This month, we sat down for a Q&A with Merkle RMG’s newest senior leaders: Lori Barone, VP of Human Resources; Alex Holtzman, VP of Client Services; and Jim Papa, VP of Operations.
Below, Lori, Alex and Jim brief us on their backgrounds and current roles. We also explore how personal interaction and relationships are critical to each of their jobs — and how that people-centered approach serves as the common thread throughout Merkle RMG.
First, tell us a bit about your role at Merkle RMG.
Alex: As VP of Client Services, I lead two teams: Implementation and Account Management. As soon as Sales signs a new client, there’s a handoff to our Implementation group for an onboarding process that typically takes 6 to 12 weeks. After the account goes live, it goes to Account Management, where we oversee all aspects of the client relationship moving forward.
Lori: I’m VP of Human Resources, and my role is a mix of recruiting, onboarding, benefits management and employee engagement. Overall, I’m focused on developing an internal HR department that’s business-driven, promotes a strong organizational culture, and recruits high-quality staff who will allow Merkle RMG to continue delivering the best possible client experience.
Jim: I lead the Operations team, which handles every stage of donation processing — including opening donor mail, depositing funds, capturing data, fulfilling acknowledgments and premiums, and serving donors through our contact center. My focus is analyzing our processes and improving them to create better value for our clients and higher job satisfaction for our employees.
How has your background prepared you for success in this role?
Alex: Most recently, I led a global engagement team at a nonprofit. While the industry was different, the job was similar and extremely mission-focused, just like my role here. I’m an extrovert, and I love work environments where no two days are the same — so working at Merkle RMG is very rewarding.
Lori: I grew up in HR, working for a number of years in different industries. It’s taught me the importance of building a strong staff that leads to strong client relationships, which in turn drives growth for the company. That’s why I’m focused on enhancing our people strategy to be a real business driver for Merkle RMG.
Jim: My initial background was in finance, which gives me a unique perspective that many operations people don’t have. I’m able to dissect processes and look at the cost behind them and find ways to make them more cost-effective for our clients. And because I’ve always loved working with people, I want them using the best possible processes so they feel productive and motivated in their work.
Merkle RMG’s culture values strong relationships. How do you stay true to those values in your day-to-day work?
Alex: We want our clients to see us as a partner, because that’s how we see them. By making a point to understand their goals, share best practices and develop solutions, we show them we’re more than just their vendor — we’re a strategic partner they can trust. Our account team is also highly responsive and continuously available to them, which further strengthens the relationship.
Lori: Our people are our greatest asset. And from the start, we want them to know that their work is meaningful. Whether it’s during recruiting, hiring or onboarding, I emphasize the great work we do for our clients, and the variety of causes and organizations we support every day. This makes employees more invested in their work, which is tied to higher performance and retention.
Jim: I believe that if employees feel valued, it will translate to higher quality service to our clients. My team strives to make sure employees understand the importance of what they do every day and the role they play in our client relationships. They’re the link between the donor and the client. Without them, the donor’s gift doesn’t make it to the nonprofit, and the nonprofit can’t fulfill its mission. Knowing that strengthens their connection to their own job and to the clients we serve.
Lori, how does your people strategy support Merkle RMG’s business strategy?
Lori: I always believe that employees want to be communicated with and understand the business impact they have. It’s important that each staff member understands how their individual role contributes to the success of the company and our clients. We aim to be transparent and honest with our clients, and we strive for that same level of transparency with our own people. That behavior becomes “muscle memory” for us at an organizational level, and it naturally comes through in our client-facing activities.
Alex, what are some important things you do to establish and maintain trust with clients?
Alex: The absolute key is transparent, frequent, informative communication — even to the point of overcommunicating. Even if it’s something the client doesn’t want to hear, they’d rather hear it from us proactively than find out on their own. We always do what we say — and demonstrate that through our actions. That’s what builds trust.
Jim, what do you find most effective in getting staff to adopt a new process or practice?
Jim: The key is to get them involved at the beginning, at all levels. Everyone’s ideas are important, and everyone needs to feel ownership of the process. You’ll get a much better result when the entire team is involved and invested. The people doing the work have far more insight than those overseeing it, and I support an open-door policy where anyone can share ideas and feedback. That’s often how we uncover the ideas that make the biggest impact on our organization.