The annual AHRI Awards celebrate those at the top of their game in HR. Four individual winners share thought leadership insights and weigh in on the biggest challenges facing HR. This week’s spotlight: Lynda Gratton CEO Award co-winner Karl Redenbach, founder and director of nSynergy OSC.
Q. With your business partner, you established nSynergy in 2002 and cloud operation OSC in 2008. Business has since grown to 11 offices on four continents. Along the way, what has been the most valuable business lesson?
KR That culture and brand values are not fluff. [Business partner] Peter and I decided that, if we were going to stick at this, then we’d better recruit people who shared our values. These have become the pillars of our company: respect, humility, accountability, passion, honesty and entrepreneurship. We soon found ourselves connecting to like-minded businesses around the world. nSynergy started a new chapter when we joined forces with rhipe, the cloud channel company, last year. It’s a company that very much shares our brand values.
Q. In 2013 you completed an Owner Principal Management Course at Harvard University. Best advice from that course?
KR That you must empower your people. If you can’t, it comes down to one of two things: you’ve hired the wrong people, or you’re not prepared to back yourself. The adage “If you want it done properly, then do it yourself” is often used to justify micro-managerial tendencies. But such an attitude will become the chief blocker of growth.
Q. You’ve heavily invested in building a flexible online community, with your business partner Peter being based in Melbourne and you being based in New York. Advice for operating across multiple time zones?
KR It comes down to drinking your own champagne. Building and designing platforms for enterprise that inspire collaboration, connection and social bridging are at the core of nSynergy’s offerings. Our global team is the ultimate case study for our customers. Any day of the week, in our company’s social feeds you’ll see questions posed by consultants in, say, Sydney, receiving responses from experts from Shanghai, New York or Mexico City. The sharing of IP and real-time knowledge is powerful. You can watch the global team grow in leaps and bounds. My advice to leaders operating across multiple time zones would be to encourage online social interaction. People who trust and like each other share with each other. Conversely, if you nurture a culture of gatekeepers and blockers, you can’t expect dynamic growth patterns. This has been one of the great paradigm shifts of our age – the democratisation of knowledge – and yet, it surprises me that this is not always reflected in the business world.
Q. In the past 18 months, your company has secured a stronghold as a Microsoft partner, allowing your people to work with Nike, Tiffany and GAP. How do you motivate your team to attain such success, despite the relatively diminutive size of your business?
KR Being a lean and agile team doesn’t equate to ‘diminutive’ thinking. Being agile means you can turn on a 50-cent piece, and in our industry that’s a strength. Retail giants like GAP or Walmart, I liken to the QE2. Huge vessels cutting through the ocean, powerful beyond measure, except when it comes to a change of direction. The QE2s rely on our foresight and ability to bring them the best results and, if that means last-minute changes to scope and/or direction, then we can do that quickly and efficiently without blowing out deadlines (and for huge corporations time is often more of a factor than budget). The motivation for the team is embedded in the fact that they are hired not to take orders but to be a ‘special forces unit’ that goes forth and conquers. A successful deployment inevitably culminates in lots of celebratory activities and fanfare.
Q. What are three challenges facing Australian CEOs in 2015?
- Getting their people to adopt and respond to technology that is crucial for keeping up with the competition.
- Acknowledging the customer as an individual. The online marketplace has empowered them with choice, knowledge and instant feedback. Responding to the customer in real time will remain a huge challenge for many organisations in 2015.
- Your people are your brand. Anyone who has anything to do with customers (even those who aren’t face-to-face) will either directly or indirectly affect brand perception. Holistic marketing transcends the marketing department. It is now the responsibility of every employee to reflect the right brand values.
Applications for the 2015 AHRI Awards are now open. Find out more.