As I sit here, a twelve-year veteran of FusionStorm and nearly a week after #Cultivate2019 the FusionStorm | Computacenter National Sales Meeting I am thinking about the relevance of the word “cultivate” in the context of taking two organizations; one very American organization with all the applicable American stereotypes and cross-pollinating it with a European multinational organization and the applicable stereotypes to create a hybrid strain which is unmatched in its potency and effect on the marketplace.
After spending time in London with the Computacenter team back in November of 2018, I wrote a blog entitled “Creating a Narrative” as a personal reflection on my trip to London and meeting the broader Computacenter team for the first time, which was an extremely positive experience. Fast-forward to January of 2019 and #Cultivate2019 and the positive experience which started with a visit to London back in November of 2018 continued, with Computacenter leadership taking the time to welcome us to the organization and provide a roadmap that will allow us to pair the investment, focus and operational rigor of Computacenter with the entrepreneurship and resourcefulness of FusionStorm to create what I believe will be an unstoppable force in the global market. The strain we are cultivating is unlike anything in the market and when we unleash it, it will dominate.
#Cultivate2019 started with Justin Griffin, SVP of Sales, as Farmer Griffin in his original screenplay “Making Hay.” Justin put on a performance worthy of nomination for a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award and drove home the “Cultivate” theme and what it meant to our business in a playful and funny way. The entire sales organization and guests were given the opportunity to see a video recap of our visit to London, to witness the size and scale of Computacenter, which I thought was excellent.
Next up on the main stage was Dan Serpico to reflect on his twenty-four years at FusionStorm and the dawn of a new day as Computacenter. Dan talked from the heart about his time at FusionStorm, his challenges and victories over the years and most importantly the incredible relationships and memories he created. Like he has done so many times over the twelve years I have known him, Dan reached out and touched everyone in the audience with his authentic and genuine demeanor, and like he’s done over and over again, he made us feel safe amidst change, that this was not the end, but a new beginning.
To usher in the new beginning Mike Keogh, the President of Computacenter US, took the stage to talk about the future of Computacenter US. Before getting into the vision, Mike talked about some American >>> British survival tips. What I have come to value about Mike over the last four months is how he values innovation. Let’s face it, being a techie in a sales driven organization can be a challenge. While Mike is a business operator, he has a strategic vision that extends beyond the tactical deal. Next to a business operator on Wikipedia, there is a picture of Mike making an unsolicited sales call to John Varel’s plantation, nothing more to say here.
Over the last four months, I have had some honest conversations with Mike because I am a forthright person and I like to confront the unknown head-on. Mike has been a good listener who thinks about what is being said and provides solid feedback genuinely and authentically. While it’s only been a short four months, Mike has made me feel safe, and like Simon Sinek says “When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.” For someone like me and many others, feeling safe provides the platform we need to focus on execution. I think Mike did a great job of articulating the long-term perspective of Computacenter, the value of the people, the value of relationships in the context of a greater ecosystem of Computacenter, customers, and partners.
As a sales driven technical organization, alignment between field teams and engineering resources is critical. Over the years we have tried to service every opportunity with the highest quality, but as we embark on a new beginning, we are making strategic investments to better align our engineering support with our GTM strategy. Joe Baker, VP of Advanced Services, introduced our sales team to a redesigned Advanced Services organization that focuses on sales and engineering alignment, creating more depth and breadth of support and increased focus.
So far, so good. Next up was yours truly. I love tech, but sometimes it can worsen anxiety. Twenty-four years in this business and I wake up every day just as nervous and anxious as I did on day one. I value this fear because it drives me to try to remove variables. The one variable I should have removed was the smartwatch that was alerting me that my sitting heart rate was higher than expected. This is when technology doesn’t help. Anyway, this year I wanted to focus on how far the Expert Services (aka skunkworks) business had come in 2018, making it about the customer value proposition, where we have won and why, and the market opportunity. I think I accomplished my goal, but this is not for me to judge, and I haven’t had long enough get an objective measure of success or failure.
The serious side of day one finished with an Integration Center (IC) update provided by Paul Cullington, Integration Center VP, and Andy Smith, Group Supply Chain Services Director, of Computacenter. Paul and Andy provided a concise overview of the first hundred days in the IC and the changes that have been made to date. What I loved about Paul’s presentation was how he articulated the IC culture, the value of the people and his commitment and support of his people. Paul unveiled a newly produced IC video which showcased many of the IC improvements and starred the people who make the IC what it is.
Following the last session of the day, we changed and headed out for a wiffle ball tournament. Happy to say after a significant rain delay and treacherous field conditions, our team finished third and I walked away with only a minor knee tweak and mild swelling. The atmospheric conditions somehow made wiffle ball more interesting and it was great to see so many people looking like we just left the mudslides at Woodstock. Everyone had a blast, except for those who left early because they melt in the rain. 🙂
Twelve years of NSMs and I have to say the 7:30 AM breakfast turnout was solid. After breakfast, it was back to important content. Mo Siddiqi, Group Development Director at Computacenter, spent some time clearly articulating an integration plan. Mo’s presentation covered everything from where the US headquarters would be, with the answer being a regional US HQ in SFO and NYC, way to satisfy everyone Mo, to when our Email addresses will be changing, to fonts, colors, and branding. I appreciate Mo’s attention to detail, and I suspect we share some of the same OCD traits.
Next up was Mike Norris, Group CEO at Computacenter. Mike was introduced by Neil Hall, Managing Director of Computacenter UK & Ireland, with the help of a video montage. The video was a mix of Philip Hulme and Peter Ogden talking about Mike, Mike as 007, Elvis and a character that reminded me of Brock Landers, the fictitious character played by Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler from the film Boogie Nights. It was a great intro, and I wish I could have seen some of the video snippets in their entirety. Mike walked the team through the Computacenter business, talking about podium customers and Norris Mortimer Law, which states that there is a direct correlation between the number of podium customers and millions of dollars in gross profit. After taking us through the business, Mike spent time talking about the Computacenter culture, and finally a little bit about what drives Mike Norris, describing himself as “understated,” “a bit of a maverick” and stating that he is driven by “proving other people wrong.” Mike Norris followed up on Mike Keogh’s survival tips by pointing out that when he says “good” we as Americans think “awesome”, implying the British are understated while Americans tend to be overstated, I agree with this. These ideas resonated with me because I too like to prove people wrong. Mike closed out his presentation with his competitive spirit shining through and a very apparent desire to take it to the competition.
Brian Brew, Brad Pence, Teresa Vegher and Pat Holman then took to the stage to participate in a sales high performers session moderated by Jason Kraft. All four of these individuals had a great 2018. My takeaway from this session, which I tweeted during the session is “Being a winner doesn’t always mean there has to be a loser.” In fact, to quote Kelsey Hightower “Once you’ve found success, your next goal should be helping others do the same.” Real winners share their secrets; this is #WinningTogether.
April Wensel (@aprilwensel) from Compassionate Coding has frames it best:
- Being “Smart”Learning
- Being a “Rockstar”Being a Mentor
I believe that a key to #WinningTogether is our ability to build communities and a culture which is less hostile and aggressive and more compassionate and supportive. Execution and high-performance can be accompanied by compassion and support.
Following the sales high performers session and batting cleanup, Amy Morrissey took to the stage to talk about legal and operations, the importance of teamwork, process and a call to action for all of us to participate in the process. I am looking forward to many of the operational efficiencies that Amy and her team will drive in the coming months, from both an information technology perspective and in other areas of the business.
Our final session of the day was our motivational speaker, Inky Johnson. I personally really loved Inky’s talk, his path from poverty to a full scholarship to a successful collegiate career at the University of Tennessee all changed with one hit, eight games before Inky was about to realize what he had dreamt about his entire life, playing in the National Football League. Inky’s story is captivating; he talks about the importance of focus, hard work, sweat equity, pride, and consistent action to drive towards what you want, aka perseverance. Life can change in an instant, but a bad situation can have a profound impact and can evolve your perspective, what didn’t change for Inky is what his mother taught him “Whatever you start, you make sure you finish.” Quitting is a habit that will affect your entire life, the process is more important than the product, it’s not about the outcome, it’s about can you take pride in what you do as an individual, did you give your all.
The final event of #Cultivate2019 was our closing night dinner. It’s always great to socialize with the people you go in battle with every day. It’s also great to have conversations with people and build deeper relationships that transcend our day-to-day business relationship. I want to wake up every day and win alongside people I care about and who care about me, this is what makes winning worth something, without the emotional connection the victories and defeats are empty and the lessons we take away are shallow. I want to feed my soul; I want to have an impact on others and want to feel the safety that is required to transform regret into reinvention. I am thankful for so many people who have placed their trust in me, given the latitude to grow and put me in a position to do so many of these things which give my life true meaning. I am thankful for opportunities to hear someone like Inky Johnson tell their story; I am thankful for the opportunity to take all these lessons and cultivate myself to be a better husband, father, brother, son, friend, employee, peer, boss, human being, etc. Life for me is all about cultivating who I am, if I do that well, if I see the world through the eyes of others, if I live in objective reality I will focus on the process not the product, I will consistently do what is required, I will persevere and I will live an impactful life which is what I am here to do. Whatever tomorrow brings I know I need to wake up, be thankful for the opportunity to cultivate life and make things happen for myself and others, the opportunity to work hard is enough for me, the opportunity to prove others wrong is a bonus.