Luminas Strategy Case Story One Size Fits All

“Through this effort, Luminas was able to highlight key strategic opportunities that will build on successes and take the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator program to even greater heights.”   

— Abim Kolawole, VP, Chief Audit Executive

Recognized as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies, Northwestern Mutual is ranked 111 on the FORTUNE® 500 list. For more than 165 years, this industry leader has been helping people and businesses throughout the U.S. achieve financial security by delivering life, disability income, long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services.

Northwestern Mutual has had a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2020, the company brought even greater focus to this work, creating the Sustained Action for Racial Equity (SARE) task force. The SARE mandate is to drive specific outcomes that contribute to closing the racial wealth gap. An extension of that work is the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator® (NMBFA) which is one of many initiatives that demonstrates the company’s commitment to closing the racial wealth gap and empowering the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.

Each year, NMBFA selects two cohorts of five Black entrepreneurs to participate in its twelve-week accelerator program. This program provides these entrepreneurs with access to capital, mentorship and resources, including access to a broader network. The current program is highly sought after by entrepreneurs and has an acceptance rate of 2% of applicants.

Seeking to further elevate the impact of the program, the NMBFA leadership team sought to sharpen its existing strategy. This required a thorough understanding of gaps and un-tapped opportunities through the lens of its four main stakeholder groups: Founders, Venture Capital Funds, Executive Mentors and Executive Sponsors. To undertake this analysis, the team engaged Luminas.

Luminas, through its Stakeholder Value Xcelerator™ (SVX), helped Northwestern Mutual explore, quantify and validate opportunities to take the current program to the next level by sharpening its value proposition.

No Assumptions

Luminas developed several insights from the detailed engagement with the identified stakeholder groups. These key insights shaped the core of the qualitative exploration.

  • Growth drivers
  • Competitive landscape
  • Future focus
  • Leadership alignment

Trust the Process

SVX is an outside-in methodology, designed to help organizations hear directly from stakeholders and gain clarity on the ways they are meeting the needs and expectations of constituents. On behalf of Northwestern Mutual, Luminas interviewed several contacts from each of the four stakeholder groups, clarifying both gaps and opportunities to further elevate and accelerate the impact of the program.

Listen and Learn

The SVX process allows leaders the opportunity to deeply listen, actively putting their stakeholders’ priorities at the center of their mission and delivering greater impact.

Applying this process, Northwestern Mutual was able to identify a series of opportunities, including:

  • Explore Customization: As the start-ups arrive at slightly different places in their emergent journeys, it was deemed advantageous to look for ways to customize accelerator programming based on each startup’s development stage/area of focus.
  • Deepen Interactions: The executive sponsor/mentor interactions were perceived to deliver significant value, even beyond the program. Suggested ways to extend those interactions was identified as a benefit to both groups.
  • Broaden Access: Continued access to capital is essential to ongoing growth. Outlining mechanisms to deliver additional opportunities for connections between funds and founders will strongly support the goals of both of these groups.

In addition, during each SVX engagement, Luminas asks clients’ stakeholders to disclose how they would invest the organization’s budget, if the decision was theirs. These answers help identify where the greatest potential for growth resides. Not unexpected, results varied by stakeholder group but aligned around the overall power and impact of the NMBFA program and the desire to expand it.

Back to Client Impact >

“As a new CEO of the organization, what a gift I received to accelerate my onboarding and understanding of the key priorities for ELC members and other key stakeholders.  The clarity of strategic insights, based on a deep understanding of stakeholder input, provided a great input to the development of priorities for the organization.  The work with Luminas enabled our leadership team to provide clear and consistent messaging about our direction — both the what and the why!” 

Michael C. Hyter, President and CEO, The Executive Leadership Council

“Luminas has had a definite impact on the way our sales team thinks about how to sell value. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t gone through the process with them and gained such meaningful insights.”

Heather Singler, Global Commercial Director, Eastman

“The whole team was engaged in the work with Luminas, it was impressive. As a result, we discovered areas where we can grow, become more nimble and think strategically about our business. We are now better prepared to partner with our customers and manage through big changes.

Jeff Morris, Senior Vice President, Protective Fabrics, Milliken & Company

“Our customers were very appreciative that we took the time to ask the right questions about what is important to their business. Luminas helped us to create a more customer centric organization and to focus on what they value.”

Steve Yager, Vice President, Customer Experience, Cisco