When I ask leaders in our company what concerns them most about my succession, the answer is pretty consistent: We could lose the vision.
I worried about that too before I became president and then CEO. But when I assumed the top position in the organization, my view certainly did change.
A good example of this was when I started my career at Marco selling office furniture. At that time, office products was the largest part of our business and systems furniture was a growth industry. I loved my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Even when I became director of sales, I couldn’t see furniture not being a part of our product portfolio. It was interesting how my view changed when I became president. As we refined our corporate vision, it became clear that furniture, even though it was a significant part of our business and profitable, was not a good fit. It wasn’t technology focused, didn’t have an element of recurring revenue and had a different decision maker.
At the top, you see more in the company and you’re exposed to more in the industry. It became much easier to broaden my view and focus on our vision.
Here are a few of my views that changed:
- I saw more opportunities.
As a salesman and even a sales leader, I was product and function focused. But as CEO, I am responsible for looking beyond what we currently sell and focus on opportunities and growth. Marco recently acquired two companies to expand our recurring revenue model. One was a cloud and hosted services provider, the other a carrier services reseller. I feel these are our most strategic acquisitions to date. The move is considered unique in our industry and positions us for continued long-term growth. These are opportunities I would have never seen in my previous roles.
- I expanded my industry awareness.
When I became CEO, it was important for me to learn what “good” looked like in our industry. Like all businesses, I wanted us to perform in the top of our industry, but I needed to discover the benchmarks to establish our scorecard. I suspected we probably weren’t performing in the top quartile nationally and we weren’t. So I focused more on listening and paid close attention to high-performing dealers and what made them successful. I was able to do this successfully because I was no longer focused on just products, but rather on the overall performance of our service model and operational efficiencies. This broader approach to our industry allowed me to anticipate new trends, see new opportunities and change the focus of our company. It became less about the products, and more about executing best practices and delivering high performance.
- I realized the need for deeper client relationships.
As a salesman and manager, I definitely cared about the client, but I was only focused on the solution set I was responsible for. As CEO, my view became much broader and focused on opportunities that allow us to build deeper relationships with our clients. I became very intentional about targeting strategic accounts to establish or expand the business relationship with key decision makers. This set an example for sales leadership to more effectively broaden the scope of their contacts within their client base. This has proven to be successful in growing our business and supports our mission to help clients effectively apply technology that contributes to their success.
Team members can often get concerned about leadership transitions that are inevitable. As a leader, it’s important that you mentor your future leaders so they are well positioned to build on your organization’s current success and establish their own vision for the future. Like myself, I am confident their view will broaden as their responsibility expands. I found mine sure did.