From ideas to impact. End-of-year interview with Alex Adamopoulos
What are the things that keep a CEO awake at night? How can someone, who has experienced so much, keep feeding his curiosity? What was the best part of being a CEO in 2021?
What was the most exciting idea Emergn brought to life this year?
It was the rebranding of our company. We rolled out a new go-to-market strategy that we’ve been working on for quite a while, changed our colors, and changed our messaging. Rebranding was the final step after a three-year journey of merging different companies and cultures together. I believe for any team and company to be successful, having a focus is crucial. And the new brand for us is an opportunity to really get focused on who we are, and what our purpose and mission are. By rebranding, we’ve explained and defined it explicitly, and we’ve brought the pieces together into a single vision.
What was the best part of being a CEO in 2021?
There are two things that feel absolutely rewarding. One of them was the opportunity to connect with people inside our company from all over the business – to communicate our vision, the importance of where we’re going, and help them understand how to explain it to others. It’s my personal goal to make sure I’m connected and available to our people.
And the other exciting thing this year was working with the market more closely, to understand how Emergn looks from an external point of view. What we’ve learned about ourselves is that the market views us as a highly-skilled and qualified competitor. They view us as an emerging, growing brand, and, for me personally, it’s extremely satisfying to receive that feedback. Sometimes it’s not always ‘rainbows and butterflies’, because you’re very close to the work and the challenges of running a company. And it’s great to have somebody outside of the company saying: “Your team does amazing work!”
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for businesses in 2022?
All the research around digital space demonstrates that the need for digital transformation work will remain very important at least for another eight to ten years.
What are the things you’re thinking about as a CEO?
People sometimes think that most of the time, as a CEO of Emergn, I’m with the customer, dealing with finances, building go-to-market strategies… But actually, my entire week usually spins around people’s topics. Are we doing the right things for our employees? Where should we invest to be a better employer? Do we provide the right working environment? Are we competitive with compensation? Do we provide the right benefits? Could we do more in the social responsibility area?
I’m always thinking about what’s next for us and how we bring our people together. One thing particularly important for me this year was remote work. How does our culture evolve along this model of working? How do we build productivity? How do we build community and relationships? It’s much harder now as you have to find more creative ways to accomplish it, but it’s not impossible.
Talking about the culture, what are the challenges Emergn is facing these days?
As any other international organization, we have people from different cultures, from all walks of life, people who have grown up with very different views and mindsets. Therefore, it would be a wrong approach asking them all to think about the company in a similar way. It’s the opposite – we want to celebrate different point of views, regardless of where people come from, meanwhile staying aligned on common mission and values.
One of my favorite statements is that alignment and agreement are not the same. We don’t have to agree on everything. But we have to be aligned on the single vision and the purpose of the company. We can discuss our disagreement, but we know that our mission is still to improve the way people and companies work, forever. We may have different views about how to get there, and that’s what makes the company’s culture work.
The other side of that coin is that we’re all part of the answer. When I’m asked to answer the question “How’s the culture at Emergn?”, my answer is that it’s largely what our people make it. So, if you join Emergn, you’ll help us influence and shape our culture. We want to have a culture that helps all of us be better.
Employees’ sense of belonging has become a very common topic over the last couple of years. What would you say is the reason for that?
Belonging is important because we’re in a high-demand talent market and the type of people we’re looking for can actually work anywhere. And I recognize that people make a very personal choice when they come to work with us. So, we have to be very humble and mindful that we all need to work a little harder to make this a special place to belong, and actually feel like this has been a good decision for them and their families to join us.
One of the famous quotes from Peter Drucker was that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I do think the way we make decisions as a company strongly influences our culture. And that doesn’t only come from a person’s manager, that comes from the whole company. Also, a sense of belonging goes both ways. It isn’t just about taking. I think giving back and finding ways to contribute is what ultimately makes an employee great versus good. I have seen so many examples of that in Emergn, like some of our teams in their local cities proactively having a weekly call just to socially catch up and talk about what’s been going on in the week. I’ve seen some people getting involved with charity work as a way to give back and help people that are less fortunate. I’m also receiving lots of ideas from across the business suggesting how we can do better. These are just a few examples of how I’ve seen it coming to life.
How did you feed your curiosity this year?
I’ve always loved to read, but this year I changed my topic. Instead of business or spiritually-minded books, I’ve spent a lot of time reading extraordinary biographies, learning about other people’s lives, discovering what made them important and what their life lessons were.
From a business perspective, I’ve always been fascinated by the life of Peter Drucker, as he’s had such a huge impact on evolving the people-centered approach to business management. On a personal level, I’m equally fascinated by C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, as he has impacted millions of people through his books and his ability to be a great thinker.
How will you spend the holiday season?
I will spend the holiday season with my family and friends, slowing down a little to have more human, more personal conversations. This is also a time for me to reflect and do almost kind of a personal retrospective of the year – what worked really well? What could I have done better? What challenges am I still facing?
I also hope for a bit of rest and rejuvenation, as we have the biggest year in the history of Emergn ahead. Now that we’ve built the foundation and completed the rebranding work, it’s going to be the year we invest the most. We have a lot of positive and exciting changes coming.