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ML Achiever: Michelle Haarde, Sr. Vice President of Account Strategy

Michelle Haarde is the consummate communicator and collaborator. As a mother of three kids and two dogs, and manager of three team members and multiple clients in her role as Senior Vice President of Account Strategy, she has to be. 

Her team leader, Mary White ML’s COO, agrees that these are two of Michelle’s greatest strengths, but adds that LISTENING is another. Says Mary “Michelle is calm, cool and collected.  No matter what is thrown at her, she takes it in and then figures out a way to make it happen.  She is a GREAT listener and I believe that is such an asset to the work she does leading our clients’ campaign strategies.”

Since Michelle took over the Client Services department, she has significantly increased ML’s overall revenue from existing clients. When asked about Michelle’s contributions to ML’s success, Lara Triozzi, CEO and Founder had this to say: “We track our monthly churn rate. This is the KPI that Michelle is held accountable to as a member of our senior leadership team. The current revenue retention rate for the past 4 quarters is 8 times better than our previous 4-year average. And this is not just attributed to keeping account losses at a minimum, it is also tied to additional revenue coming in from expansions and new projects on existing accounts. In fact, Michelle has broken records over the past year on upselling. That is a significant achievement and a testament to how good Michelle is at developing trust among our clients and identifying other ways that we can help them achieve their sales goals.”

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in the Boston area and still have family nearby. I’m a twin and also have twins (a boy and a girl who are juniors in high school) as well as a younger son who is a freshman in high school. Plus, we have 2 dogs… a six-year-old Lab and a Shar Pei puppy. My husband has been working from home since COVID-19 hit and of course the kids were here, too, so it was a VERY full house for a while. Thankfully the kids are back at school but staying involved with everything they do and walking and hiking with the dogs and running our household while working full time keeps me very busy. I love it.

Sounds like the flexible work environment was a big reason why you chose ML. 

I have a busy household and I don’t want to miss any of the time we get with our kids as they grow up. Time with my family is a must-have. ML gives me the flexibility to put that first, while also ensuring my team and our clients are well supported. While my ML role is very full and quite busy at times requiring my complete attention, it makes a big difference familywise simply being here and working from home. So yes, that was a big plus for me. 

I discovered ML when I started looking for a flexible part-time position. I was immediately attracted because ML’s values really resonated with me, especially their “work hard / play hard” philosophy. But, as I started researching the company and going through the hiring process, it was the people that sold me on ML. That and the ability to grow. ML puts a lot of emphasis on finding the right team members to fit the team and then helping us grow.

Career mentoring is a priority at ML. Your role has changed quite a bit from when you first started.

It has! I started 9 years ago, part-time as a Sales Development Specialist at first to “dip my toe in the return-to-work water” so to speak when my youngest started kindergarten. Then I moved into a dual sales / client support position, which was perfect for me as I had held past positions with former employers in both capacities, so this was a best of both worlds for me. Then as ML grew and expanded the team, and as my kids grew and needed a bit less of my time, I transitioned into a full-time client services manager, then Director of Client Services, next Vice President of Client Services, and now Senior Vice President of Account Strategy.

“We had reached a point in our growth where we needed to bring on another full-time Manager in Client Services. We were about to post the position and look for someone outside the firm, but there was something about Michelle that made me think she would be exceptional in that role. She had been working part-time as a Sales Development Specialist and I didn’t know if she would be open to considering a full-time position. So, I just called her up and asked her. I remember the conversation vividly, it was completely unplanned. I think I was walking my dog at the time! She was game and the rest is history.”

Lara Stewart Triozzi CEO and Founder

What is your favorite thing about working with clients?

My favorite thing is probably the collaboration and getting to apply my knowledge to help them grow, while at the same time learning from them. I love spending time with people. We are an extension of our clients’ sales teams and because we support such a variety of clients, I can apply learnings from each across all of our accounts… share best practices to improve the experience for all of our clients, and ML too of course.  I love sharing what we learned on one account and what we have learned from the broader world to everyone’s benefit.  

My transition from sales to client service was just natural and I think my perspective having worked on the sales side brings a lot of benefit to the client service side. Before ML, I held account retention and pure sales roles but also sales support roles. I’ve always had direct communication with clients … over the phone and in person back then. There was no video conferencing at that time. I just feel it was natural to go from one to the other. I have sat in our clients’ shoes and understand the pressures and challenges to make quotas and drive revenue. 

“Having worked previously in a direct sales capacity, Michelle understands the intricacies of the sales process and understands the strategy for each client.  Her attention to detail even when overseeing 25+ accounts is outstanding!”

Mary White Chief Operating Officer

I also find it exciting to analyze each account’s data and seeing what it is telling me. Our data experts pull the data for me. The reporting and dashboards we set up for each individual client makes that really easy. I love understanding where we might need to focus to improve efforts but also understanding where we are being successful and then applying those efforts if applicable to other accounts to help them be more successful. All the data our team prepares gets shared directly with each client, too, so that creates another collaboration point as we analyze the data and results together. 

All of this data and analysis is what makes us super nimble so that we can move fast when we need to. We do this at ML too; how fast we were able to respond to COVID-19 was in large part due to understanding what our data was telling us, but I also have to credit our leadership and again, our corporate values. Everyone (both clients and team members) needed re-direction and advice and we were able to quickly provide both. 

It’s interesting. Many of our clients have similar values to ML’s and mine as well. That makes for a really ideal environment when we all share similar values.

How do you manage a remote based team? Any best practices you would recommend?

I currently manage a team of three, all of whom are new to ML this year. Our tools make it easy to collaborate remotely. I’m on video all day long with clients and my team. We use MS Teams for chat and I understand we will be getting even more functionality from Teams later this month. I also use SharePoint and Zoom video conferencing lots. I meet with each team member individually weekly and then we all meet as a group once a month.  We also have “questions of the week” to get to know each other better and keep us connected. Some of the questions are personal, but we also have business focused ones too. Here are some examples. Is there a particular industry or persona that resonates most for you? What makes for a great day at work? What is your one “must have” freedom? Biggest sense of accomplishments?

I meet regularly with my boss, Mary White, too. She gives me advice and helps me with my career development. And all of the directors meet together with Mary as well to collaborate and share.

So, from a best practice standpoint, I would say it would be to meet regularly, share your knowledge and take the learnings from others into your personal knowledge.

“Michelle is the ultimate leader and such a dynamic piece to ML. As head of the Client Services team, she directs with clarity and is an extraordinary collaborator. We are all so fortunate to have Michelle as a pillar of our organization.”

Stephen Kirkpatrick Senior Sales Content Manager

What advice would you give CLIENTS in regard to working with their client service contacts, at ML but anywhere?

Our most successful projects are those where our clients make sure they have high engagement with our team. Similar to how we talked about our internal collaboration and communication. Take advantage of the opportunities to share changes in your organization that could affect the project and service your vendor is providing. Make sure you are taking complete advantage of the investment you have made.

What is the first thing you are going to do now that the world is starting to open up again?

TRAVEL!! Our family is already planning a beach vacation and then a ski vacation. I can’t wait!

“Naming Michelle an ML Achiever is so well-deserved. She is a total ROCK STAR! Michelle is extremely on top of everything. She is very organized and her attention to detail is amazing. She performs well under pressure, can pivot quickly and always finds a solution for our clients – she really is the master of strategy and creativity. She also has a great sense of humor and keeps things fun. I always have the best time with her! She’s a blast!”

Terri-Lynne Anderson Director of Business Development
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