Kyle Aulerich Of ApostleTech: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Always be looking for ways to improve and inspire the team to adopt the same mindset.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Aulerich.
Kyle Aulerich is a visionary entrepreneur that successfully built his career in B2B software development. He is a Marine veteran and Founder and CEO of ApostleTech, which specialize in integrated solutions for sales, service marketing, and IT to help companies work more productively and foster growth. ApostleTech works with companies and organizations in the construction, homebuilding, financial and nonprofit sectors.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Sure thing. I started my IT career as a PC specialist for a local pharmaceutical company. I ran the Help Desk and answered calls (tickets) for the 300 or so employees. The organization had a large outside sales force, so I spent a decent amount of time on the phone managing issues that came up. My role eventually matured into focusing solely on the Salesforce team. This was also my first introduction to CRM, Customer Relationship Management tools, or back then we called it SFA — Salesforce Automation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’m sure there were a lot. Probably more embarrassing would be the right way of looking at it. I think early on I cared too much about the small stuff. The things that really weren’t moving the business forward or helping to develop the team. I’d focus on details like how our logo looked on the website, or the design of our business cards. Things that seemed critical, but in the end really weren’t. It is good to have great looking marketing materials and to ensure you’re presenting yourself professionally, but I’ve found that those things work themselves out if you have the right team and perspective.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I was very thankful for the IT Manager who first hired me. He really helped me start my career in technology. I didn’t have the credentials, or a four-year degree at the time. He later told me that he saw that I was driven and that I had an appetite to learn. He took a chance on me, and it worked out in the end. The next person I credit with helping me get where I am today was a boss that became my future business partner. While at the same company I eventually moved into a new department that was created specifically to focus on sales technology. It was a small group, just myself and my new manager. He was instrumental in fostering my entrepreneur spirit. Eventually, we both left the organization and started our own company. I understood the technology at a deep level, and he understood the business side. He challenged me constantly and thanks to his mentoring, I was able to eventually blend my in-depth technical knowledge with business execution. We went on to successfully build and grow the new company to the point of an exit. After that experience, I was ready to go out on my own and I launched ApostleTech. Even though we’ve all moved on to new ventures, I keep in touch with both guys.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
I would agree. When I started ApostleTech my focus was to always provide value. ApostleTech is committed to positively impacting its clients, partners, employees, and community. We are passionate about the work we do — designing and delivering software solutions that allow organizations to enhance sales and marketing operations and grow. More importantly, we are dedicated to adding value — helping companies overcome challenges to generate results. I mentioned it briefly, but we are hyper focused on maintaining a strong culture of grace, flexibility, and development. We made the decision to invest in an environment that people like to work in. It starts during our recruitment process and goes all the way through our project delivery. We want to enjoy what we do, enjoy the people we do it with and to be proud of the things we build. We strive for excellence and high performance.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I think a lot of business owners have their own pandemic story. During the past 18 months there was a lot of unknowns. As an organization, we focus on serving a handful of industries, and most of these industries were significantly affected by the pandemic for the better part of 6–12 months. Many of our clients put projects on hold or were debating if they should reconsider their technology roadmap. As everything was in flux, we also had to address our working environment and how we could continue to engage and deliver value to our active clients. Our priority was our team and our employees’ wellness. We always tried to deliver a flexible working environment, and in January 2020 we were already piloting a work-from-home strategy. When the pandemic hit, we had many of the right pieces in place to go fully remote as an organization. We had the right tech; the right operational procedures and we trust our team completely. This allowed us almost zero down-time as we transitioned. I don’t believe our clients ever saw an impact to the service we provided. We were also very quick to communicate our dedication to the team and the organization from an executive leadership perspective. We were honest about the challenges, the risks, and our plans. We had to rethink sales, rethink project delivery, and rethink our operational budgets. However, we kept the team in the loop and solicited their feedback as often as it made sense. While we had a contingency plan in place, we never had to take that step. Since our founding in 2011 we haven’t had to layoff anyone, and we’ve achieved our goals with excellence.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I didn’t. I never thought it was a zero-sum game. When we faced a challenge, I knew there was an answer. It’s not always easy to see, but I think it’s a series of smaller steps towards a larger vision. When you keep the focus on the next step, the paths originally unseen will make themselves clear.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
You must communicate. You must believe in your team and in their ability to get behind a clear and optimistic vision you set. This is assuming you have cultivated the same mind-set with the junior leaders of your team.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
I think people want to know that they matter. Empathy goes a long way. It’s also valuable to get out in front of the team and engage them. Hosting team events, providing value added benefits to the staff, and soliciting and implementing their ideas. Not tolerating poor performance and helping everyone work together in a way that maximizes each person’s strengths.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I’ve found that being honest and straight forward about it is the best approach. Taking ownership of any failures while providing a plan to address the issue also helps. At the end of the day bad news is bad news, no one likes giving it or receiving it. However, if there are ways to mitigate the fallout and present a plan to move-forward, it goes a long way when you must address a difficult issue.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I think one requirement is to know your customers. How will they be affected by volatility and how can you ensure you maintain communication with them. I also believe you need to regularly review your contingency plans; this is especially important during unpredictable times.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I’d say, “seek help” and welcome people to the table. I’ve had many mentors to rely on over the years and I have an executive team that speaks truth into my decisions. While in many cases I have my initial thoughts and ideas around direction or approach, I always bounce that off the team. First, to identify any of the cracks and second to gain buy-in.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
While it’s true that I’ve seen other companies make these mistake, I also know ApostleTech has made these mistakes over the years. They were great lessons to learn from:
- Taking the easy way out, not the right way out. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.
- Tolerating poor performance.
- Focusing more on the business and not the people. People will see this, and it will affect morale, and make an already hard situation harder.
- Taking too long communicating to clients what’s going on. I’ve found that being honest and proposing new engagement strategies can help the relationships long-term.
- Failure to see or anticipate potential issues quickly enough. It’s important to analyze, and war-game out potential scenarios just in case.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
- Build a war chest as best you can. Ensure you can continue to operate on the same budget even if revenue falls off for a bit.
- As early as possible, identify areas you can scale back on if you need to pull the trigger.
- Embrace the new way to work. Yes, I mean going fully remote. Reduce operational overhead.
- Embrace the new way of engaging with clients. Move from on-site visits to Zoom meetings. However, ensure you make these meetings even more productive. Virtual meeting environments can be very productive. Horizon Workrooms and Spatial are good tools.
- Continue to evaluate new lines of business. New solutions and new industries.
- Execute on a campaign to drive more opportunities within existing clients.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Don’t tolerate poor performance and help everyone work together in a way that maximizes each person’s strengths.
- We take a long time hiring the right people. 3–5 interviews to ensure we are investing in high performing people. When mistakes are made, we address them in a constructive weekly team meeting.
- We have gone above and beyond to implement policies that allow our remote employees flexibility in their day, provide comfortable home working environments and time off opportunities.
- Always be looking for ways to improve and inspire the team to adopt the same mindset.
- In our team meetings we set time aside to review what things we could do better, what gaps we’ve identified and then we assign someone to solicit feedback on a fix. We review as a team and then implement the needed changes, if any.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No bad teams, only bad leaders.” — Jocko Willink
I have this quote hanging up in my office and it constantly reminds me that I’m responsible for maintaining and demonstrating high standards, practiced with honesty and humility. My job is serve as an example to my team.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Add ApostleTech LinkedIn page
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Kyle Aulerich Of ApostleTech: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.