Remote and in Control: Adaptability has served Panasonic’s Kimberly Buchanan well.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2006, Kimberly Buchanan faced a common problem shared by many young graduates. Though she excelled in her studies for her challenging double major of international business and marketing, the marketing jobs she found herself applying for were all sales-focused, not creative as her school projects had been.
Giving up and abandoning career plans is common for new graduates, but not for Buchanan. She was undaunted. She enrolled in a demanding, highly selective yearlong sales training program with Cisco Systems, spending six months in a classroom and six months shadowing field sales representatives. However, when the company decided to merge its Linksys and Cisco small business units, her future was suddenly uncertain.
“I had been given 60 days to find a new job, and I was getting married on day 45,” said Buchanan, who worked quickly to secure her next opportunity. “I started at Panasonic the day I got home from my honeymoon. I flew in from Hawaii and flew out to New Jersey that night.”
In 2008, Buchanan, who recently turned 33, began her tenure in a role that expanded much quicker than she anticipated.
“When I came over here, I didn’t realize that Panasonic sold B2B products,” she recalled. “We’ve made a big transition as a company in that most of our products and sales were coming from the consumer group, and now, we’ve switched and more than 50% of our sales are coming from B2B products.”
With a drive to succeed, Buchanan was able to adapt quickly to the company’s shift in focus. Having committed to excelling in in both outside and inside sales, she worked her way up to partner sales manager, overseeing unified communication product sales for the Western Region, a territory that ranged from Montana to Alaska to Hawaii, a much larger territory than she’d ever covered at Cisco.
The increased responsibility came with increased travel, sometimes as much as 75%. Buchanan viewed this heavy schedule as a perk, relishing the chance to see some of the most stunning landscapes and cities in the country. But after more than five years racking up frequent flyer miles, her life was changing and so were her career goals. After she had become a mother and established her family’s roots back in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she wanted a job that would allow her to work from a single location, and perhaps even realize her dream of using her marketing degree.
When an opportunity came up within Panasonic’s marketing department, Buchanan thought it could be her next career opportunity. However, all of Panasonic’s marketing staff at the time were based in the company’s Newark, New Jersey, headquarters””nowhere near Oklahoma. Initially, she didn’t think there was a way to make that move make sense, but, “after dreaming about it for a year,” Buchanan became Panasonic’s marketing department’s first remote worker in April 2014.
She now divides her time between the unified communications products, drawing on her sales experience in the same division, and the Document Management Imaging Group as senior marketing specialist, Office Products, Panasonic.
“It was a great fit because it’s half what I had come from already, and then scanners were new to me,” said Buchanan.
Today, her primary responsibility is to be a hub of communications and planning, wrangling myriad stakeholders and creatives involved in ushering a marketing campaign out the door.
A product launch typically begins with a conversation between Buchanan and the product manager, Joe Odore, who shares information from the factory in Japan. They’ll work together to build a list of deliverables. A new product may require a brochure, a spec sheet, video, paid search terms, and updates to both the public and partner-facing websites.
“Typically, our factory provides some baseline information that we’ll modify for our market,” explained Buchanan. “We have our own brand guidelines here, and we like to change the language so it’s conversational for the U.S., rather than in European or Japanese English.”
After a few cycles of revisions and editing, Buchanan will share the deliverables with the product’s sales team. By 9 a.m. on a launch day, a press release has hit the wire, the website has been updated, and that afternoon, Panasonic’s resellers will receive an email introducing them to the product. At the same time, Buchanan reaches out to industry contacts like The Cannata Report to share the news.
“When that day comes, it’s a relief,” said Buchanan with a little laughter. “If everything’s gone right, then we’ve finished all of the materials weeks in advance, so that day is just smooth sailing. Some days, it’s a little more last minute.”
Though working remotely gives Buchanan the flexibility she needs at this point in her career, it can create challenges when deadlines are tight.
“There’s the ease of just walking over to your colleague’s desk, putting down something in front of them and saying, hey, I need this by the end of the day today, versus sending an email,” stated Buchanan. “We’re all over-emailed, even me.”
Though Buchanan is a “one-woman show” in her department, she still travels once or twice a month, often as part of a leadership development program run by Panasonic. That recently gave her the opportunity to check one longtime travel goal off her list””Japan. She and her fellow emerging leaders toured a factory in Saga, Japan, which runs five alternating production lines, making everything from scanners to cell phones. It was an eye-opening experience for Buchanan who had to go through the full clean-room procedure before the tour, donning a hairnet and slippers and getting blasted with air to remove dust and other potential contaminants before setting foot on the factory floor.
“We’ve always touted our quality at Panasonic, but I’ve never really understood what went into that,” she said.
Though the goal of the trip was simply to deepen Buchanan’s understanding of Panasonic’s company culture, she immediately found ways to apply the experience to her work.
“Just learning about our history as a company made me realize I needed to get some perspective from our customers,” she said. “Often, we get really distanced from them and we’re just creating things in the background, and that may not be what they need to sell the product effectively. Since then, I’ve had some conversations and went out and visited some resellers to make sure that what I’m doing in marketing is enabling them to sell more.”
The two-pronged approach of adaptability to employees’ needs and investment in employee growth pays endless dividends for Panasonic, and as more companies adopt this model, the future will only get brighter, particularly for young and eager employees such as Kim Buchanan.
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