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The Channel Angle: Here Are Eight Things Companies Can Do To Thrive During Challenging Times

How can a company actually grow and achieve success during an extremely challenging time? Cesar Enciso, founder of San Diego-based solution provider EVOTEK, offers the lessons he’s learned and how your company can adapt and shine, despite earth-shattering change.

By Cesar Enciso

[Editor’s note: The Channel Angle is a new monthly CRN column written by an executive that will focus on the triumphs and challenges that solution providers face. If you are interested in contributing, please contact managing editor David Harris.]

I started EVOTEK in late 2014 because I believed there was a better way to build an organization based 100 percent on culture. Building a company based on culture is much easier when the economy is doing well. However, leaders’ true colors come out when the economy struggles and when uncertainty happens. When COVID-19 appeared, corporate culture was put to the test, as leaders needed to decide what their responsibility was to their people — after all, people are the most important asset, right? Most failed this very simple test. I saw knee-jerk and opportunistic reactions. Layoffs, furloughs, compensation cuts and benefits were all leveraged tools; some from companies that were doing well and used the pandemic as an excuse to improve the cost structure of their businesses.

We decided to lean into the pandemic, in all ways. Our leadership team quickly assembled a task force dedicated to the pandemic. Mind you, we had no idea what COVID-19 meant, what it would mean or if it was even real. In early March, EVOTEK launched our public-facing position on how we were going to support our employees and meet the needs of our customers.

The very next week, we had an all-hands meeting, our first over Zoom, to communicate our plans to our employees, based on what we knew at the time. We announced that we will not go through any layoffs, we will not furlough anyone and we would not cut compensation. We went as far as to state that we would run our profitability down to zero before we touched our employee compensation. In addition, we announced that we were improving benefits by lowering the cost of healthcare by nearly 30 percent for most plans. The overall message was about focusing on customers and partners; and not to give an ounce of thought on job security. Further to that, the executive leadership team made a point to have 1:1 calls with all employees, to give them further and more personalized insight on the company, how we were doing and so they could feel well supported.

The results of our people first, focus on culture was four record quarters. We finished 2020 over $311 million, up from $185 million in 2019. With near zero attrition, we grew our employee headcount by 35 percent. I expect headcount to grow by another 25 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

With that context, here are the eight lessons that I have learned during one of the most challenging times in the history of our economy and for the well-being of our human race. 

  • Not putting your employees in the traditional box: As long as companies treat employees as commodities instead of assets, progressive thinking and creativity is not possible. Employees need a purpose, far greater than making a living. Leaders should focus on inspiring and creating an optimal environment for experimentation. When employees try and fail, they need to be encouraged. When they try and succeed, they need to be celebrated.
  • Appreciate your employees: The feeling of appreciation by leadership is one of the most valuable assets a company can value. It doesn’t cost much, but pays enormous dividends. Being truly appreciated for a contribution is the single biggest motivator; much more than compensation, awards or other benefits.
  • Involved leadership is key: Leaders need to be engaged in the details with their employees. They should be close enough to know how to help, how to coach and how to encourage. Leaders need to care and provide relevant, in-context feedback. We need involved leaders, not administrators.
  • Don’t keep your athletes on the bench: When a leader creates an atmosphere of creativity without judgment, employees find enthusiasm in their work. Employees want to work, and they want to contribute. Sometimes the best thing a leader can do is to just get out of the way.
  • DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do): Trust is a critical trait of a Leader, both given and received. It’s key to follow up with the things that you say you are going to do and hold others accountable. Accountability is paramount for a thriving culture of performance.
  • Lead by example: People want to follow leaders that can both teach and do. The best leaders know how to do each proportionately.
  • Culture is KING: Key on making this work, is not just to talk about it but to show though action! Your customers, partners and the Industry will know if culture is truly king.
  • Set intentions not resolutions: Intention is less about a specific goal and more about a shift in mindset the help achieve that goal. Companies need to be focused on the journey, and not an endpoint.
  • Now that 2021 is upon us, with the universal rollout of the vaccine, I believe that we will see some normalcy creeping up to our daily lives. However, I also believe the lessons learned during COVID are more important than ever. Long-term business success relies on truly engaged employees.

    Cesar Enciso founded San Diego-based EVOTEK in 2014 and currently serves as CEO. Enciso brings over 30 years of sales, technology and leadership experience holding a variety of positions at companies such as ADP, Cisco, Veritas, Symantec, Trace3 and Technologent. He is also the founder and managing partner for BrickworkX, ZenVRM and serves on the board of directors for Junior Achievement of San Diego. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from Cal State University – Fullerton.

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