In an exclusive interview with ValiantCEO Magazine, we sit down with Greg Davis, the visionary CEO of Bigleaf Networks, as he shares his insights into navigating uncharted waters and fostering resilience within organizations.
With a career marked by dynamic leadership roles, Davis embodies the essence of adaptability and proactive crisis management. Amidst the turmoil brought by the pandemic and unforeseen events, Davis and his team at Bigleaf Networks faced profound disruptions to their operations and the traditional modus operandi.
The trials that followed were unprecedented, pushing them to the limits of their creativity and resilience. In this illuminating conversation, Davis reflects on his experiences, revealing pivotal moments that transformed challenges into opportunities for growth.
Join us as we delve into Davis’ strategies for cultivating a resilient team, maintaining focus during times of crisis, and communicating effectively within an organization.
Through his words, learn how an unwavering commitment to adaptability, transparency, and innovative thinking can not only weather storms but also propel businesses to new heights of success.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Greg Davis: Hello, I’m Greg Davis, the CEO of Bigleaf Networks. I’ve always been passionate about leveraging technology to simplify and enhance businesses’ connectivity experiences.
At Bigleaf, we’re dedicated to transforming how companies manage their network infrastructure. Our innovative SD-WAN solutions prioritize reliability and performance, ensuring seamless connections and optimal user experiences.
Can you share a time when your business faced a significant challenge? How did you navigate through it?
Greg Davis: The impact of the pandemic, coupled with current events in the Portland metropolitan area, was hard on Bigleaf. The timing was terrible.
Our founder, Joel Mulkey, had just recently pulled in a new investment partner; the business was gearing up for high growth; we were hiring people with the intent of training by way of osmosis; and we depended on in-person events to connect with our partners – and there were a lot of events to attend.
Things were going great. Like most startup software companies, Bigleaf was not producing free cash flow. Bigleaf was dependent on continued high growth in order to maintain the business in its form.
When the pandemic hit, all events were canceled. The Bigleaf office shut down, and the team quickly spread out to 100 employees across 38 states. The workforce looked for sure-footing in other aspects of their lives – to a much larger degree than ever before.
Productivity declined, turnover increased, and the competitive edge Bigleaf carried into the market in previous years was noticeably dull. In response, the founder asked me to step into running day-to-day operations. The business needed to transform into a contemporary operating model with a clear purpose and intent. We recognized Bigleaf’s biggest opportunity was in front of us.
Changes in consumer behavior (online ordering, online scheduling, e-learning) coupled with the rise of cloud application adoption at the network edge (telemedicine, outsourcing contact center) were creating opportunities right in front of us. We brought the business back to its core roots, focused on enabling companies to do business on the internet.
How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Greg Davis: In almost every case I can think of, failure or what felt like failure at the time is precisely what set me and the company up for success.
In December 2019, I was in the process of organizing the HungerRush operation for transformation. At the time, we had rooms full of people, 24 x 7, supporting the needs of >6000 sites. Randomly, a freak mercury spill caused an immediate shutdown of all systems, power, and people in the surrounding area which included my office.
I had no idea how we were going to run the operations. Everything was local: systems, file storage, call routing – everything. We failed to recover the operation. The impact of the failure was minimal as we were degraded for a short period of time. Had we been cut off, the business would likely have failed to recover.
Immediately I kicked off the process to accelerate cloud/internet adoption for all systems and communication. We moved quickly, wrapping up the project in early March of 2020 – two weeks before the pandemic forced us to move into the remote support model, which supports the business to this day. Our team was ready as a direct result of not being ready 90 days earlier.
How do you build a resilient team? What qualities do you look for in your team members?
Greg Davis: Building a resilient team starts with creating an environment where every member feels valued and empowered. At Bigleaf Networks, fostering a culture of intellectual safety is paramount.
Encouraging open dialogue, embracing diverse perspectives, and acknowledging that mistakes are opportunities for growth all contribute to this culture. When team members feel safe to express ideas and concerns without fear of judgment, it not only enhances collaboration but also enables us to collectively navigate challenges and achieve greater innovation and success.
When considering team members, I prioritize a combination of qualities that contribute to our shared success. Resilience is crucial, as our industry is constantly evolving. I also value individuals who bring a clear vision to the table, helping us stay aligned and focused on our goals.
Empathy is another key trait, as it enables us to understand our customers’ needs deeply and deliver solutions that truly resonate. Overall, a blend of these qualities forms the foundation of a strong and dynamic team that can thrive in our fast-paced and innovative environment.
How do you maintain your personal resilience during tough times?
Greg Davis: During challenging moments, I find that maintaining personal resilience requires a multi-faceted approach. I prioritize self-care, ensuring I allocate time for activities that rejuvenate me physically and mentally.
Seeking support from my close network of friends, family, and mentors is also essential for me. Additionally, I focus on maintaining a positive and solution-oriented mindset, using difficulties as opportunities for growth and learning.
This combination of self-care, support, and a resilient mindset enables me to navigate tough times with strength and determination.
What strategies do you use to manage stress and maintain focus during a crisis?
Greg Davis: During a crisis, managing stress and maintaining focus is vital for me to be an effective leader. Firstly, I prioritize clear communication, ensuring that our team remains informed and aligned.
Delegating tasks and responsibilities based on team strengths allows us to address challenges collectively. I try to regularly step back and assess the situation, then adjust strategies as needed. This helps maintain a proactive approach.
How do you communicate with your team during a crisis?
Greg Davis: Open and transparent communication is crucial when navigating a crisis with my team at Bigleaf Networks. I ensure that I am accessible to address questions and concerns promptly.
Regular video meetings and updates help keep everyone informed about the evolving situation and our strategic responses. I highly encourage two-way communication, actively listening to team members’ insights and suggestions, and fostering a collaborative approach to problem-solving.
What advice would you give to other CEOs on building resilience in their organizations?
Greg Davis: I would advise fellow CEOs to focus on building a culture of adaptability within their organizations. Encouraging open communication, where team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns and ideas, fosters a resilient atmosphere.
Embrace change as an opportunity for growth rather than a setback, and lead by example in demonstrating flexibility. Invest in professional development, both for yourself and your team, to equip everyone with the skills needed to navigate challenges.
And always prioritize the well-being of your employees – a supported and motivated team is more likely to weather storms and emerge stronger.
How do you prepare your business for potential future crises?
Greg Davis: Just as we stress the importance of contingency planning to our customers, our preparation for potential future crises involves a proactive approach centered around contingency planning.
We consistently evaluate and update our strategies, identifying vulnerabilities and developing response plans. Regular scenario discussions and simulations help us refine our crisis management protocols.
Additionally, we maintain strong relationships with partners, ensuring a network of support during challenging times. By prioritizing contingency planning, we aim to mitigate risks and position ourselves to navigate any uncertainties that may arise.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership in times of crisis?
Greg Davis: The most important lesson I’ve learned about leadership in times of crisis is the significance of clear and empathetic communication. During challenging moments, being transparent with my team about the situation and the steps we’re taking to address it builds trust and unity.
I’ve also come to understand that being adaptable and open to new ideas is crucial. Encouraging collaboration and embracing diverse perspectives often leads to innovative solutions. Ultimately, maintaining a calm and confident demeanor helps instill confidence in the team and fosters a sense of purpose even in the midst of uncertainty.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Greg Davis for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Greg Davis or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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