enable it through a piece of technology that allows you to provide continuous assessment, continuous improvement through content so that you then become a vessel, meaning the technology platform for accountability, continuous measurement, and positive outcomes as it relates to building inclusive experiences at scale.
Reframe goes beyond race and identity. That simply means we’re going from three data points, race, gender, ethnicity, to 1500 data points right through a platform, through a medium. Based on a system of change that builds inclusive experiences that are scalable and sustainable.
DEI is not scalable nor sustainable time has proven. Multicultural marketing is not scalable. What’s different is this: I’m advocating to move away from a blueprint that was written in the 1960s – I’m advocating for modernizing it. Right now, we do a better job of including people that you’ve excluded by putting them at the center.
Jeffrey: When I first started Reframe, it was all centered around services, but also in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to scale the business and the thing that I had to keep fighting for myself was scaling it through creative services. We’re like Noah building this big old ship. Because, with no flood, we knew 2% of Fortune 1000 companies were digital end-to-end. When we started going into these companies and designing these new experiences, they couldn’t implement them. Then when COVID happened, the whole world changed, right? Everyone had to become digital, and we were like, “The great flood is here”.
And so you ask me what I’m really excited about. First, we’re bootstrap, right? No outside investors – but we’re open, so [we’re] excited about that. We’ve been able to make [Reframe] from this idea to full-on 44 engagements later based on customers. I’m really excited [to] figure out how to sell the Cultural Maturity AssessmentTM that [helps clients] know where they are at before we can upsell you on the other services. And so now we’re comfortable asking for growth capital because I think what we’ve built as a system, both on the service and software side, truly solves this decades old problem. And so what I’m most excited about on the go forward basis is building out a team, a growth team, to go sell what we built now. And so that’s where we’re at.
Liz: I know that it’s so hard when you’re in your business to be able to look out and realize, wait a minute [there is more out there]. Obviously as an entrepreneur, you’re always pivoting and learning, but [when] you’ve been doing this for so long [you can get stuck]. So I like the fact that you haD this “aha moment” and how you pivoted.
I kind of equate it in some ways to what happened to me with Reit where people started to rebrand us – they hated that we had design in our name and said, You should just be Reit; you do so much more [than just design]. And they simplified our brand, unbeknownst to me! So I always find it so interesting when you’re in something for so long and you’re able to have these discoveries about simplification and looking at something differently.
Jeffrey: Absolutely. Listen to your customers, you know?
Liz: Yeah, exactly.
Jeffrey: Yeah, That’s a takeaway.
Jeffrey: Thank you so much.
For HR and Marketing professionals, Reframe is the first tech enabled change management platform that helps build inclusive employee and customer experiences at scale. Reframe’s founders pioneered an award-winning Future of Work thesis and a proprietary change operating system that helps People Leaders build the most culturally inclusive employee and customer experiences at scale. Learn more: https://getreframe.com/
Jeffrey L. Bowman is the co-founder and CEO of Reframe. He pioneered a change management and inclusive experience design approach with software in response to C-suite executives using dated practices for building inclusive experiences that reflect the New America. Bowman is also a two-time award-winning Wiley published author. He is a former senior partner and managing director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City, one of the world’s largest advertising and communications agencies. It was there that Bowman pioneered the industry’s first cross-cultural practice that modernized the marketing and communications industry
His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, NBC (Today Show), and he speaks frequently at industry and trade events across the United States, Europe, and South America.