IAM1821 – Consultant and Trainer Helps Organizations Overcome Struggles, Clutter and Tediousness in Operations

Podcast Interview with Alexandra Suchman

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

The episode on CEO Podcasts features Alexandra Suchman, the owner of AIS Collaborations. Alex is a consultant and trainer who aims to help creative, mission-driven nonprofits and small businesses overcome the struggles, clutter, and tediousness of day-to-day operations. Alex understands that each workplace is unique, and her job is to ask the right questions and suggest solutions that address the specific challenges in each ecosystem.

During the episode, Alex shares her CEO hack, which is based on the E-Myth concept of dividing roles into three categories: entrepreneur, technician, and manager. Her CEO nugget is a reflection of the popular Shakespearean quote: “To thine own self be true.” According to Alex, CEOs need to be true to themselves, their goals, and their passions.

For Alex, being a CEO means being a leader who gets things done in a creative way. She takes pride in helping organizations become successful by identifying the root of their problems and providing personalized solutions.

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Alexandra Suchman Teaser 00:00

I try to build the bridge between the more big-picture mission-focused, exciting aspects of running a business or whatever the work is and connecting it directly to the operations and logistics side of what has to be done.

Intro 00:15

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:42

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we've hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different, where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, just like you, what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focusing on CEO hacks and CEO nuggets. This is by far one of my favorite questions I asked on the show. In other words, I asked, what are the apps, books, and habits that make you more effective and efficient. Those were the CEO Hacks. Then I asked for a word of wisdom or a piece of advice or something that you might tell your younger business if you were to hop into a time machine and those were the CEO Nuggets. That's what we'll focus on this month and some of the top ones that can instantly impact your business.

I love all the questions, but with every episode, I thought I would walk away with something I could look at and implement right there to save the precious resources, time, and money. Or I would also learn about the advice, tips, and tidbits or tools of the trade on how to level up our organization. So you'll hear some of these this month. So sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Alexandra Suchman of AIS Collaborations. Alex, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Alexandra Suchman 02:19

It's great to be here. Thank you. I'm excited to talk with you.

Gresham Harkless 02:22

I'm excited to have you on as well. What I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Alex so you can learn about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Alex helps those who do good work be able to do work better. Her consulting and trading services help creative mission-driven nonprofits and small businesses to overcome the struggles, clutter, and tediousness of day-to-day operations. Alex understands that every workplace is unique in terms of its needs, history, people, and culture and her work is to ask all the right questions and suggest solutions that address the challenges within the specific ecosystem.

Her mission is to help clients become as successful as possible by identifying the root of their problems, Provide customized time-saving and sustainable solutions that guarantee all work is performed in a deliberate, efficient, and effective way.

Alex, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Alexandra Suchman 03:14

I am. Let's do this.

[restrict paid=”true”]

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Gresham Harkless 03:15

Awesome. Let's do it. So first question I had was just you can expound a little bit more upon your bio. Tell us about your CEO story and what led you to get started in your business.

Alexandra Suchman 03:24

Yeah, I have always been a problem solver from a very young age. I was the friend people came to for advice and would lead teams and school projects, things like that. So when it was time to start my career, I thought, I love asking questions. I love finger answers. So I'll go into research and public policy and try to tackle some of the big societal problems that we're facing down the world. I moved down to D. C. and spent about 15 years working in nonprofits and small businesses and academic centers dealing with mostly public health, but also the overlap between health and nutrition and hunger and education, housing, disability, employment, all the social safety net support programs.

I was working with really brilliant, passionate mission-driven people at really really great organizations. But I noticed that the amount that they were able to accomplish and their level of impact was really hindered because nobody was thinking about how the work was done. It was so focused on the big picture but not about our things organized. Are there systems in place? Does everybody know what they're doing? Are things efficient and effective? That got really frustrating.

As someone who likes to problem solve and likes to be efficient and effective, I started getting more involved in the operations and management side of things and went back and got a project management certification but realized that a lot of the world of process consulting and business operations is very geared towards large businesses and high-tech and manufacturing large-scale stuff. It really doesn't resonate with the smaller, more mission-focused, and creative workplaces. So I decided to make a change and try to fill this gap.

Gresham Harkless 05:12

I love that. I love the fact that a lot of times, sometimes when people start businesses, they think a lot about, I have this big mission and goal that I want to accomplish, but you forget like some of the processes and operations free you up to be able to go after and succeed and hit those missions. A lot of people forget all those things so I love how you're able to create that balance and help people no matter how big or how small to help reach those goals.

So what I wanted to do is drill a little bit deeper and hear a little bit more about like your product service and how exactly you serve the clients that you work with.

Alexandra Suchman 05:41

Yeah, I try to build the bridge between the more big-picture, mission-focused exciting aspects of running a business or whatever the work is and connecting it directly to the operations and logistics side of what has to be done. And so, a lot of the people that I work with are way more visually oriented. So I've come up with a couple of different metaphors to describe what I do. One of them is a picture of a mechanic lifting up the hood of a car and looking at what's inside and are all the gears aligned? Are there big pieces missing? Is there oil leaking out where it shouldn't be leaking out? So I'll come in and look under the hood of your team and your business and projects and see what are the pain points, what's happening and where could things be better?

Another service area, I think of it like a closet organizer, but for the business and making sure that things people need to access, resources that are being used over and over again are organized in a way that people can access what they need and they're not recreating the wheel and you don't have version control issues, things like that.

Then the third one is like a personal trainer or coach for management skills, I think. When people think about management, they just think about the supervising part, but managing is really making sure things get done and in all aspects of work. So focusing on the other aspects of, how do you set goals? How do you make sure that you're meeting quality standards? How do you motivate people? I'm all about the how to.

Gresham Harkless 07:05

Yeah, it's insanely important because again, like what I talked about, people are usually so mission-driven, but you forget that, okay, if my oil is leaking, for example, I don't know what the issue is. I need somebody to look at it. And, oh, I think it might be that hole that I'm looking at directly. But if you really pop open the hood, it might be something that's completely different.

To have somebody that has that expertise to be able to look and see Hey, this is like the thing that's happening, but why it's happening might be completely different. So to be able to look at all that and put those pieces together is huge.

Alexandra Suchman 07:35

Yeah, exactly.

Gresham Harkless 07:36

Yeah. So what I wanted to do was ask you for what I call your secret sauce or something that you feel like differentiates you and makes you unique in your business.

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Alexandra Suchman 07:44

Yeah, I think of myself as a translator between right brain and left brain ways of thinking. The people who tend to run these more mission-driven and creative organizations tend to be more right brain. They're inspired by emotion and passion and they think big picture and they like to think out of the box and that's really fantastic. But they don't always see the value in looking at data or in coming up with systems to organize things or in doing things in a particular order, because that makes the most sense and breaks down what they're trying to do into small components.

I'm very comfortable in both worlds. I grew up in a really arty-farty family and identify as a right-brained person, but I'm also very organized and very methodical and have a research background. So I think that I can come up with very visually, visual, tangible, engaging, fun ways of making these left-brain principles palatable, if not totally exciting, but at least palatable to right-brain people.

Gresham Harkless 08:44

Yeah, that's huge. And then like you said, to be able to translate and be able to understand exactly the right brain, but also execute the left brain and vice versa is definitely a unique skill. A lot of people wish that they could do one or the other, but it's great that you have that talent or that superpower to be able to do both. So I think that's pretty awesome.

Alexandra Suchman 08:59


Gresham Harkless 09:00

What I wanted to do with switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This is one of the things that might be in right in line with what you do, but it's those things that would help people to be more efficient and effective in their business.

So it might be a book, it might be an app, but the idea is it helps business owners be more efficient and effective.

Alexandra Suchman 09:16

Yeah, one of the first books I read when I decided to go out on my own was the E-Myth, which is very common, lots of people read it. There's one of the principles from the book that really stuck with me and I think about probably at least once a day. That's the idea of every business needs. There are three essential roles.

You need the entrepreneur, the visionary to have the ideas and to see opportunities, and to do the creative big thinking. You need the technician and that's the person to actually do the work to perform the services or to create the product. You need the manager to be the person in between to make sure that the vision is something that's actually doable and feasible and the actual way things are getting done align with that. I think a lot of people go into business just wanting to focus on the entrepreneur and the technician part, but if you're not willing to be all three, it's going to get really tough.

That's been really helpful for me in making sure that I'm covering all the bases in terms of the types of activities that you need to do to run a business. So sometimes I say, okay, today's my manager day or, these two days I'm on-site with a client. I'm in technician mode, but that means, Friday I need to work on some of the big brainstorming and put on my entrepreneurial hat. So I found that framework really, really helpful.

Gresham Harkless 10:37

Yeah, and I think that's a phenomenal book. I think that to understand that when you're going into your business, to understand each of those different roles and how you can fulfill those roles or even bring on people to fit in those roles helps out a lot. Because I think just like you talked about with the example, it also starts out with a parable that makes it under easy for people to understand exactly like what that means and what that looks like. So I think that's a phenomenal book and I swear by that book.

I know we talked a little bit offline about it too. So I think that's a phenomenal CEO hack. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This might be a word of wisdom or piece of advice that you might have for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Alexandra Suchman 11:15

Yeah, I think it was Hamlet who said to thy own self be true. I think that being an effective business owner, a leader of any type you really have to know yourself and be extremely honest with yourself. You have to constantly reflect on what works and what doesn't work and what your weaknesses are.

What we were just talking about before, if you know that you are more entrepreneurial-minded, you need to make sure that somehow, whether it's you or somebody else, you're getting that management and technician perspective to make sure you're doing all the things that you need to do and in the best way.

So being very willing to take a hard look in the mirror and figure out what works and what doesn't and not just doing exactly what somebody else did, whatever the latest book or fad is, but to trust your gut and know your gut because your flaws will get pointed out to you very quickly.

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Gresham Harkless 12:06

Yeah, unfortunately very, very true. Yeah, I definitely agree with that, knowing thy self and making sure that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and understand like how to put people in place. If you are a very artsy so to speak type of person, but understand like working with somebody like you might help to compliment some of those things that they're doing.

Alexandra Suchman 12:25

Yeah. One of the things I've actually done with several clients is I tend to work with organizations that are growing. They've hit some type of period of growth or transition and everything that was helping them succeed before is now not working and in figuring out what team members you need to bring on.

It's looking at, okay, what are all the functions that need to be done? What are the skill areas, the strengths, the talent pool, strengths, and weaknesses? And how do you bring in whatever you need more of?

Gresham Harkless 12:53

Yeah, that makes sense. Like you said, where you go might be different than where you started. So making sure that you have all those people in places is very, very important to take a look at, but also implement.

Now I wanted to ask you for what is my favorite question, which is like the definition of being a CEO. We're hoping to have different types of CEOs on the podcast, but I wanted to ask you specifically, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Alexandra Suchman 13:15

This is the question I was actually most nervous about because I don't think of myself as a CEO at all. I never thought I would be the type of person to start a business. I tend to think of business, especially the word CEO and a lot of the other business jargon as very hierarchical and cold and seeing people as just cogs and being focused just on profits.

So I don't really relate to all that. A big part of my business is trying to get it some of those principles, but in it from a very different angle. But I think with the idea of a CEO is somebody who is a leader and who gets things done. But for me, it's getting things done by thinking creatively, looking at every problem in every situation through a brand new unbiased lens, building relationships and inspiring those around you to do their best and be their best and really work to make a difference.

Gresham Harkless 14:10

I love it. I love it. That's why we save that question for the last because I knew you might be most nervous about that one. I think that was a phenomenal answer. And I love like the perspective that you gave, on being a CEO, what that means and just how that kind of fits into everything that you're doing.

So, I truly appreciate you Alex for taking some time out of your schedule. What I wanted to do was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and our listeners know and how best they can get ahold of you.

Alexandra Suchman 14:35

Nothing else I can think of, but yeah, I would love if people are interested in what I do, I have a blog on my website One of the things I try to do in my blog to make these ideas of operations and systems more tangible, is I take pop culture examples of workplaces and workplace scenarios and look at them through a different lens. So I have a couple of posts where I talk about the TPS report incident from office space and deconstruct why that's so uncomfortable and what was really happening behind the scenes.

I have another one where I talk about the famous, I love Lucy chocolate factory episode and illustrate the concept of quality control. So I really try to take a different spin on some business principles. So I'd love people to check out my website and check out my blog. I also have a Facebook group called the art of figuring it out. It's talking about how to tackle these very common problems and challenges of running a business and being a person in the world through knowing what works for you and through that self-awareness piece. So check it out.

Gresham Harkless 15:36

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. We'll have those links in the show notes so everybody can check those out and learn more about Alex and everything cool that you're doing. So Alex again, I appreciate the time that you took and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Alexandra Suchman 15:48

Thanks so much. You too.

Outro 15:49

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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