My Thoughts on Business Culture
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Since the start of my career, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about business, people, and culture. It started early when I was a junior software engineer at General Electric. Having been developing, and commercialization software products for more than 2 decades, I’ve always been fascinated by the people around me. What I really found intriguing, is how individuals can flourish given the right leadership and environment.
Today, I am the CEO and founder of Innovative Software Solutions (ISS), a growing software development firm located in Charlottesville. Having my own company has been no different. The markets we play in are rapidly changing with new technologies, which creates relentless disruption. Many businesses see threat in that pace of change, but for a software company like ISS, disruption is a provocation leading to opportunity. And, while some organizations struggle to stay relevant, a few are clearly thriving.
I believe the following areas of excellence are required for an organization to succeed:
1. Clarity of purpose
Most businesses find themselves spending more time working in their business, rather than on their business. There is a struggle to break the daily routine of falling prey to the common "there is not enough time" conundrum. However, overcoming this obstacle will allow a business to achieving new heights. Clarity allows a business to do what is important, and purposeful, for their clients. It creates an environment for better decision making, while reducing ambiguity, conflict, and stress. The outcome is improved efficiency. Clarity is a game changer which drives success for businesses, organizations, and individuals alike.
2. Talented people
To attract smart, talented, and, innovative individuals is one thing, but it is another challenge to retain them. Organizations who succeed at retaining talent have a great advantage over their competitors. By putting the time and effort, to nurture and reward talent, organizations create a clear path to better products and services for their clients. Today, the best organizations free their people through less hierarchy, and more empowerment. They promote an environment that allows people thrive and work together to reach their full potential. For the employee it is challenging work, but much more gratifying. This results in less dependency on the individual hero, and more so, on team success! That is the formula for a successful software company. If there is a secret sauce here at ISS, I am happy to report this is it. Working amongst our talented group of people has been the most rewarding for me personally.
3. An Agile mindset
To succeed in this business, and to successfully deliver technology solutions that will drive business growth, requires a change in mindset. Not only must business processes and technology adapt to be nimbler, but the people behind the technology must also adapt. If disruption creates opportunity, an organization must be lean and malleable enough to capitalize on it. This obviously means focusing on speed, time saving methodologies, and automation, while delivering accurate products through continual client engagement. But being fast, flexible, and adaptable requires a cultural commitment. An understanding that true transformation never ends. Organizations should always look for continuous improvements and constant desire to beat past performances. ISS succeeds by shedding the old, and embracing the new. We succeed by knowing nothing is too precious to change, and by having the commitment to adapt, even when it’s difficult.
4. Excellence everyday
It is easy to assume that this is given, but too many organizations settle for less. Excellence in products and services has to be non-negotiable, and driven by a focus on their customer success. Successful organizations deliver products that match their customer promise and satisfaction, no matter how big, how small, or how difficult. In addition, these high standards attract the top talent as people want to work in an organization renowned for customer success.
I don't believe there is a proven formula for success, particularly when it comes to innovation. Innovation requires actionable insights that excite customers and can bring in new markets. It would be nice to just say that we are all a bunch of geniuses. But the reality is that we rely on our insights by methodically and systematically scrutinizing these areas: a valuable problem to solve, a technology that enables a solution, and a solution model that generates profit. Since innovation is a complex, company-wide endeavor, it requires a set of crosscutting practices and processes to structure, organize, and encourage it. ISS’s environment works by promoting, collaboration, learning, and experimenting. We help each other, and our clients, by sharing ideas and knowledge freely. This ensures the lessons learned from success and failure are captured, allowing ISS to use the best practices for future innovation.
In these times of decreased resources, ever-increasing demands for services, and increased competition, all businesses would be smart to pursue a strategy of organizational excellence. Having done a self-assessment, I believe ISS is uniquely positioned to thrive. ISS is a software development firm with these traits in our DNA. Combined with the talent, innovation, and commitment I have seen from its staff, I have enormous confidence in what this business can, and will achieve!