Lessons in Leadership from the African Bush—Kim Troy, CEO, Civilis Consulting

Have you ever thought about volunteering at a local animal shelter in your community? Or how about doing so in the African Bush? Our guest today, Kim Troy, spent 10 years serving and learning life and leadership lessons while living in the African Bush. 

Kim Troy is the Founder and CEO of Civilis Consulting, a business advisory firm providing strategic sales, marketing, operations, and HR guidance to fast-growth businesses. She has also held executive-level positions in Human Resources, Operations, and Sales for some of the world’s largest corporations, including L Brands. 

  • LinkedIn (Kim individual): www.linkedin.com/in/kimtroy
  • LinkedIn Civilis: https://www.linkedin.com/company/civilisconsulting/
  • Facebook Civilis: @civilisconsulting, www.facebook.com/civilisconsulting
  • She also has a blog full of insightful articles, including posts to the various podcasts and webinars on which Kim is aguest speaker.
  • https://www.civilisconsulting.com/insights/
  • If you are ready to franchise your business or take it to the next level: CLICK HERE.


Kim Troy is the Founder and CEO of Civilis Consulting, a business advisory firm providing strategic sales, marketing, operations, and HR guidance to fast-growth businesses. Civilis’ seasoned consultants work alongside CEO’sentrepreneurs and leadership teams to strategize and implement organization-wide transformations; and have deep expertise advising companies with remote or geographically dispersed business units. 

Prior to Civilis, Kim founded Kimberly Troy Consulting, an organizational development consultancy. The firm’s notable engagements include consulting field-based NGOs – primarily in southern Africa – to improve the utilization of financial and human resources. She has held executive-level positions in Human Resources, Operations, and Sales for some of the world’s largest corporations, including L Brands. 

She has a BA in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Puget Sound and a Diversity &Inclusion certification from Cornell. She is a Prosci certified Change Management Practitioner, DDI Targeted Selection trainer, and certified Tilt coach.


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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:00):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week, we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. As we open today, I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought about maybe volunteering at a local animal shelter in your community or how about doing so in Africa? Well, our guests today, Kim Troy, spent 10 years serving and learning life and leadership lessons while living in the African bush.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:34):

Kim Troy is the founder and CEO of Civilis Consulting, a business advisory firm providing strategic sales, marketing, operations, and HR guidance to fast growing businesses. She’s also held executive level positions in HR, operations, and sales for some of the largest organizations and corporations in the world, including L Brands. Let’s go ahead and jump right into our interview.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (00:57):

My name is Kim Troy and I am the CEO of Civilis Consulting.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:04):

Great. Well, thank you again for joining us and you bring a really unique expertise into managing staff, company cultures, a wide variety of things that you bring here. One thing that stood out that I read is that you’re an expert at building differentiated and sticky company cultures. I always like the word differentiated and people are always saying, “How do you make it stick?” I’d love to start there. What does that mean? Would you mind sharing and talking a little bit about that?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (01:40):

Yeah, sure. The differentiated part really gets back to understanding what it is about your business that’s unique. Much like you would build a marketing plan, and a positioning statement, and things like that for attracting customers, nowadays more than ever, we need to do the same thing to attract people. Potential employees are shopping around, looking for their next great gig and we need to do a much better job these days of positioning our companies as an attractive place to work, but it’s not just smoke and mirrors. We have to really truly be that differentiated company. If our thing is the candy wall, or that we’re a hybrid work environment, or that we are all about volunteering or supporting our community, if those are kind of woven into the things that we are as a company, certainly we need to use that as a competitive advantage, but we also need to make sure that if we’re putting it out there, that’s actually who we are.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (02:59):

The differentiated part is, again, just kind of being able to identify what it is that makes our companies special and different as a workplace. The sticky part is being able to really live up to that promise, whatever it is that we’re saying it is that makes us special. We need to make sure that we can actually deliver on that once our employee gets here. I think that’s really probably how I would explain what I mean when I say a differentiated and then that sticky culture. Stickiness is about retaining them, differentiated, I guess, is about attracting them.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:37):

Yeah. Well, that’s a great summary. One of the questions I was curious about, this kind of dovetails into one of the questions I had for us, which was talking about… it’s a tight labor market. It seems very often we’re in a tight labor market, given the circumstance and so on that we’re in, but how can people woo top talent to come work for you or come join your team? What are some things you’re seeing out there?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (04:08):

Yeah. Of course there’s the obvious things. There’s sign on bonuses and there are suites of benefits that companies are starting to offer, corporate wellness programs or different kinds of benefits that maybe aren’t part of the traditional suite that we’re used to. Those are sort of the obvious things and that’s all great. We really do need to examine that and think about, okay, how are we viewing our employees as entire people, as opposed to just employees or staff, or a number that we need to we need to reach? We need to think about our employees as people, but we also need to think about what it is that they can get from us that they can’t get from anywhere else that they may choose to work at.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (05:09):

Those are the things that we need to really examine, and those often get down to what our company’s values are. Again, I see this with my clients a lot and this is why they come to me, because they have values, and they might even have gone through an exercise to articulate those values, and they’ve got them painted on the wall, and they’ve done some work to articulate this group of company values that we have. But what I often find is that when we really dig in and start to understand, okay, what do you mean by caring? That value, caring, could mean something very different to different people and we need to really do a much better job of articulating the behaviors that identify that value or the behaviors that embody that value. And that’s where I find that companies tend to fall short.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (06:20):

What happens is that your values just become very generic and not frankly, very meaningful, and they don’t become edit points for who you’re attracting. Again, whether that’s customers or employees, those values are really powerful points when they are really examined closely and when they’re articulated in the form of behaviors that we want to make sure our employees are emulating. That’s an exercise that we go through with our clients to really dig in and understand what does it mean, if caring is part of your company values set, how do we embody that?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (07:05):

How do we turn that into our culture in the way that we actually behave toward people? It’s not as simple. I always say if your marketing department or a marketing vendor came up with these values and these positioning statements and your brand, that’s great, but that’s not what we need to be doing when we’re thinking about this from a talent perspective. Certainly, our marketing department and our HR department should and could work together better when it comes to this, but we need to understand that our company values, our core values have to really be examined in terms of behaviors.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:51):

That a great point. That makes me wonder how do you… I’m thinking about the values get painted up on walls, or they get emailed around, or printed on a card, or whatever it might be. But how do you bring something like that to life? I see a lot of companies that say they have it, you can tell there’s care and consideration, they’re making an effort to try to do it, but maybe they’re falling short. How do you bring it to life so it’s real?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (08:25):

Yeah. Again, I mean, there are a variety of exercises that we go through with our clients, but generally speaking, it’s about doing some soul searching. We always start with the founder of the business. In most entrepreneur led businesses, the founder or the leader of that business started that business, runs that business, operates that business from his or her own perspective and own value set. Really understanding what motivates that individual, well certainly what motivates them to start their business, but even more just what is important to them in life, that by extension becomes what becomes important to the company. A lot of times, that’s just never examined.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (09:25):

The company grows, and the company evolves, and it continues to go on and be very successful without ever really having done some of that really internal work about what do I get out of this as a founder, as a business owner? What do I get out of having this business, having these customers, having these people, these employees that work for me and alongside me? What am I driving from that? Once we understand that psyche better, it then enables us to start understanding, okay, what is caring…

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (10:05):

Again, going back to this caring value, where does caring come from psychologically for that founder and how has that kind of infiltrated the way that he or she has grown the business? How does that manifest in what we see today in this business? When we do it that way, when we start sort of at the very core of why this business exists, what it is that gets that founder up every day, we find it’s not about the money, it’s not about how fast we’ve grown, or how many FTEs we have, or what our bottom line looks like. There’s other things in there that motivate an entrepreneur to do what they do every day.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (10:58):

That is always the thing that this… that is your culture. That is the thing that differentiates you, because there is no other founder just like you in your industry competing for those people, competing for those customers. When we really get to that level of understanding about how this entity exists and why it exists, then we can start to articulate, again, these behaviors in terms of now we know that caring, because it’s important to that founder and because it’s the way that the business has been built on this value of care, now we can understand care in our business means that we are show empathy, and that we listen more closely to each other, and to our customers, and that we act upon what it is that we hear from them.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (11:57):

That might be what caring means in that particular environment. Whereas another founder and another business might say, “Yeah, we care, but that’s about solving problems for our customers and demonstrating to them that their problems are important and that we want to help them solve them.” That’s a different kind of behavior with different actions and different things that get rewarded and reinforced in your organization than if you’re about empathy and being a listener. Little things like that, those nuances though, make all the difference. Like I said, once we’ve articulated those behaviors, then you can start to reinforce for those, you can start to hire people for those behaviors.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (12:46):

Do they have that empathy gene, if that’s important in our business, do they have that? If so, we can start looking for that all the way back to when we’re recruiting and hiring. We can certainly reward people and our incentives programs and things like that for demonstrating that type of care. That’s how we start to kind of instill it into our organizations, instill that culture, and make it independent of any one person. Like I said, if we take it out of the founders head and heart and put it into specific behaviors that we want to see all of our people emulating, that’s how we make it part of our culture.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:36):

Yeah. Yeah, thank you. One of the things that stood out to me is you have this topic, you talk about the leadership lessons that you’ve learned from the African bush. I thought that sounded really interesting. I’d love for you to talk about that. What are some of those lessons you learned?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (13:54):

Sure. Well, just to give you a little bit of background. Way back in the day, I had a very successful corporate career. This was my first couple of decades in business, I was in a corporate environment and was an executive in HR, sales, and operations. Those were sort of my skillsets. Started doing some volunteering work on my vacation time in Africa at conservation organizations, fell in love with just that whole environment, have a passion for wildlife, have a passion for conservation. Then, eventually decided that I could take the skillsets that I’d learned as a corporate executive and apply those in these other smaller founder led environments.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (14:51):

It just so happened that these conservation organizations didn’t operate the way that we tend to operate for profit organizations. They were run by scientists and researchers and not particularly well functioning from what we would consider a good operation and a good foundation. I eventually quit my career and decided that I’m going to start a consulting business and I’m going to start consulting these conservation organizations. I did that for, gosh, about 10 years. What I could tell you in that environment, I mean, it was the opposite of the corporate environment that I had grown up in, and that I had had built my career in.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (15:42):

It was across the world, it was in very remote situations. I mean, these were field based conservation organizations, they were saving and researching and learning about various species. I worked for a variety of organizations that had a different focus on predators or herbivores. I did some work with a vulture conservation organization. But what I learned in that environment is that, first of all, I learned a lot about resilience. Resilience is a muscle that we build out of adversity.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (16:26):

It’s something that we learn only… We only learn to be resilient when we are faced with adversity and have to figure out how to overcome it. There’s adversity and then there’s adversity. In my corporate environment, adversity was, “Do we have enough sweaters to fill up the table today?” I was in a corporate retail world, or, “Did somebody open the store late today?” Those were our adverse situations. When you’re in the field like that in a situation where we might not have water today.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (17:13):

Our well, they call it a borehole, but our well often would run dry and we would have challenges figuring out, “Okay, how are we going to get water?” We not only need it for ourselves, but we need it for the animals that are in our care at the moment. Point being is that when you’re in a very different environment, still trying to do the same kind of work, it gives you a different perspective about that work. One of the lessons that I learned is what it means to be resilient and what adversity really is. I mean, constantly there were adverse situations. It wasn’t just water. We had on civil or governmental unrest in many of the places where I was working.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (18:16):

There were times when we had animals that we were, again, that we were supposed to be saving or providing sanctuary to that were sick, or that were dying, and we didn’t know why they were dying, and there were things that we had to do to try to figure out how to save them, literally, save these creatures. There were just a wide variety of circumstances where we would have to come together as a team and problem solve in the moment. In some cases, it truly was a life or death situation. Those were lessons that I truly didn’t… I think they were muscles that I built in that environment that I really had not had the genuine opportunity to build as a corporate executive.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (19:13):

There’s that. The other big lesson too is what it really means to be a diverse organization and the value of having a diverse group of people working around you. Again, in these environments in the African bush, the people that would come together for a common goal, to save a species, which is what we were all there to do, we were people from all over the world. Many did not speak English or we didn’t speak the same language as each other. These were people of all ages, all ethnic origins, all from various countries with a really, truly diverse perspective on life. Now we were all here working together in rather challenging situations and having to come together in a moment to solve a particular problem.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (20:19):

That was another lesson that was like, again, in my corporate environment, I thought I really truly understood what a diverse organization meant and what it meant to be inclusive, but in that environment, like I said, we had to support each other. We had to figure out how to communicate, even though we didn’t speak the same language, because again, it meant are we going to find food? Are we going to have food at our facility over the next week or not? Those were some of the lessons that were unique and I’m grateful for the for those opportunities, because once I came back from that environment and doing that kind of work and started working again back in North America, it just gave me a completely new perspective on what it means to overcome challenges.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:24):

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. That is fantastic. What a great experience.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (21:29):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:31):

Yeah. Well, Kim, this is a great time for us just to transition in the show where we ask every guest before they go the same four questions. The first question is have you had a miss or two in your career along the way and something you learned from it?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (21:47):

Oh my gosh, yes. Yes, I mean, I’ve had a long career, so there’s a lot of misses. I think when I was younger, early on in my career, I thought I had to have all the answers. I was always in a leadership position early on. I felt compelled to have the answers. That said, I didn’t. I mean, now looking back on that, I can realize you just don’t have them. I mean it doesn’t matter how old you are, how, how experienced you are, as leaders, we just don’t have all the answers. It’s okay, I’ve learned now that, and I wish I would’ve known then what I know now, that it’s okay to not have the answers because when you don’t, again, it opens you up to taking in much more information and much more perspective from those that are around you to ultimately make a better decision.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (23:02):

I think that was a very big miss for me and a life lesson that I’ve only learned I guess through the hard way, through the school of hard knocks, of oh my gosh, don’t try to have all the answers. I mean, it’s totally okay and in fact, it’s perfectly good and healthy for you and for your organization to say, “Man, I don’t know about this one. I need to go get some help or I need to go get some new perspectives on this. This is just something I haven’t seen before.” That was I think a big miss in my early career.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (23:41):

I think the other thing about that is that for a woman in particular, I will say, I think we all suffer, not just women, but I think all of us tend to, again, when we’re in leadership positions and when we have our own businesses, we tend to sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome. When you think that, again, that there’s an expectation that you’re going to know everything and have all the answers, it sort of, I don’t know, incubates that imposter syndrome. That’s another thing, again, that I’ve learned over the years, is that it’s again perfectly okay to not know everything. In fact, it’s a good thing to realize what your own limitations are. It’ll enable you to grow much beyond and grow your business much more so than if you feel that you’ve got to know it all.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:41):

Yeah. Yeah. I definitely understand that whole concept of the imposter syndrome, you get your first promotion, your first real leadership role. I mean, I recall the same kind of thing thinking, “Wow, okay. I’m in charge now. Really?” I mean, I know that I’m qualified, but I think that I am at least, someone else at least thinks I am.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (25:07):

Guess I better be.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:09):

What are we doing here? All right. We’re going to give this a shot. Well, great. Well, let’s talk about a make or two. You’ve shared some different things you’ve already accomplished over the years, but I’d love for you to talk about maybe another one that stands out to you.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (25:25):

Yeah. I guess what I would say is that I’m certainly an accomplished person. I mean, by probably all measures or most measures, I’ve accomplished a lot and I’ve done had some interesting career paths that I’ve had the privilege of being able to pursue. Those are all great. But I think probably the thing that I’m most proud of is just, again, what I’ve learned over the years is how to be humble and how to be at peace with that. How to be strong but vulnerable at the same time. That is a combination that has taken me a long time to get to.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (26:36):

All the accomplishments, all the achievements in the world, and all the awards on my wall, and all the money in the bank, and all that doesn’t really matter in the end if you aren’t at peace with who you are and how you show up for people. I think that’s truly my biggest achievement. To be honest, it’s taken me a while to get there. We go through cycles in our careers where we sort of believe that we’re meant to do a particular thing or that we must… we have to make a certain amount of money or we have to accomplish a certain… our company has to get to certain size or whatever. We kind of go there and go down that path without again truly understanding what we’re going to get when we get there.

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (27:34):

Once we get there and we achieve this great thing, what does that leave us with? That is probably my biggest accomplishment, truly, is to get to a point in my life where I realize that life is really… it’s about more than that. In many ways, it’s not about that. It’s about, like I said, being at peace with who you are and what it is that you can contribute to those that are around you. I’m more proud of the people that I’ve impacted and the people that my clients have impacted and what they’ve done. I’m super proud of the fact I don’t get any credit for that. I mean, I work all behind the scenes and I’m very proud of that. That is what gives me joy, but like I said, it’s taken me a long time to get there.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:36):

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Well, let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself, your business, your career. Is there a multiplier that stands out?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (28:49):

Yeah. Again, for me, it’s people. Absolutely, I mean, I, myself, I’m a limited quantity. When I was just consulting on my own, I could not work more than, whatever, 70 hours a week. I mean, there’s only so much of yourself that you can give. I made a very conscious decision. I wanted to be able to impact more, I wanted to have more impact than what I could just do just on my own. That’s when I made the decision to start a business and have other consultants work for me that could work in the same way and I could show them how I work and how I want them to work and build my whole business around that. For me, multiplier is all about surrounding yourself with people who can do things better than you can do them or that are aligned, again, with your values, and that can do the work that you are already doing. For me, that multiplier is surrounding myself with really amazing people that can help me ultimately have more impact in the world.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (30:11):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, the final question we like to ask every guest is what does success mean to you?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (30:19):

Yeah, I kind of already mentioned that, I guess, but it’s being at peace with, again, what it is that I’m doing every day, what it is that I’m contributing. Success to me is about impact. Am I making a positive difference in the lives of my clients and in their clients lives? It sort of pays it forward. Success for me is all about impact. If what I do every day really makes a positive difference in the lives of my clients, I’ve made it, that’s all I need.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (31:01):

Yeah. That’s wonderful. Well, Kim, this has been a fantastic interview. As we draw to a close here, is there anything you were maybe hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Kim Troy, Civilis Consulting (31:13):

No, again, I mean, I think the only thing is that soul searching, being introspective about who we are as leaders and what it is that motivates us each day and why we do what we do. I think when we can all kind of look at ourselves and really look deep inside about what it is that we’re here to do and how we contribute is ultimately how we can be optimally successful for ourselves and for others.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (31:50):

Kim, thank you much again for a fantastic interview and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. Today’s takeaways are all focused around the lessons she learned while in the African bush. Number one, she talked about learning about resilience and what adversity actually truly is. She shared a story about, for example, not having any water or dying animals or sick animals that they’re trying to save or preserve and rescue while they’re there. She learned about that actual adversity. Takeaway number two is this idea of collaboration and working together.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (32:34):

I thought that was great that you have these people that are coming together from all over the world, many of which English is not their first language. They’re all trying to communicate, live together, and all serve a common purpose. Takeaway number three is the concept of this true mission or having that common purpose to gather around and to rally around. Kim had mentioned this early on when she was talking about culture and founders having those values. Really, what I took out of her time when she was living and working in Africa is that when you have this group of people literally in the middle of nowhere, it’s a near survival situation, they all have to rally around something to be there, because those conditions, if you had another choice, you probably would prefer to be living somewhere else.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (33:37):

For example, North America somewhere, where she’s from. Having that common purpose to compel people to make a move out of their regular normal life and comfort zone to go serve and give for something, that’s powerful. I think that’s a great, great leadership lesson to take away from it. Now it’s time for today’s win-win. Today’s win-win is when Kim talked about learning how to be humble and to be at peace with it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (34:11):

She phrased it another way throughout the interview too, where she said, “Learn how to be strong and vulnerable at the same time.” She shared when she was younger, she thought she had to have all the answers. I don’t know about you, but I can relate with that one. She’s learned that it’s okay to not have all the answers, and in fact, it’s better if you don’t. I think that’s a great win-win, for you, as of the leader of your organization, to be at peace with being humble and not having all the answers and working collaboratively with your team to solve that together.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (34:49):

That’ll be a win for you and your team, and for those customers, clients, people, communities that you serve. That’s the episode today folks, please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. Remember, if you or anyone might be ready to franchise your business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in and we look forward to having you back next week.

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