I started writing this article back in January 2019, with the intention of publishing immediately following our Innovation Summit held in Miami. During our opening session (and following my karaoke performance of the Humpty Dance), I shared with the company, my view of our road to a billion dollars in revenue. So, why did I wait to publish this a year later?
“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” ~Mark Twain
This pause was my way of being respectful of a business cycle that I may not yet have personally experienced. It was also making sure what I was seeing was accurate. We have hired and continue to attract industry top talent. Our people continue to get recognized for their achievements, to name a few recent ones, Matt Shufeldt, named, “CISO you’d most want to talk to your board,” and David Kotlerewsky for becoming a Cyberforce Hero. Our company is focused on large enterprise customers and their most significant challenges in Data Center, Cybersecurity, Mobility, Platform Engineering, Cloud, and AIOps. Leading with the advisory side of each of these areas and filling in with technology, is a clear differentiator for EVOTEK. No wonder we end up competing with the big consultancies.
EVOTEK: A GROWTH STORY
I flew a week early to Florida to finalize my presentation materials for our 2019 Innovation Summit. As usual, I like to build my “theme” or “message” beyond our numbers right before the event. I find I am much more creative and authentic when I have to meet a deadline. As I was analyzing the numbers, rather than just presenting my “interpreted” view with conclusions drawn, I decided to show my work to the group…in essence, break down our performance, show what the metrics say, show the possibilities of what the metrics could mean, and then the logic behind my assigned meaning. I started writing when I joined EVOTEK with a clear intent to write about topics with the candor and transparency that I believe people would be interested in…or stated a different way, the types of topics I always wished executives would share, if they could just take a moment and put their perspective on paper.
I started out thinking our theme for the QBR would somehow be about our evolution and that we are no longer a small company. EVOTEK is only 5 years old, a major player and now of size, but still nimble with a team full of A-players. It then hit me right in the face…With nearly all of our competitors that have the ability to out-spend, out-scale, out-market us, why are we still growing so fast? Sure, our go-to-market is unique, our capabilities are relevant to our customers. But the stand out was our people. And because of that, I can see us getting to a billion in revenue. That’s right, I can see it. But, the foundation needed to support a billion-dollar company is very different. But, if we plan for $1B now, we will be at a significant advantage during our ascent. And there you have it, “Our Road to a Billion” came to life. Now, I need the nearly 100 employees that we have today to see what I see…and believe it. It’s not that I have a burning desire for EVOTEK to become a billion-dollar company…but it is an obvious consequence of the path we are on.
Becoming a billion-dollar company is the obvious consequence of the path we are on.
Cesar Enciso (founder of EVOTEK) and I talk often about the multiple dimensions of entrepreneurship as it pertains to leadership. We view our company growth in 3 chapters: 1) the Start [0-$32M for EVOTEK] 2) growth & scale [$30M-?] 3) sustaining operations [Big – $1B+], and how each phase is different in what is required of leadership. It has always been natural for Cesar to start something from scratch. He sees opportunity where others cannot. He will often choose a harder path that others don’t take, specifically for the reason that others won’t hustle as he will. Skills I admire. My natural talents are similar, but I thrive in that second phase, where I take an organization that is broken, dysfunctional, disorganized or a combination of the all; and to make it better, scale it into a hyper-growth business, and create a massive cultural following. So there you have it…three phases of a company, from inception to over a billion. Despite my original career visualization of taking over a large organization, I get to be part of building one. And I get to do so without the oversight of a disconnected board, investors that only care about current quarter earnings, private equity that only cares about EBITA or anyone outside of our company with competing interests. Ah, the fruits of being privately held, with no outside investors. With all of this, now creativity can happen to create new from scratch, with the ultimate freedoms, opportunities, and consequences that come with it.
As EVOTEK started, we wrote about our innovative business model. We still write about our market differentiation. There was always a constant peanut gallery of peers in our space that refrain in unison, “it will never work and they won’t survive.” Some might even argue that we should be more stealthy as to not share our “secret sauce.” Personally, I think it’s sportsmanlike to share the plays, show how to run them and still win the game. After all, everyone is really just trying to make a living. We believe there is enough to go around and our interest has never been win-lose. Everyone has their niche and we have found one that is unique, in high demand and has at least a decade of runway.
A mountain always looks bigger from the bottom.
When I started at EVOTEK, our view was to get to $150-200M. At the time, it sounded big. Getting there, in less than 5 years was something we hadn’t imagined. I believe you are either growing or dying. We just didn’t expect to grow as fast as we have. To repeat, I do not have a burning desire to get big — just wanted us to be big enough to be relevant and to be able to attract (and afford) the talent we wanted. The space we are pioneering, with our unique approach being super-relevant in today’s market is inevitable to continue our acceleration. Our customers need help in the areas we cover, in the way that we are delivering. We haven’t even scratched the surface on what we are capable of, which is where this view came from. Wait until you see what comes next!
A FOCUS ON CULTURE
Culture is the single biggest attractor or detractor of top talent to any organization. It’s the best tool we have to retain our employees. I started writing about leadership shortly upon my arrival at EVOTEK. You may recall the article about toxic leadership, #LeadershipMatters, after having an experience on the receiving end of how not to lead. It was true for me, as the statistics state, You Don’t Quit Jobs, You Quit Bosses. When we recruit in, we tell our prospects, if you join EVOTEK, this will be the last job you ever have, as Cesar wrote in his article last year. A bold statement in today’s impersonal, low-loyalty world? Totally!! But everyone talks about it being super-expensive to replace talent…so, let’s just treat them well and retain! We continuously invest and reinvest in ourselves, our people and our culture. We give everyone a voice to make our company better. Every time someone joins the company, they bring something unique and special. They have both an opportunity to be part of our culture and contribute to making it more powerful. Every EVOTEK employee is a brand ambassador to other employees, to our customers, to our partners and to the marketplace. When we reach a billion, and I am asked what got us there, our culture will most certainly be at the heart of whatever we create in the time to come.
Culture at EVOTEK includes giving back to our community. In some cases, competing with our own survival, as we have prioritized charity events, since inception. EVOTEK hosts and drives annual events that benefit organizations such as, Junior Achievement of San Diego, instead of an extravagant holiday party, we invite customers, partners, employees, and their families to help pack 20,000 meals with Rise Against Hunger; and our own Project Gratitude, benefiting the homeless in San Diego. Our company has leveraged our brand and our market reach to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for these great causes. This makes me super-proud to be at a company that does not place their own success or greed above social responsibility.
Leadership is a foundational structure, which can make or break a company. So many companies are stuck without growth because they are missing significant foundational items; such as a robust financial system, a process to support the speed and scale of hyper-growth, a vision of adjacent markets to get into, partner with or compete with. It also means the executive team needs to be constantly reinventing itself to match the current phase of the company growth and to let go of the legacy techniques that once were “cultural to the business.” And as such, with evolution, comes addition. A few years ago, we couldn’t have predicted our executive line-up. Mari Rodish to initially launch our services and currently serves as an industry best CFO. Jason Myers, VP of Sales, who has built an operational cadence that allows our field teams to focus on supporting our customers. Jaeson Galli, VP of Services, to extend our services capabilities from advisory services to innovative solutions that our subject matter experts can deliver for our customers.
Cesar, you have certainly built the modern-day tech dream team!
ADJACENCIES WILL ACCELERATE THE JOURNEY
There is a lot of gibberish in the market about scale or managing scale, or scaling the business. To me, a scale plan is mostly about the plan and a bit about staffing. That’s right…scale does not equal adding people. It may include adding people, but it’s mostly about creating the program, process, the efficiencies and the adjacencies to get a bigger piece of the pie naturally, without evasive action. As an example, look at the platform Amazon built from selling books, to, well, selling everything. They created an efficient route to market for books and found a way to leverage that for everything else. I believe every business has this opportunity, and while it may be hidden, it’s there. Good news for EVOTEK, our scale plan isn’t hidden. We know where we are going to focus, where we need to create efficiencies and where we need to drive adjacencies. If you don’t know what those are, I’ll give you a hint from above: Data center, Cybersecurity, Mobility, Platform Engineering, Cloud, and AIOps. Even more important than that, we are open to the new adjacencies we haven’t mentioned publicly, or even yet found.
EVOTEK: A VALUE STORY
So what was the value in my 12-month pause to publish this article? Last year, I suggested we would get to a billion dollars in 5 years, but now, I have a new more valuable perspective. Most of our local competitors have either been acquired or are for sale. When the motivation of an organization is to be sold, growth is prioritized above all, above culture, above employees and customers. In fact, culture is painful in organizations like that. The EVOTEK growth story was initially our vehicle to get us to a size that we were relevant in the marketplace, and we could afford to hire the talent that we wanted. Now that we are here, I still expect growth. In fact, I expect us to grow much faster than the market. But our focus will be on the culture of our company and delivering quality to our customers.
Will we get to a billion? I believe so…regardless if its 5 years or more, we likely won’t even notice when we pass it by, as we will have our eyes on the next chapter for EVOTEK.
It’s all part of the game…welcome to 2020!