Tara Kenyon is the CEO & Managing Director of The Tara Kenyon Group and Kentara Analytics, organizations that help business leaders turn data into intelligence.
A native of Houma, Louisiana, a small town located fifty miles south of New Orleans, Kenyon grew up in an environment where legacy and tradition were staples of everyday life.
“Just so people know, there are places south of New Orleans, and they’re not underwater,” Kenyon jokes, her southern charm evident as she discusses her upbringing.
“Deep in Cajun country, I was born and raised within a fifteen-mile radius of where all seven generations of my ancestors spent their lives. It’s a rich heritage, and I’m proud to have the DNA of Acadian people flowing through my veins.”
Enthusiastic and curious as a child, Kenyon placed great importance on her education, earning an MBA from LSU, and in mid-career, she went on to earn a doctorate in global business from the International School of Management in Paris, amassing an oeuvre of academic achievements that she says created more professional and international opportunities for her.
“Education was a ticket to many opportunities and many different parts of the world,” Kenyon notes.
Kenyon has spent most her career working in global banking and financial services, risk, and insurance, with a stint that included working for IBM in Washington, D.C, New York, Toronto, and Montreal.
During this time, Kenyon built a stellar reputation for being innovative and helping companies navigate periods of uncertainty.
In theory, Kenyon could have spent the rest of her career in comfort, aided by the typical incentives (health insurance, 401k benefits, etc.) afforded by Corporate America, but internally, as seen with her desire to push the limits of self-actualization, Kenyon eventually decided that she had more to offer to the marketplace, and in 2016, she founded the aforementioned The Tara Kenyon Group.
Her aim was to leverage her vast skillset and years of professional experience to help business leaders understand information that is so richly mined by those in data and IT.
In other words, Kenyon assists companies with exploring the niches of their data for information that would enable them to make subtle changes, and in turn maximize profits, sales, new customer acquisition, and customer loyalty.
So far, her strategy has worked.
“I come in with an outside perspective to get my clients to think more critically and analytically about certain aspects of their business, and I do that through data insights, visualization, and analytics; “DIVA,” for short,” Kenyon explains.
“Quite often, businesses believe they have an optimal system for generating profits, but the numbers suggest something different. By putting a spotlight on the differences, I am able to inject value into companies.”
When Kenyon is invited to offices around the world (she does a lot of business in East Africa as well), she doesn’t come in with an ego or attempt to undermine the current brass’ methodology.
Instead, she voraciously reviews transactional data and spends copious amounts of time speaking with decision-makers and key staff members. Her goal throughout this process is to ask specific and purposeful questions that will allow her to extract key information about the company’s intent and how that matches with that of their customers.
“My primary objective is to ask relevant questions because business professionals and data analysts, despite sharing a common language, often experience communication breakdowns. Business stakeholders expect data experts to provide insightful and actionable results, but data departments cannot anticipate their needs without explicit instructions. Therefore, posing specific problem statements is necessary to facilitate the most effective problem-solving approach,” Kenyon observes.
Another reason Kenyon founded The Tara Kenyon Group is that historically, it was thought that only massive corporations could acquire essential data insights after large investments in data and systems.
That meant that small and mid-size businesses (under 200 employees) weren’t privy to information that could lead them to produce more revenue, creating a surplus of underserved clients that Kenyon believed she could help.
“Small and mid-size companies are intimidated by the notion that they have to make the same type of investments into software systems that the major corporations do. That’s a big reason why I entered the market, was to be a data translator for smaller organizations, and to teach those on the business side to know what to ask for from their data and to effectively manage and capitalize on the information.”
To date, Kenyon has already assisted a plethora of businesses with maximizing the profit potential on their data, but she says that one impediment to her being able to help more companies is that some businesses don’t view data collection and analysis through the same lens as others do.
“Too many businesses see data and analytics as a nice-to-have versus a must-have,” Kenyon states.
“Consequently, those companies ‘outsource’ all-things-data to the data/IT side of the company, and essentially abdicate their roles as interpreters of information. As a result, those companies are missing out on key information that could exponentially affect their profitability, market earnings, and sales growth.”
In an economy that thrives off technological innovation, it’s surprising that some businesses are operating without proper data insights.
Kenyon says the reason for this is that while most business owners acknowledge the potential effect data can have on their bottom line, those same decision-makers sometimes disregard metrics in favor of feelings that percolate inside their stomachs.
For her part, Kenyon doesn’t discount the validity of “following your gut” (or heart, or mind, for that matter), but that philosophy also must be complemented by a thorough analysis of data.
“Gut only takes you so far,” Kenyon says.
“You have to have some insight into what customers are buying and how they’re buying, and through that transactional data, you can analyze consumer behavior and make appropriate decisions based on that information.”
At present, Kenyon is actively consulting for three to four different companies each year, as well as offering on-demand guidance in the form of “DIVA” online courses to aspiring business leaders in over 50 countries. She also has a book in the works that should be available by the end of 2023.
Most of her consulting work comes from referrals, and while she is grateful for every opportunity that comes her way, ultimately she derives satisfaction from helping business owners uncover missing elements that are preventing them from assembling a well-oiled machine.
“Simply put, I am the bridge that connects those two languages of data and business,” Kenyon reiterates.
“I’m constantly trying to persuade business owners to create a type of data science heaven for their companies. That’s the place where the business side is able to ask the data side to help solve problems. In that sense, I’m kind of like a therapist. I want my clients to get to the point where they don’t need me anymore because I’ve taught them how to extract value out of their data and customer analytics.” QS
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