Welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview, where we delve into the world of strategic leadership and crisis management with Kevin Akeroyd, the visionary CEO of Sovos—a company renowned for its prowess in navigating complex regulations and propelling businesses to prosper amidst challenges.
In this illuminating conversation, Kevin Akeroyd shares his remarkable journey, enriched by experiences from diverse industries. From his impactful role at Magnit to his transformative leadership at Sovos, Kevin’s insights provide a roadmap for fostering resilience, steering through adversities, and fostering a dynamic team.
Discover how Kevin’s approach to leadership is shaped by the profound understanding that failures and turbulent times harbor unparalleled lessons. Delve into the art of crisis communication, the attributes that define a resilient team, and the strategies that ensure an organization’s preparedness for unforeseen challenges.
Join us as we explore Kevin Akeroyd’s philosophy—one rooted in the belief that true leadership shines brightest in times of turmoil, and that resilience is not just a quality, but a strategic imperative for enduring 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.
Kevin Akeroyd: Thank you for the opportunity to be here. I’m Kevin Akeroyd and I’m the relatively new CEO of Sovos, a company that helps businesses all over the world not only survive, but prosper in the face of complex regulations.
I joined Sovos in June of 2023 having previously served as CEO of contingent workforce company Magnit and prior to that, Cision, a leader in earned media and influencer marketing. My background has largely been focused on SaaS technologies in industries going through disruptive transformation, similar to the regulated economies businesses operate in today.
As countries have continued to digitize economies, the pace of change has been swift and global businesses need the technology solutions and services that solve not just one problem – but serve as a platform to operate across borders and achieve compliance.
Can you share a time when your business faced a significant challenge? How did you navigate through it?
Kevin Akeroyd: During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to manage businesses through a number of difficult and challenging periods. These ranged from tough and competitive markets to talent shortages to global economic slowdowns.
The common theme that emerged in every one of these situations was the importance of surrounding myself with a talented team, aligning that team with a single “north star” and communicating transparently and frequently with all critical communities – employees, customers, and investors.
Businesses and markets are cyclical, practice builds muscle during the ups to mitigate the impact of the downs. Assessing your own operation should never stop. Self-scouting and the ability to identify and address weaknesses before a crisis or downturn hits is what provides the strength and resolve to get you through it.
How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Kevin Akeroyd: You learn much more from tough times and failure than you ever do in periods of sustained success. When things are going wrong, it forces you to reexamine everything, every aspect of your operation, value proposition, and team.
The best organizations bring that critical eye to successful periods and don’t wait for tough moments to make uncomfortable but necessary changes.
How do you build a resilient team? What qualities do you look for in your team members?
Kevin Akeroyd: Building resiliency within your team is a process. You can’t just make a series of hires and say, “here we are, here’s our team that can weather any storm.”
Resiliency is a learned behavior shaped by experiences and practice. I’m a huge sports fan and I liken it to any championship-caliber team: you may have the best talent, but you still need to show up and practice hard and work together to achieve your ultimate goal.
There are a lot of different qualities that can make for a resilient teammate, but ultimately, you want a diverse set of perspectives and skills.
What I often look for are those that are capable of being honest with themselves in the face of adversity and who can evaluate situations fairly. From there, are you capable of making tough decisions, and do you have the ability and skills to execute change?
How do you maintain your personal resilience during tough times?
Kevin Akeroyd: I’m a big proponent of the moniker that tough times don’t last, tough people do. Anyone who has been in business for any period of time can tell you that you are going to experience natural ebbs and flows of successes and tough situations.
Sometimes these are due to factors within your control and sometimes external factors conspire to create some challenging times. What shouldn’t change is the way you approach these situations. To me, I believe in honesty, open dialogue, and transparency.
As the leader of an organization, you sometimes have to make decisions that aren’t popular, but when you are honest about the motivations, communicate truthfully with your team, and always keep the health of the organization as your priority, you will get through any situation and be stronger for it.
What strategies do you use to manage stress and maintain focus during a crisis?
Kevin Akeroyd: During periods of crisis you have to remain focused on the task at hand, but you can’t allow yourself to become consumed by it. I think having a healthy balance in your life provides the right amount of perspective that you need as a leader, even in the worst of circumstances.
Personally, during times of stress I like to get away from it for periods in the mornings or evenings and go for a walk or exercise. I’m a big fan of getting outdoors and doing something to clear my head so that I can approach a problem refreshed and with a new perspective.
How do you communicate with your team during a crisis?
Kevin Akeroyd: As a leader, it is vital to me that I remain calm and transparent. When a crisis does take place it is the role of the senior team to evaluate the situation, develop and execute a strategy and communicate openly.
My teams will tell you that I make decisions quickly during these periods and expect results. They will also tell you that I remain calm and don’t lose sight of other organizational priorities during these periods. You can’t let a bad moment derail you as an organization. This is something I constantly remind my team during tough times.
What advice would you give to other CEOs on building resilience in their organizations?
Kevin Akeroyd: Don’t wait for things to hit the proverbial fan before you start planning for resilience. Anticipate the risks and build strategies to combat them. You won’t think of everything, but the process will be extremely beneficial when something does go wrong.
One of my favorite quotes is from then-General Eisenhower who said, “When it comes to battle, plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” We deal in reality.
Things are going to go wrong. It’s how you are prepared to respond when they do that will separate the organizations that make it through and those that don’t.
How do you prepare your business for potential future crises?
Kevin Akeroyd: Build the muscles that will serve you during a crisis: a solid team, continuous evaluation of your organization and the environment, and a transparent culture.
I would also offer that these steps will not only serve you in the event of a crisis, but they will also enable you to maximize market opportunities when they present themselves.
A strong team and a detailed knowledge of your business will always serve you well, no matter the situation. I can’t stress enough the importance of prioritizing this as a CEO.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership in times of crisis?
Kevin Akeroyd: I grew up in the Midwest where we’d get some really violent thunderstorms during the summers. However, no matter how powerful the storms might be, we knew we had to be prepared to get up the next morning, clean up the mess and get ourselves to work.
My point being, there are going to be tumultuous times in business and in leadership, but you can’t let these consume you or distract you from the bigger objective. Prepare yourself for these moments, stay calm and focused and rely on your teams. Do this and the skies will clear and there will be better days ahead.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kevin Akeroyd 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 Kevin Akeroyd or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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