Once an early employee and head of Anaplan’s Special Operations unit, which was deployed to solve key clients’ issues, John Wihtol has spent the last several years helping to build a culture of excellence as a Partner and Solution Architect at Twelve Consulting Group. We are lucky to have him. Besides possessing a talent for rapidly processing vast amounts of information, he is a skilled mentor to Twelvers and a trusted advisor to clients on the arduous path to data-driven decision making. As I can personally attest, it’s great people like John — the lanky, affable, basketball-loving L.A. transplant — along with a tight-knit culture of collaboration and growth, that allow Twelve to shine. A client has described him as “exceptional” — someone who “leads by example from the front, and also by positive reinforcement and encouragement.” It’s no surprise then, that Twelve consistently delivers top-notch results while building strong relationships with our clients (hugs and high-fives have sometimes replaced handshakes). I was recently fortunate to spend some time with John, and am excited to be able to share some of his story here.
Tell me a little bit about yourself “I love playing basketball. Growing up, I always wanted to be in the NBA. I feel like that’s an unoriginal answer. I graduated from Columbia University. Before Twelve, I was an Anaplan employee for about three and a half years — and before that, I was at Adaptive Insights. I joined Twelve two and a half years ago when [Twelve Partners] Jill and Fred reached out to me. I’d worked with both of them previously, so I knew it was a great opportunity, but at the time, I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go in my career. Needless to say, I am incredibly happy and grateful that I made the decision to join such an amazing team and culture and to see what it’s become.”
You were an early employee at Anaplan. What made you take the leap to a startup? “When I started at Anaplan, there were only 5 employees. It was more just a technology than it was a company at that point. I heard from a friend who was in tech consulting about this new technology that could handle billions of cells of data and recalculate in under a second… as a tech nerd I was pretty intrigued by that. I reached out to get an interview. During the interview, Anaplan Co-Founder and former CEO Guy Haddleton gave me a demo — first, it was pretty cool that he did the demo himself, and second, I was amazed at how easy to use and powerful the platform was. The technology was there, and I knew the executive team had prior experience growing a company, Adaytum, successfully. So I wanted to be a part of it and trusted that they could do it again — which they have.”
What did you do while working at Anaplan? “I was a Solution Architect. Basically I consulted with and helped clients implement Anaplan. I eventually took a role as head of Special Operations — a fun fancy title, and nobody knew what it meant. I worked with key accounts, ensured we jumped on any issues as soon as possible. We paratrooped in, took care of business, and got out.”
While you were at Anaplan, the company was growing like crazy. Obviously there was a lot of opportunity. What did you see in Twelve that pushed you to make the move? “When I left Anaplan, I was considering starting my own consulting firm. Jill and Fred actually heard about this and reached out to me — after our discussion, it made sense to join forces, combining our expertise across several domains. Definitely happy that I did. We each bring something very different to the table — Fred in Supply Chain, Jill in Finance, and myself in Sales Operations and Finance. Our different experiences came together really well.”
Say I’m a business leader. I’m looking for better planning tools and have spent my life working in Excel world. What is it about Anaplan that should interest me? Why should I take a second look?
“Medium and large sized companies can’t run efficiently with hundreds or thousands of Excel spreadsheets being passed around. It really comes down to Anaplan being a platform that can connect planning processes across an organization — Finance, Sales, Supply Chain, Marketing, HR. Anaplan was in 6 Gardner quadrants this year, and continues to move up and to the right. No other company can say that.”
So Anaplan can perform a broader range of functions than other tool you’re familiar with?
“Absolutely. There are tons of point solutions out there, but Anaplan can create a true connected enterprise.”
Anaplan has a ton of partners, and the list is growing. Deloitte, Accenture, McKinsey… how does Twelve stand out from the pack against the likes of established consulting firms? “All four Twelve partners were previously employees at Anaplan. Josh King and I actually started the same day — hard to believe it was almost 6 years ago. So one advantage we definitely have over other partners is our experience. We pass that down to our consultants, continue to help them grow and build that knowledge within Twelve. Over time, we’ve built domain-specific best practices for modeling and continue to refine those as we see more and more cases. Another advantage we have over the larger firms is that we are exclusively focused on Anaplan. We invest heavily into our resources there — internal training programs, Apps, we’re doing live events — certain things that I don’t think larger firms take the time to invest in."
It seems like our small size and highly collaborative nature are a great advantage too. “Yeah, absolutely. To see the people that we’ve brought on work so well together and embrace Twelve’s core values… I’ve never been part of a team that collaborates so proactively.
What is your favorite thing about being a Partner at, and helping to grow Twelve? “When I was at Anaplan, I really got to see it grow. I was younger at the time, but having seen that already and now being at Twelve, I have the experience to help a small company grow. I love being a part of the decisions to move the firm’s direction where we all think it should go. It really starts with our core values — Collaboration, Excellence, Personal Growth, and Well-being. [Focusing] on those and the vision that Jill originally set to empower leaders…our consultants, clients, and in the community, it’s been awesome to be a part of…”
So what’s on Twelve’s radar in terms of growth and expansion?
“There are a lot of exciting things going on at Twelve right now. We’re growing rapidly. We just opened an office in Chicago, and we’ve outgrown our space in Minneapolis so getting a new office there. We’re going to be expanding in L.A. soon. Potentially [confidential] in the near future.We’re in a state of rapid growth right now, which is really exciting. A little bit daunting, but really exciting. I think through a combination of processes we’re putting in place and investments we’re making, we’re in a position to continue growing successfully. We’ve hired leaders and are in a position to grow with the people we have, and I can’t wait to see where we can go next.”