CEO Lessons: The Top 10 Things I Learned in Celerity’s 10 Years

By Michael Berkman, President and CEO View Comments

CEO Lessons: The Top 10 Things I Learned in Celerity’s 10 Years

Where has the time gone? 2012 marks the 10thanniversary of Celerity. When I formed the company with my partners in 2002, I never imagined we would grow this fast in such a short amount of time. And I never imagined we'd launch a blog! I'm really excited to see all that is planned for this new blog site and hope you will follow our upcoming posts.

Serving as CEO of Celerity over the past ten years has been a thrilling and enriching experience. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful leader—from running a $10 million to a $100 million business—and everything in between. Here are the best lessons I’ve learned across our zero to $100m growth in the past 10 years. Counting down, Letterman style:

  1. Leadership Matters. I’ve learned it’s most important to lead and grow your people by imparting your vision and goals—then gain buy-in and give them the tools and autonomy they need to flourish. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your people achieve success. CEO Lesson: There are many skills required to be a good leader; if you’re not paying attention you will miss some.

  2. Hiring excellent people is the most important job of any leader. It is not easy to hire the best person for the job, but it is essential. You need to find people who are not just a good fit based on talent, but also a good fit culturally. Creating a team of employees who work well together will lead to excellence. CEO Lesson: Integrity with all people, all the time.

  3. Know Your Weaknesses.I’ve learned it’s important to know my blind spots and tackle them head-on so I can become a better leader. People have a tendency to avoid their weaknesses, and I’m no exception, but that won’t help me grow. CEO Lesson: Don’t be afraid to do the hard things. Leaders need to know how to communicate both good and bad news effectively.

  4. Technology is a Constant Variable – the evolution of technology is ever increasing – like Moore’s Law it’s dynamic and constantly changing. Therefore, the requirements for technology services are ever-evolving. Organizations must be resilient, flexible and responsive on an ongoing basis. CEO Lesson: Technology is never “once and done.”

  5. Flexibility is a Strategic Differentiator.What works for one customer won’t necessarily work for another. We learned this early on and stayed away from committing to one particular technology platform, tool, or methodology. Instead, our teams provide an unbiased approach to each problem and are empowered to find the best solution for each client’s unique situation. This type of flexibility, combined with our ability to engage with clients in the manner they prefer, has led to our continued success. CEO Lesson: One size does not fit all.

  6. VMS Works for Some, Not All.Certain organizations can outsource IT requirements well, while others cannot. The VMS debate will continue, because it can work for some companies and against others. If you use it to manage cost and productivity, you risk marginalizing talent, alienating hiring managers and losing value. CEO Lesson: Don’t forget the human side to VMS. (Keep an eye out for more on this in a future post)

  7. It’s Harder to Grow Something Focused than Shotgun. When we were small, the shotgun approach worked for us. But as we got bigger, we had to double down, become more focused, structured and disciplined. This requires a lot of change management, education and some hand-holding. Today we have focused practice areas that evolved and offerings around our core expertise. Lesson: Being all things to all people doesn’t work.

  8. Commercial & Government are not the Same.There are more differences than similarities between growing a government and commercial business. We started out heavily commercial, launched Celerity Government Solutions (CGS) in 2008 and used a blended model. Over time, we came to realize they were really very different business types requiring separate business models, operating structures and support resources. CEOLesson: Know your industries and what they need to succeed.

  9. A Unified Brand Pays Dividends.Developing one solid, clear brand is critical for alignment in the organization. As we grew and expanded regionally, our brand became fragmented and turned into lots of little brands. Lacking a well-articulated brand message caused confusion inside and outside the organization. By building a solid brand, our employees are more empowered to fulfill their potential and our clients know why we exist.... to accelerate business results! CEOLesson: You need to keep your company united as you grow.

  10. The Customer is King.Servicing our customers is the most important thing we do. A deep “thank you” to all of our customers who have gotten us to where we are today. We owe our success to you and your willingness to invest in us. We are truly grateful. CEO Lesson: Building strong relationships will lead to success.

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