Growing up the son of an entrepreneur gave me an exciting opportunity to learn what it takes to creatively build a brand, work hard for those early customer wins, and then nurture your customer base to keep them happy for years to come.
My father led by example as he worked 15 hour days and still found time to be with his family on weekends. He always provided me with a deeper view of the operations by enabling me to join him as he worked his different businesses. I was always amazed by how close he became to his customers, knowing everything about them, both personally and professionally, while laughing and having fun with them in conversation.
My father’s primary business was as a wholesaler of baked goods, including breads, donuts and cakes. He would pick up these goods from multiple manufacturers to ensure only the best products and then would package and sell them to retailers, who would then use them to deliver a complete solution for their customers…like a bacon egg and cheese on a roll. The roll, of course, was delivered by my father.
My father also schooled me on competitive advantage. While running the baked goods route, he was always on the lookout for a superior product. But that was not very sustainable, as his competitors had access to the same goods. So my father used his customer relationships to set him apart. He powerfully demonstrated to me that, in today’s world where it is harder and harder to sustain a competitive advantage, we should look to our customers and the experience we provide to differentiate ourselves. This also means intentionally designing a company culture that drives employees to be customer first in everything they do. And, as leaders, we must ensure that our employees are set up to learn and develop their skills, to create the same opportunities to better their lives and their families.
When it was my turn to join the workforce, my dad coached me early on to work at a large company and then run your own business within it. As much as he loved being an entrepreneur, he did not want me to live the same life, being strapped to a business that took so much of his precious time away from our family. Looking back, it was easy to see why I gravitated to building partner businesses, as combining technologies to deliver better customer solutions is part of the DNA that was passed down from my father.
So that is what I have done for the last 20+ years. Building and developing businesses has become my passion. Always keeping the customer at the center of everything that I do. Making sure that we all have fun in our daily work, helping our employees grow into better versions of themselves and, most importantly, ensuring that family always comes first. Now it is up to me to pass these important lessons on to my girls as they start on their journey to becoming the next generation of leaders.
To my father, the original entrepreneur in my life!
Frank’s Baked Goods…We’re Fresh!
This was the theme of the global conference we produced in October, but I’d venture to say it’s the mantra global organizations need to adopt as we continue to deal with the most disruptive event of our lifetime: COVID-19.
When I look back, I should not be surprised that 2020 has been incredibly busy for us here at erwin. I’ve made decisions during the past nine months I never thought I’d have to, and I’m sure this is the reality for you and your organization as well.
As CEO, of course I had big plans for us, but then the world and everything in it changed. However, data is central to our mission, and data is the key to sound decision-making. Thankfully, we were in the right business at the right time.
After making sure our employees were safe and equipped to work from home, once we closed our offices, we emerged with more focus on that mission and more time to spend with customers. All the time I used to spend traveling, I now spend talking – or listening – to my employees or our customers from my dining room table.
To survive and eventually thrive in the face of radical disruption requires transformation that’s just as radical:
· Developing new business models, like breweries and distillers manufacturing hand sanitizer
· Reimaging current business models, like moving fitness classes outdoors
· Creating new products and services, such as restaurants providing text check-in curb service
· Market expansion, with traditional grocers becoming online shopping hubs
The companies that come out of this historic period of global uncertainty and change will be those that take an intelligent, data-driven approach to business.
The best example I can point to, which underscores the importance and relevance of data, is pharmaceutical companies that have been working at unprecedented speed to develop not only effective treatments for the coronavirus but also vaccines. Earlier this week, several historic announcements were made about the availability of the first shots and the plans to ship and administer them.
At the heart of these medical breakthroughs is data. From re-engineering research and development to managing trials and regulatory approvals to setting up manufacturing and distribution, data has made and will continue to make a life-and-death difference. Although I can’t share the details, I’m proud that erwin had a hand in this massive global health initiative.
While your organization may not be on the front line in the fight against the virus, you’ve no doubt been impacted by it. Have you had to revisit and reset priorities? Change your business processes? Confront new compliance challenges as a result of the changes you had to institute?
And when all the crazy ends, and it will end, are you prepared to capitalize on new opportunities?
Adversity spurs innovation, and I believe innovation will drive forward at a rapid pace once the global ecosystem finds its new normal. We might well be on our way. Will you be ready?
Enterprises must be able to find, navigate, understand and use their most valuable data assets. We knew that to be true before the pandemic, but now it’s become even more obvious.
Despite social distancing, I have to say our customer intimacy has never been greater. I believe that’s because our employees are operating with a heightened sense of purpose and urgency. We focused on doing what’s right, including making training for our solutions and other resources available online at no charge and releasing a free app to help organizations communicate and manage their remote workforces more effectively. We also made professional and consulting services more accessible.
The point is that if you stay close to your employees and your customers, good things will happen. Over communication is key. Those relationships will develop and deepen, even via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Perhaps that’s because we’ve all realized how much we have in common. I might have a “C” in my title, but my wife is still annoyed that I’ve hijacked the dining room, and my daughters make a lot of noise being home instead of at school. Titles have taken a backseat to humanity as we all try to stay healthy, sane and accomplish what’s on our to-do lists each day.
Finding that balance is important. You must make time for your family and yourself because we do seem to be working longer and harder. Exercise. Listen to less news. Be thankful.
And with that, I want to express my appreciation to our customers, partners, employees and their families. I wish each of you health, time to enjoy the holiday season in a meaningful but perhaps smaller way, and here is to a brighter 2021 together.
As leaders, we all must look hard at our business models and consider how to adapt to this new, virtual-first world. Even if we think this will be for a limited time, the changes and challenges we are currently experiencing may have a very lasting impact. So, let’s adjust now.
What is it that has really changed?
Companies need to create new business processes and models to execute on a smaller presence in offices and larger work-from-home situations, all while adhering to regulations and compliance.
Companies need to speed up the pace of innovation but now to do it from home, leveraging cloud-based environments and development tools.
All companies should be thinking about their customers and how to better service them in this virtual world. Now is the time to get closer to your customers than ever before. Help them succeed and then so will you.
Will this crisis come and go? Yes, of course it will. There will be plenty of companies that fail during this time but also many that flourish. The ones that flourish adapt quickly, are responsive to these changing markets and grow stronger navigating these waters with their customers in mind.
Time for a change.
Five years ago I was an executive with a large enterprise IT company. I was in my late 30’s and working upwards of 70 hours a week … with an amazing wife and three young daughters at home. But, a simple routine physical changed my life. During the physical, I learned that I was on a fast-track to heart disease with high cholesterol and overweight. I knew I needed a lifestyle change – fast and without medicine. But how? I didn’t have the time. I was crazy busy.
For those of you who never heard of the ERwin software platform, it is the industry’s most powerful data modeling solution. ERwin gives IT professionals an intuitive graphical interface to model the database before they build it and acts as an information hub to share data definitions, rules and structures across the organization. ERwin has a 15-year rich history and is deployed across more than 75,000 organizations. But what’s most exciting is the role that ERwin is coming to play as the foundation for global Big Data initiatives.
Context: I am a 40 year old business executive that works anywhere from 60-70 hours a week and balances a family life with my wife and 3 daughters. In an effort to live a longer healthier lifestyle I took up Spartan Racing about 4 years ago. The results have been terrific, 15 races later, I have taken off 25 pounds of weight, dropped my cholesterol by 80 points and feel much better as I can now keep up with my kids. The racing described below is not for Elite runners that are racing for time but for Competitive and Open class runners that are running to complete the race.