Workplace dynamics have changed significantly since the outbreak of the pandemic. Leaders of organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to make a remote workforce feel connected to their organization’s purpose, vision, and values. Furthermore, anxiety levels have been quite high in the workforce due to changing healthcare conditions, inflation, and other socio-economic reasons.
CEOs are discovering that a traditional leadership style that is singularly focused on financial results might not be effective in the current environment. We find that more leaders are reinventing themselves in the post-pandemic era to embrace an empathetic style of leadership.
Naveen Rajkumar, the CEO and President at ISOutsource, believes that a laser focus on people experience has helped ISOutsource create thriving communities of happy, productive, and supported businesses. Naveen and his team have been successful in balancing the priorities of shareholders, clients, and team members by adopting a modern leadership style.
Experiences that Shaped the Leadership Style
Naveen grew up in an era when technology revolutionized the way people lived (mobile phones, dial-up and broadband internet, messaging apps, etc.). His curiosity and desire to understand the “magic” behind those technological transformations led him to pursue his engineering studies in computer science.
After his graduation, he has worked in the technology industry for over 23 years in various roles and has been part of some amazing organizations that made a difference in the world.
Naveen spent close to ten years writing code for some of the most popular consumer software products that are still being used in the market. One of his early managers encouraged him to try a management role. This role allowed Naveen to discover his financial acumen, business skills, and people management skills, and as the General Manager of a business unit, he was able to discover a passion for coaching, mentoring, and developing people on his team.
Even though we are a tech company, we believe that we are all about people
Customer delight was something Naveen cared about since his early days in leadership. His relentless focus on the needs of his clients and his empathetic approach towards solving client problems led to one of his top clients offering him a job to join their C-Suite. His transition to the role of Chief Information Officer/ Chief Technology Officer at a public company helped him to learn the art of shareholder management at a time when the country was coming out of a recession.
“Delivering the best people experience does not stop with how shareholders, clients, and team members are treated” says Naveen. He believes that this also extends to anyone who is connected in any way to the business, including vendors, contractors, and anyone else who touches the business. Naveen developed a reputation of being fair in his dealings with vendors and partners and it is through one of those relationships that he got his next big break. He was offered the role of EVP and Chief Business Officer by one of his vendor organizations and this led to an exciting time in Naveen’s career during which he positively altered the growth trajectory of the organization.
It is very evident through Naveen’s career that a people-centric leadership style could be remarkably effective. All these cumulative experiences led him to his current position as President and Chief Executive Officer of ISOutsource. Naveen also serves on the board of two nonprofit organizations.
Helping Small and Medium-sized Businesses Thrive
ISOutsource came into existence in 1992 and has served thousands of clients in Washington, Arizona and Oregon. “We are proud to be trusted advisors to our clients” says Naveen. “Our ~100-member team serves 600+ active clients today. Most of our new business comes from existing client referrals and we are proud of our client satisfaction scores (Net Promoter Score > 70) as well as our client retention metrics”, he continues. “We are poised for high growth in the post-pandemic era and our transition to a modern technology consulting firm will help us stay on the right side of innovation in our products and services to our clients” he proudly asserts.
I am reminded every day about the need for empathy in my interactions with anyone I encounter
ISOutsource serves law firms, accounting firms, financial services firms, construction firms, restaurants, healthcare firms, non-profit organizations, fire districts, startups, and many other technical and non-technical organizations. Small and medium-sized business owners have realized that technology is the backbone of their businesses, and it can no longer be dismissed as a “necessary evil.” Furthermore, many business owners are disappointed by their inability to find and hire top technical talent for their business in a competitive job market. Without the right expertise, technology programs can be complex, expensive, and risky.
ISOutsource relieves business owners of this burden by either supplementing their in-house technical team or taking over full IT (Information Technology) operations and cybersecurity management responsibilities. Clients have found it increasingly beneficial to ‘outsource’ this critical function to ISOutsource (a team that is 100% based in the United States). They have seen that ISOutsource helps them simplify, save, and protect their businesses from internal and external threats.
ISOutsource helps their clients get more out of their IT investment by giving them practical advice and the best engineering help at the most optimized cost. ISOutsource also has the state-of-the-art tools and the expertise to help their clients stay secure and compliant. Business owners are beginning to see the need to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach in their technology journey. They realize that being strategic about technological choices can help transform their business and increase revenues, decrease operating costs, while minimizing business risk. ISOutsource is the modern technology firm that helps them successfully make this transition.
During the pandemic, one of the first training courses that Naveen personally conducted for the entire organization was on the topic of “Listening Skills”. This came in very handy since businesses were struggling in different ways and needed a tremendous amount of flexibility from their service providers. ISOutsource did not raise their bill rates for their clients for two consecutive years even though they incurred huge increases to their cost structure in the form of salary raises and increased healthcare benefits costs to support their team. This empathetic approach was appreciated by clients who stay with ISOutsource for an average of 7.42 years even though they are not bound by a contract and can walk away at any time.
We are proud to be trusted advisors to our clients
Building an Empathetic Workplace
“Even though we are a tech company, we believe that we are all about people. Our organization culture is shaped towards delighting our team members, our clients, and our shareholders in every single interaction” says Naveen.
ISOutsource’s HR department is dubbed “People Experience,” and while this may appear to be just a different term for the same function, it was done intentionally to demonstrate that ISOutsource cares about providing a fantastic experience for their team members. The organization strives to make work more enjoyable, meaningful, and impactful.
“Our Culture Club (comprised of team members from various departments) produces creative ideas to bring people together (in a physical or virtual forum). From all-company virtual trivia games to pop-up happy hours at various locations around the city, we try to bring together team members in fun settings.” shares Naveen.
At ISOutsource, every team member has the chance to make an impact on the community around them. Their work directly influences the community’s small and medium businesses. When thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises are successful, they create jobs in the local economy, resulting in thriving communities. Naveen and his team have seen how their technology consulting has helped businesses shift to novel business models, stay protected from cybersecurity fraud, and save money by using technology effectively, especially during the pandemic.
Furthermore, Naveen recognizes that for all of this to be scalable & sustainable, team members must feel supported and heard on a daily basis. To make this possible, a virtual feedback channel was introduced that is always open to team members. Anyone can send anonymous or non-anonymous feedback to the leadership team, and responses from the leadership team are sent to the entire company in their weekly “High Five” emails. “This helps us to actively listen to our team members and be intentional in addressing their suggestions/ concerns. Team feedback has helped us completely overhaul our training academy, bonus policies, flexible workforce policies, among many other critical areas,” says Naveen.
ISOutsource is intent on giving back to the community in tangible ways. They have partnered with nonprofit organizations (many of whom are their clients) to make an impact and create a thriving community around them.
A Piece of Advice for New and Upcoming CEOs
Naveen believes that CEOs cannot be fully effective if they operate in a climate of fear and uncertainty. Fears of a recession and fluctuations in the global economy could impact the decision-making process of a CEO. Instead of focusing on what they cannot control, Naveen recommends that they focus on factors that are well within their control. This includes:
- Ensuring that their products and services do not become irrelevant
- Ensuring that they are predicting, innovating, and adapting to the needs of their clients and changing consumer behaviors
- Ensuring that client service is top-notch and that existing clients get maximum Return on Investment (ROI) for every dollar they spend
- Ensuring that they genuinely take care of the needs of their team members and creating a workplace that is happy, productive, and supported