When you ask someone at Launch about Kim Milbauer, they always start their response with an awestruck chuckle. She’s a force of change for industry giants, a champion of clients, and one of the strongest relationship builders in the business...so much so that Launch had to create a whole new title for her.
Kim’s promotion to Chief Customer Officer (CCO) reflects the strides she’s made to help grow our business, build strong teams, and keep clients at the center of it all. We sat down with Kim for a candid interview to find out, in her own words, what makes someone so good at understanding the human impact of high-tech work—and the bold moves she’s made along the way. For more about Kim’s journey, check out the press release.
LAUNCH: First things first—tell us all about your background at Launch.
KIM MILBAUER: For the last several years, my role has been a business unit leader and managing partner at Launch, essentially managing a collection of people and projects and activating customer sentiment, employee sentiment, and growth.
I came to Launch almost 13 years ago. At the time, I worked in the staffing industry, and I thought I wanted to get out of the staffing business and do something completely different. I had even started my own business. But then I met Rick Nelson, and I knew I wanted to work with him. [Editor’s note: It’s an occupational hazard of meeting Rick.]
Initially, I was hired as a salesperson, and for the first four or five years, we were all really focused on growing the business. The company was significantly smaller at the time. Everybody wore a lot of hats to move the company forward. So I went from selling, to running sales, to helping manage the whole staffing business. I came in, put my head down, and really put my all into the recruiting side with Chad Tremain, who now runs Averro. (We actually started at Launch the same day!)
I always wanted to challenge myself more and more, so then I started selling consulting as a way to get a foot in both parts of our company: staffing and consulting.
L: Which was your favorite aspect, staffing or consulting?
KM: I liked both sides of the business. It was great to be able to go to a customer and be able to sell more services that would help them grow other than just staffing. I could go in and deliver in a variety of ways. And I had always wanted that in my prior career.
As the years went on, I sort of naturally moved over to our consulting team because we needed growth on that side of the business, and our staffing business had become really solid. Also, my main driver, what motivates me, is being in front of customers—it's my passion. It’s the highest value that I can bring in. And so, the more I can be in front of customers, the happier I am.
L: Clearly your love of working with clients has made a massive impact. As you move into your new role as Chief Customer Officer, what’s your main goal?
KM: I’m excited to expand our footprint with some of our strategic accounts. I genuinely just love helping our clients in their journey, their careers, and in the transformation of their companies—being part of helping them succeed. And, for me, there's always a personal connection. I still keep in touch with clients who may have moved on to different ventures.
My goal in this new role is to ensure that our customers get the most value out of working with Launch, and that we maintain positive client sentiment. Always being willing to contribute in other areas, beyond our initial scope, to find where we can help them with the business challenges they face.
L: You’ve been building relationships with customers at Launch for a long time. What about Launch makes you stick around?
KM: It’s the same reason I joined: the people. We hire phenomenal people and create leadership opportunities for many of them, including me. Our culture is one that can be tough (as far as being in a consulting role), but it's transparent. We work hard, collectively, and these are some badass people that I, ultimately, just want to be around.
L: How would you describe your leadership style?
KM: It’s pretty simple for me, really. I treat other people how I want to be treated. I want to take care of people, which involves being transparent and following through. It’s about caring for them as people, what's going on in their lives, and helping them progress in their careers.
L: Launch has a lot of folks who live boldly. How would you say you live boldly?
KM: [Laughing] Does raising two teenage daughters count?
In all seriousness, I would say that to me, being bold is being transparent. I have both a superpower and a weakness of being highly in touch with both my own and other people’s emotions—so I can see through bullshit really quickly. My team knows I’m always transparent (I can’t fake anything) and I expect that from them, too.
L: Now for something fun: What would you say is your hometown’s claim to fame?
KM: I'm from Nevada City, CA. It’s a cute little town in the Sierra Foothills...and it was a big part of the Gold Rush in California. When we were kids, friends of ours had mines in their backyard that we weren't allowed to go near because they were uncharted territory—and likely very dangerous. We even had school field trips where we would practice gold panning!
L: Last question: if you could go back and give your best piece of professional advice to yourself at age 25, what would it be?
KM: I would say: Be brave. And don't let obstacles or people try to stop you from what you want to do and who you want to be in this life.