Craig Miller Of Sonnet Advisors On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Enhancing Products and Decisions: Using AI to glean customer data insights helps businesses refine existing products and develop new offerings matching evolving needs. Data analysis and AI reveal customer behaviour to enable quick, well-informed decisions. Data-driven insights enable staying ahead of market trends and swiftly reacting to competitors.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Miller.

As founder of Sonnet Advisors, Craig Miller draws from a truly global outlook. He’s built businesses in Europe and collaborated with venture capital firms in California. His cross-cultural experience, paired with an engineering degree, Harvard MBA and a decade driving digital transformations at Microsoft, allows him to blend strategic, tech and financial know-how. An active investor and board advisor himself, Craig intimately understands the challenges entrepreneurs face. He’s sought out for his expertise in helping SMEs design transformational growth plans that accelerate profitability.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Early on, I created engineering solutions within strict specifications. There was no room for creativity, really. But as I moved into consultancy, I found my true calling was building new capabilities to unlock business potential.

During my M&A days at JPMorgan, my projects revolved around assessing capabilities, finding competitive advantages, and forming stronger companies. I was helping owners realise their businesses’ true potential.

To me, ‘digital transformation’ means creatively using digital tools to reinvent business models — uncovering new value creation paths. True transformation requires changing people, processes and technology. Strategic insight can enable companies to pivot into new markets or achieve breakout performance.

In my sales leadership stint, I learned how to scale my impact by bringing out the best in teams. Several years ago in Denmark, we transformed a renewable energy client’s services business using IoT and predictive maintenance. Not only did they save $250 million in working capital, but they used their new-found capacity to grow by servicing competitors too!

I’ve learned true innovation goes beyond efficiency improvements. It needs boldly reinventing how you achieve goals. Central to my drive is assembling specialists under a shared vision to build new capabilities. So ‘digital transformation’ may be too narrow — my life’s work is aligning skills, exploiting technology and setting the vision to help businesses and individuals realise their full potential.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One of my most memorable and humbling experiences was managing a project in Paris early in my career. Despite being bilingual, working entirely in my second language presented unexpected challenges.

We were building an e-commerce website that’s still around today. All team and customer communications, even the documentation, were in French. My linguistic blunders became an inside joke that the team, and eventually I, found amusing. After the initial embarrassment, these experiences helped me grow.

Not only did they strengthen our camaraderie, but underscored the importance of humility, adaptability and the power of laughter in overcoming hurdles. This project marked a career milestone in digital commerce, but more importantly, taught me invaluable lessons about cultural adaptability and the beauty of human connection across cultures.

I was fortunate to be accepted in that professional setting. It inspired me to be inclusive and embrace people’s diverse backgrounds. Diversity is a real asset for innovation and team dynamics.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

In my first year at Harvard Business School, I had a chance encounter with Rob, an investment banker and HBS alum. Our meeting was brief but profound — Rob saw a potential in me that I hadn’t yet recognised myself.

With his encouragement, I landed a summer associate role in mergers and acquisitions at an investment bank — a totally new field for me. Rob didn’t have time to deeply assess my capabilities, he just got to know me, my character and drive.

That short meeting catalysed a major career pivot, opening doors to opportunities I hadn’t imagined. I’m eternally grateful Rob ‘took a chance on me’ and for his mentorship over the following years.

It left a clear impression — see people for who they truly are, not just what they’ve done. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in supporting someone’s career journey.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ have deeply influenced my professional ethos and personal philosophy. Rand’s narrative champions the value of one’s contributions to society and the legitimacy of seeking fair compensation. This principle underpins my confidence and assertiveness in business negotiations.

I once sold a consulting engagement for 3x the team’s proposed price, simply because I listened to the CIO. I positioned the solution in terms he understood (monthly operating costs) and with financing, found a monthly fee he accepted. Value-based pricing is one business acumen aspect inspired by Ayn Rand.

Complementing this, Sinek’s exploration of intrinsic motivation has guided me towards endeavours that don’t just promise commercial success but also meaningfully impact communities and industries. Together, these books have shaped my dual commitment to achieving business excellence while contributing to societal advancement.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve recently launched a unique executive coaching program called ‘ScaleMaster’. It opens three exclusive slots every quarter for ambitious SME owners to work with me and elevate their performance. The program is built around three fundamental pillars:

Firstly, digital transformation to enhance capabilities through technology. Secondly, sales and competitive strategy for making deliberate marketing and growth decisions. And thirdly, operational optimisation for productivity gains.

A previous client, Bryce, had acquired a struggling UK manufacturing and services business just before the pandemic struck. He was dealing with mounting debts, a demoralised team and stalled sales. Working together, we revived his company within a month through strategic negotiations with creditors, an expanded sales approach, and a timely merger — proving the impact of targeted, strategic scaling.

This opportunity is tailored for business owners keen to level up their performance, achieve quick results and put their company on a higher growth trajectory. To join the waiting list and set your business on the path to achieving your goals, connect with me on LinkedIn and click the invitation link.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

Transformation is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The caterpillar crawls slowly on the ground, limited by sluggish movement and restricted access. Then it undergoes a metamorphosis — a fundamental transformation — literally sprouting wings. This same creature has now fundamentally changed how it operates, flying instead of crawling, and how it engages with its world. The neighbourhood’s fields and flowers, previously inaccessible, are now within reach. That’s the power of transformation.

When it comes to the digital aspect, it means using new technology to create new capabilities across all parts of a business. The tech can bring improvements to how the business creates value for customers. It’s not just implementing shiny new tech. The point is to rethink, reimagine, and invent new business models and processes to accelerate achieving the business’s goals.

These are the principles CEOs will discover through my coaching programme. Getting digital transformation right requires leadership, empowerment and the right mindset. Digital tools enable it, but transformation is the goal. Senior leaders must set the vision, lead by example, then step aside and let teams try, fail and eventually reinvent the business. A successful approach balances people, processes and technology, embedding solutions to enhance human contribution and processes. This holistic approach ensures digital transformations are adopted and endure.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation offers major advantages for any company wanting to improve its market position. Companies lagging in new tech adoption, with legacy systems and outdated practices, stand to gain the most. Such businesses can realise benefits like smoother processes, automation of manual tasks, and better resource utilisation.

A key area for improving through digital transformation is customer experience. With loads of data on how customers interact, their preferences, and feedback, businesses can make well-informed, data-driven decisions. This allows them to refine products and services, making for happier, loyal repeat customers.

I mentioned earlier the transformation that enabled my Danish renewable energy client to capture $250 million in working capital savings. Though significant cost savings, even more strategic was that their newly freed-up field service resources enabled them to gain market share and grow revenues by servicing competitors’ products.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Digital transformation can be tough for many companies — there are several common challenges.

One issue is not having a clear plan or vision, leading to ambiguity and misalignment. This can be fixed with a documented strategy and detailed roadmap. Regularly revisit and update the strategy and roadmap to maintain focus on business goals despite inevitable bumps along the way.

Another big problem is staff resisting change or fearing management won’t support doing things differently. Address this by educating employees and involving them from the outset in designing the transformation. Involve people in the process and the technology solution will be adopted.

Changing the organisational structure is hard too. But this can be managed through a flexible design and visible executive support for digital initiatives. Provide leadership training focused on digital innovation and embed it into the culture.

Integrating new tech with existing operations is complex. Solve this by implementing technology in phases. Once the big picture is clear and everyone understands what you’re solving, break the approach into smaller agile steps. An example could be using chatbots to collect and qualify leads and book sales calls. Simple to design and integrate and start getting results right away.

Measuring digital transformation success can be difficult too, even knowing what to measure! Involve senior management to define success. Set clear, measurable targets, continuously monitor progress, and integrate senior feedback on actual performance versus expectations. This involves the whole organisation.

Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

1. Improving Customer Experience: Digital tools can transform how businesses interact with customers. Using data analysis enables understanding what customers want and how they make decisions. Based on these insights, products, services and communications can be personalised just for them. This boosts satisfaction, builds loyalty and encourages repeat business. Using data to understand what customers liked and didn’t about its products led one client to focus on fewer features and raise prices, all while improving satisfaction.

2. Streamlining Operations: Take your mundane, low value daily tasks and delegate them to digital tech. Robotic process automation, AI and chatbots can easily integrate into processes to save staff time. Enhance efficiency and productivity. Several small businesses reclaimed 8–10 hours per week by automating lead conversion — using chatbots to qualify leads, collect info, and schedule calls, ensuring staff focus on closing pre-qualified leads. Automating routine tasks frees resources and reduces costs/errors. Cloud computing enables focusing on innovation and growth over infrastructure.

3. Enhancing Products and Decisions: Using AI to glean customer data insights helps businesses refine existing products and develop new offerings matching evolving needs. Data analysis and AI reveal customer behaviour to enable quick, well-informed decisions. Data-driven insights enable staying ahead of market trends and swiftly reacting to competitors.

4. Boosting Collaboration: Digital transformation includes tools to break down organisational silos and facilitate seamless team communication — Teams, Slack, Notion, Trello, Asana, ClickUp. Shared workspaces, project software foster agility, inclusivity and innovation. Using automation triggers and Slack, one client moved most client onboarding away from staff to focus on product usage.

5. Leveraging Digital Marketing: Traditional marketing’s outdated. Digital marketing technologies reach wider audiences, leverage automation, collect better data and deliver faster results — SEO, content, social media, email campaigns. Building a strong digital presence engages customers, increases visibility, drives sales, builds lasting brand. One customer moved to digital marketing, lowered ad spend 43%, better understood customers, and drove their pipeline knowing the cost per acquisition.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Being innovative can help teams and businesses seeking to gain an edge over their competitors. Create an environment where new ideas are welcomed, leading by example and showing that taking risks is okay. Trying new things must be seen as a good way to learn and grow. Here’s some specific recommendations to create this kind of culture:

  1. Encourage open discussion: Make it easy for employees at all levels to share their ideas without the fear of being criticised. Create a safe environment. Openness helps to build a sense of community and shared goals.
  2. Promote diversity: Teams with different backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking are more likely to come up with innovative solutions to problems.
  3. Provide resources: Give team members the time and budget to work on passion projects, to learn new skills, or to explore new ideas. This shows the company is serious about innovation.
  4. Celebrate failures: Demonstrate that failures are chances to learn, not something to fear. This helps people feel more comfortable to take risks, which is key for innovation.
  5. Leadership support: Senior leaders should not only support innovation, but they should get personally involved, setting an example for others. This is critical for creating a culture of innovation.
  6. Reward Creativity: Recognise and reward employees who contribute innovative ideas or improvements (successful ones and failures), showing that innovation is valued. By making these things part of the company’s culture, business leaders can create an environment where innovation can flourish, staying ahead of the competition.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.’ This quote from Henry Ford, renowned for his innovations in modern industry, reminds me that our mindset and attitude are crucial for success or failure. By choosing to believe in our own capabilities, we’re more likely to achieve our goals, while self-doubt and negative thinking can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Having a ‘can-do’ attitude unlocks potential, whereas negativity limits it. Adopting this mindset cultivates the self-efficacy needed for personal growth and success. Very often, I’ve chosen to first believe I can achieve something, and the actions needed seem to follow naturally from that belief. One example where I’ve applied this quote that comes to mind is starting my property investment business. The belief that I would be successful flowed naturally into qualifying local developers, reviewing their opportunity pipeline, and finding a suitable project to get started.

How can our readers further follow your work?

My book is an open page. Let’s write the next chapter together.

Best to contact me through LinkedIn:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.