Location: Centennial, CO
Industry: Utilities and Telecom
*Second Year Honoree*
Show up, communicate, and keep moving forward.
Aaron Patterson, President of SSP Innovations, always pushes his organization to maximize the current market opportunity presented to them.
“2020 was a very successful year for SSP with double digit percentage growth in revenue and profitability, a large number of new hires added to the team and at the end of the year, SSP’s 4th acquisition, purchasing 3-GIS to help us expand into the Telecom market along with an international presence,” Patterson said. “To handle all of the growth, we began a number of initiatives - standardizing our hiring processes and bringing in a recruiter, creating a standard set of documents and processes for project delivery, and continuing to mature our product organization.”
Knowing it is imperative to train up the team, Patterson knows the benefits of doing this helps the individuals grow with the company and take on additional responsibility.
Patterson explained that from a market perspective, SSP was lucky as their customers are primarily utility companies engaged in long term IT projects.
“This allowed the majority of our contracted work to continue, and our sales pipeline to remain strong. However, the move to remote working when a huge percentage of our work was previously onsite presented a number of challenges that required re-working for each project.”
He said that workshops with customers that were typically weeklong, in-person exercises were converted to online, but also modified to multiple shorter meetings/events that maintained the client’s attention.
“Our marketing efforts switched to online vs in-person - we modified our Illuminate conference to be online over the course of a year as opposed to the in-person event we were planning for May for example. Throughout all of this, my role was providing support and guidance to the team to help them rise to the challenge. Each person throughout the organization was impacted differently - whether it was challenges to people’s mental health in a stressful situation no-one had experienced before, dealing with family issues with no schools available, and even simple things like ensuring people had the appropriate equipment and internet connection at home to be able to continue their jobs each day,” Patterson said. “We rallied to the challenge and we turned a difficult situation into a positive year for the company.”
Acknowledging there were multiple challenges in 2020, Patterson said the biggest one was to maintain the company culture without the in-person contact they were used to, especially during a period of high growth when lots of new employees were joining the team.
“We had relied on our in-person events each quarter to build relationships that weren’t always just focused purely on the work, as well as office time, and removing that ability made it hard.” Patterson said.
He decided to attack the problem head on, forming a companywide Culture Committee to look for ways to maintain the culture despite the inability to meet in person.
“A number of great initiatives came out of that I’m sure will be continued long after we get through this pandemic - things like the “Ask Me Anything” slack channel where we get a willing volunteer/sacrificial lamb to be subjected to any questions any employee wants to ask for an hour every other Friday, and QuaranTEAM Friday’s where we post pictures or stories based on a chosen theme for that week, along with a few small team based social distanced meetups for people who felt comfortable doing that.”
He said they also initiated a new employee meet and greet to have a joint Zoom meeting with all the new employees who have joined in the last month so everyone can get to know everyone, a little of their history and what stuff they’re interested in outside of work.
“We were trying to replicate the bumping into someone in the hall and random lunchroom conversations,” he said.
Patterson said as a leader, it is your job to identify where the company needs to get to and then help the team to get there, even if there isn’t a clearly defined path. That is where a strong leader comes in.
“At a certain point in a leader’s career, success is completely measured by the performance of the company, and the performance of the people who have (and do) work for you,” he said. “At some point you cannot scale yourself any further, and your output is totally dependent on your team’s performance rather than your own personal output. Recognize this and change your work to accommodate this new normal. He added, “Stay curious, and recognize that leadership is sometimes hard, but it can also be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.”
"Stay curious, and recognize that leadership is sometimes hard, but it can also be the most rewarding thing you've ever done."