By Jeff Roth
By Jeff Roth, CEO
In the nine years that I’ve been the Chief Executive Officer at SWK, change has been a constant. We have grown not just in the number of staff, but in the depth of our collective knowledge, expertise and talent. Additionally, we have expanded geographically and now have six physical offices with members of our team residing in, at last count, 18 states! Beyond that data, SWK has evolved from a “MAS 90 shop” of the ‘80s and ‘90s (MAS 90 is now called Sage 100 ERP), to a technology firm with strength and focus in numerous ERPs, EDI, Managed Services, integrations and customizations, and we have continued to focus on mid-size manufacturing and distribution companies.
How has SWK grown so much?
We have done this, in part, by holding true to our core, shared values.
- Paying careful attention to understand fully what is being communicated
- Being supportive, encouraging and respectful
- Being confident in ourselves and in the ability of our team
- Asking when we need to learn and answering only when we know
- Using good judgment and taking responsibility for our actions
- Learning something new every day
- Conducting ourselves with integrity
- Being open to change
These values, created collectively in 2005 by our then-team of about 20 people, have guided us while we grow. As we have expanded both organically and through small acquisitions, we hold true to our values, our focus on the supply chain, and our passion for providing technical insight, know-how and creativity in the solutions we provide for you, our customers.
Beyond our shared values, navigating the sometimes-turbulent seas of change can be overwhelming and challenging when not controlled. Interestingly, the last shared value, “being open to change,” is the very one that for me, has made it easier to manage change.
Change adds great benefits
One of the wonderful things about growth is that we have been able to add a new level of expertise throughout the organization. As we’ve added new solutions, including Sage ERP X3, NetSuite and Acumatica, the talent required to be successful with these products functions at a higher level, both intellectually and strategically. Adding key staff at the executive and senior levels has allowed me to change as a business leader and to hand off key portions of my previous responsibilities to others, who have proved to be more than capable in their assigned tasks. In doing this, other employees have risen to the occasion and have grown through the changes. Everyone has discovered abilities that were previously untapped, and learned new skills that will propel their careers forward for years to come.
Years ago, I, like many leaders of growing business, had my hands in just about everything. Most decisions needed to go through me, and my “control-freak” persona was exposed in full force! Today, primarily with the executive and senior management teams that we’ve assembled at SWK, not only have I cut the number of my direct reports in half, I’ve been able to dedicate my newly-available time to business development. In order to grow SWK, I’ve focused on forging new and critical business relationships, working on acquisitions, networking, promoting SWK at every turn, attending and participating in speaking engagements, visiting with clients, and strengthening the relationships with our key partners and vendors. Furthermore, we have conducted regular, quarterly strategic planning sessions to chart the course for the new SWK adventures that lie ahead. Throughout all of this, I’ve also had time to manage the goals and initiatives that we previously established. Wow!
One continual change we face is the impact that small acquisitions have on our organization. Whenever we add another (usually Sage) business partner to our ranks, there are many considerations: culture, the organizational chart, compensation strategies and ranges, billable hourly rates, employee benefits, travel policies, HR policies, vacation and PTO, to name a few. These must all be handled carefully with a nod to political correctness. Maintaining calm, order, a positive perspective and patience are all essential steps to make sure the transition for all concerned is a smooth one.
Change is constant. My amazement at how our team has handled change is constant. The growth and changes of not just SWK, but the skill set of our team is fantastic!
What’s my secret to success?
I tend to lead by example. There hasn’t been anything that I’ve asked a member of the SWK team, at any level, to do that I haven’t done or wouldn’t do myself. This “hands-on,” no-nonsense approach doesn’t work for everyone—it can be easy to get lost in the weeds and lose sight of your vision—but I’ve tried hard to strike the proper balance of detail guy, plus corporate visionary, plus strategic thinker. Still, I enjoy the operation, I enjoy managing others, I enjoy sharing my knowledge and I enjoy interacting with customers. As we grow and as our company changes, I will likely hold on to these things that I enjoy, but I will let go of a little bit more each year—as we, and I, continue to change.
Managing change is essential. It isn’t always easy, but if you focus on where you want to be and what it takes to get there, change can be managed well and can drive your company to grow and flourish.
I hope that many of the ideas above can be used in your organization. I’d love to hear your feedback and your own tips. *protected email* and let me know how change has impacted your business.
Photo courtesy of Tirza van Dijk / Unsplash.com