Great companies focus on creating massive value for their clients. One part of that is having employers that are client advisors. Today’s guest is Abhijit “AV” Verekar, President & CEO at Avèro Advisors. Inc Magazine ranked his company #721 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Avèro Advisors is an “end to end” information technology advisory firm that positions our clients for success through the effective application of tailor-made technology management strategies. AV and I look at the power of creating client advisors within your company. Learn the essential aspect of client advisors, so you leverage the power too.
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Abhijit “AV” Verekar: The Transcript
About: AV is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with over fifteen (15) years of experience serving the public sector as an IT advisory professional. He has extensive experience leading IT and organizational modernization initiatives with State and Local government agencies across the United States and Canada. Over the years, he has helped his clients achieve significant efficiencies through IT strategic planning, cybersecurity, business process redesign, project management & implementation, and general advisory & stewardship when dealing with substantial organizational and technological changes (e.g., teleworking support to response to COVID-19 pandemic).
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: [00:00:00] We find value in helping our clients cut through that noise and doing what’s best for the client and being their trusted advisor is something that gets me out of bed every day. It keeps me going. , and I know that the work is not done here. Yes, we’re on the Inc 5,000 fastest-growing companies list, but we haven’t served all the clients that I hope to serve. So doing the best for our clients acting in their best interests and being the client’s trusted advisor is, is the core principle of our company.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Every business I know is in the business of serving clients and that business takes employees that understand the nuances of how to be client advisors. So in today’s episode, we look at how to get your employees. To become client advisors. We look at [00:01:00] this through the lens of the founder of Avero Advisors and his name is AV. , there’s a full name to this, but he goes by AVS. So that’s what we’ll be calling him today. If you think about your job as a leader, you want to make sure that you are getting your employees to think about how they’re serving clients, becoming client advisers. In this episode, we look at the importance of hiring the right people, how to use values across the organization. How to communicate effectively and really why that’s so important. And all of these are very common things, but we also look at what has to change in your leadership style. As you grow your company, all of these things packed inside this episode. Now, one of the things I want to make sure that you understand what I do for a living is not just be a podcast host. I actually am an executive coach. My job is to help my clients. Grow and they grow their businesses. They grow as leaders. They grow their teams effectiveness and everything grows. So if you’re interested in what your growth strategies are, and what’s really getting in the way of your growth, so let’s have a conversation.
I can’t do this for everyone, but I put [00:02:00] time on my calendar each week to have one or two conversations with people just like you, that want to get much more clear about how they’re going to move forward and get more confidence and clarity with their leadership and growth strategies. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. So if you want to kind of get into the mindset of an executive coach, and this is not about you enrolling into my programs, we are absolutely full, but I want to serve you. I want to make sure that I’m creating the relationship long-term for my business because that’s what I’m here to do. So if you want to schedule those calls, just go to Genehammett.com and schedule your call today. Inside that call, we will figure out what’s going on. Yeah. We’ll identify the blind spots and help you move forward and even put together a plan. Everything is free to you, and there’s no obligation to work with me at all. They’re not even gonna be pitched. I just want to make that clear and we want to build those relationships and I want to serve you beyond just you listening to the podcast.
So just go to Genehammett.Com and schedule your call now here’s the interview with AV.
AV, how are you?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Good Gene. You?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. We’re going to have a great conversation here today, and I’m really excited about the topic, but before we get to there, tell [00:03:00] us about your company. , Vero advisors
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Vero is an IT modernization consulting firm. We’re based. Just outside of Knoxville in Maryville, Tennessee, we do business all over the country, specifically serving state and local governments that need help modernizing their operations. Right? So most governments are in my experience, 15 to 20 years behind in their technology. , and we help them strategize and come up to speed and at least come to the early two thousand through our services.
Gene Hammett: I know governments are usually are slower to react. I worked on a government project and consulting. In the state of Georgia for Y2K, you’re probably too young for Y2K.
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: I remember.
Gene Hammett: Everybody was updating their systems and sunsetting systems. And so we went in and did an inventory of everything I know today. It’s a completely different experience, technologies, very different cloud, and speed and security. When you think about, you know, growing a company to the size you have, now you have about 22 employees that right. When you think about, you know, getting to where [00:04:00] you are and creating the kind of success, what are the key principles that you focus on?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: So, so primarily it’s, it’s doing the best for the client, right? I mean, there’s a lot of opportunities to sell products and services to governments that we deal with, that, that haven’t been sold to before, or they’re so far before. They, they can’t even leapfrog. So there’s a lot of noise in terms of what’s being sold to our clients and the volume of how many salespeople are calling on the mayors and city managers to buy the next best thing and to look at their you know, bells and whistles. So we find value in helping our clients cut through that noise and doing what’s best for the client and being their trusted advisor is something that, you know, gets me out of bed every day. It keeps me going. , and I know that the work is not done here. Yes. We’re on the Inc 5,000 fastest-growing companies list, but we haven’t served all the clients that I hope to serve. So doing the best for our clients, acting in their best interests, and being the client’s trusted advisor is, is the core principle of our company here.
Gene Hammett: I’m [00:05:00] going to dive into this because I think one of the big things that we have a challenge, all leaders is how do we get our employees? To, to really serve our clients the way we want them to. And I think that’s what you’re saying. Right? How do we really align together to serve these, these clients that have trusted you, the promises you made through the sales process? , so what are the keys to getting your employees to be the trusted advisors?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Great question, Gene. It’s a tightrope, right? I started this company from, from nothing. It was just me and selling yourself as one thing and, and setting the vision and telling your clients what you’re going to do for them yourself. Is one thing, but then growing it and cloning yourself as a really, really challenging process. So I start with hiring the right people, not necessarily the right skillsets, but hiring the right people that fit the culture that fit my vision and then training them and teaching them the tool sets and the, and the trade, the common thread in all of this is that, that the people that come on board to work at Avero, I’m looking for people that care I’m looking to hire and [00:06:00] fire quickly so that we’re not wasting time on each other. And I’m really driving home the point that we don’t need to know the ins and outs of any ERP system or a tech stack to do the right thing for the client. It’s pretty apparent when the right thing isn’t being done by someone
Gene Hammett: hiring the right people is a real common thing. And this is something that comes up a lot, but I want to dive into the real aspects of it. It’s not just about the skill set it’s about the culture fit and about them hearing. How do you make sure that that happens?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: So leading with values is, is something that, that we’re big on and we’re constantly tweaking our values. We’re going to have a leadership retreat here in January that we’re really going to hone in on what those values are for. As we grow, we have to make sure that there’s not different versions of who we are. Right. We don’t always work in the same office, post COVID correct client sites. We’re working from home. The challenge remains not just for us, but with companies like us to make sure that we’re all driving in the same direction.
The other thing that. I tend to do is, is put a reliance on [00:07:00] outcomes and the ownership of outcomes. Yes, I’m the leader of this company, but everyone in their own right. Is a leader. And when they’re out representing a Vero or me, they have the license and the breadth of operations to do what I would do or what they think is best for the company and for the client. and then they own the outcomes. So, so at the outset, that’s the training, here’s the parameters. Here are the values go out and do good. These are the outcomes we expect.
Gene Hammett: You just mentioned two of the common themes, most common themes across the entire podcast, which was values is one and the other one’s ownership. Let’s separate those a little bit. What will we see inside your organization that might be even a little bit unique or different perspective of how you use values? To ensure that everyone stays aligned.
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: So communicating a values is critical. And I don’t think we’ve done that really well. So far. Of course, fast-growing companies can’t necessarily spend all their time doing that. What seems to be esoteric, right? The CEO is the lead sales guy. He’s the lead project manager, but we’re at the point where I really have a good team and I can separate myself and start thinking about [00:08:00] things like values and, and how to inculcate the sense of ownership. And to employees that, that, that are new or even seasoned. we do a lot of team building. There’s a lot of open communication. We do a lot of on the spot feedback. I mean, there, there is a cycle of HR reviews every year, but that’s not, when people get real feedback, people get feedback when stuff happens, it’s real, it’s, it’s timely and it’s, and it’s heartfelt. So that what I’m trying to drive home. Is again doing right by the, by the client does right by the company and by themselves. So ownership isn’t necessarily just the task ownership in terms of client satisfaction. Getting follow on sales for the company comes out of client satisfied clients, and that makes our employees grow financially and, and along in their careers.
Commentary: Just a second, AV just talked about communicating the value. You want to make sure that you’re communicating them on a regular basis. You want to fit them into rituals that you have inside your meetings, inside the decision-making process or development of employees. There’s many different areas which values can touch and people [00:09:00] just don’t think about them. You have them, but are you using them effectively? Are you really operationalizing around the values? Well, I’ve got a lot of research around this, but one area that feels it’s so easy to incorporate is called the shout-out inside of the meeting, the first three to four minutes. All you have to do is lead the way and say, we’d like to recognize someone on our team for this value, a name, the value, and you can do this yourself. You can recognize someone that you’ve seen doing, or you can ask for others to say, who has demonstrated this value, who is living it to the fullest extent, and talk about that for a few minutes. Give them recognition. Even if they’re not in the room, it actually benefits everybody because it lets them know that values are important. The shout-out in the meeting, it can be cascaded down across many teams. And be used in some of the first few minutes and is a great way to start off recognizing positive things that’s going on in the organization. And the value is it’s just a part of that ritual. So I just want to share that with you as a way to communicate the values effectively over time, back to AV.
Gene Hammett: You jumped into the ownership, a little bit of advance, the values. Thing [00:10:00] is such an important piece to this. And usually one of them is something around ownership. I get this concept of ownership of outcomes, but how do you explain it to your employees so that they get it?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: It really comes down to clear and constant communication. You know, especially in newer employees that are in a certain role that may not have been in consulting before. Like I’ve got some employees that are from banking that are from other parts of the industry that, that don’t necessarily understand what, what ownership is. Right. If you’re taking a day off, does that mean your, your tasks go undone? Does that mean that your function remains and done while you’re gone? How much ownership did you take of the time that you were on vacation to make sure. That you communicated that somebody else might have take that up. , so that the function doesn’t get left behind. , a lot of it is process-driven. Like I said, we’re getting better at doing what we’re doing now. We’ve, we’ve made we’ve grown more with, with the same amount of people in the last two years, which means that we’re doing something right in terms of automation and processes. And that’s the key element that I. Constantly strive to communicate. It’s not [00:11:00] about you yourself, your bigger part of the machine that serves the clients. And it’s not going to work if you’re not going to communicate and be accountable to not just your position, but everyone around you that leans on you to do your functions.
Gene Hammett: I want to switch gears a little bit. Av, you talked about the employees and getting them to be the advisors that you want them to be. What has had to change in your style of leadership to create the company you have today?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Gosh so much. So again, going from leading myself to leading 21 other people, the whole other ballgame, right? It’s, it’s a challenge personally, to find another gear in terms of motivation and passing that along to those 21 people it’s gone from hands-on management. To constantly and, and consciously thinking about leadership to different things. I’ve had to transition from being a manager. And sometimes I have to fall back on being a manager. When, you know, going back to ownership someone isn’t taking ownership, I have to step in and do management stuff. But my constant, I strive constantly to become a better leader and a different leader every day, as the situation [00:12:00] rises, I can tell you. COVID was as challenging to us as everyone else. Right. In the beginning, we didn’t know anything. we were making spreadsheets on, on how many people let go? Who do we need? Who we can let go. Where’s cash flow coming from, which client’s going to pay or not. And that helped me as a silver lining. Identify another level of leadership that was in me in Jim Collins’ book. Good to great talks about level five leaders. I aspire to be one of those, right. That, that isn’t just working to fill their pockets or their employee’s pockets. Isn’t just working to do the right things for the clients and make their lives. But a level five leader does things that are beyond that does things for the environment, for the country, for humankind, very aspirational things, but things that I’ve spent the last year and a half thinking about since COVID, and it’s a, it’s a change again, the, the crux of it is the difference between management and leadership is fast, but you can’t get to level five without going through management and going through all of those other phases.
Commentary: Nope. Is talking about the difference between hands-on management and leadership. I want to give you a little bit of a framework that [00:13:00] I share with my clients. Those that are new to leadership and they’re, they’re managing employees for the first time. You want to make sure that they have something to go by guidelines. And I think the 80 20 rule is a really good number to use because then this case you want to be using 80% of your time managing the work, which is about the meetings, the status, the next moves, the KPIs, all that stuff. And 20% of the time. Is on leadership-type conversations where they’re leading the person. This is a big distinction. Now, as they get a little bit more into this, and maybe they’re a director level, you want to spend about 50% of your time managing the work and then 50% of your time leading the person. And then as you get to higher levels in the C-suite, you want to spend a lot more time developing the people around you. So you might spend 20% of your time working in 80% of your time. Developing those around you. Very effective CEOs. Had this kind of framework across the organization, they’ll help you, you know, give some guidelines to how much time you should be spending in these different areas. So if you have any questions about that, make sure to reach out to me, I’d love to help you back to AV
Gene Hammett: so, right. I think a lot of [00:14:00] people confuse that it’s the same thing and it honestly is couldn’t be more different in most cases because my perspective is management really is about the work. Right? Leadership becomes more about the people. You may have a different way to look at this, but that’s, I try to explain that with my clients is, you know, you’ve got it. How much time do you spend managing work, which is like deadlines and quality of work. And, you know, what’s the next steps and strategies we’re going to do here. All that’s important. But when you talk about alignment, when you talk about trust, when you talk about what ownership is, those are real leadership conversations. do you have a similar kind of distinction between the two?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Yes. , leadership is like you said, you used the great word alignment. Where are we going? Are we pointed in the right direction? Right. , everything that has to go on in the ship has to keep going on, but the ship is pointed in the wrong direction. We’re not going to get there. So we do a lot of impromptu team-building sessions. Like we have, we have whiskey Wednesdays. where I sent on our slack channel, that signal to come and congregate in my office. And we’d just sit and talk about projects. Just sit and talk about where we’re going. What do we want to do next [00:15:00] year?
How far have we come this year? Those are conversations that don’t necessarily happen in a boardroom. We’re going to try and have a formal one early next year. But to me, the more valuable ones are the ones that happen impromptu. Right. What challenges did you face? Ms senior PM on today’s client calls. Let’s talk about how that fits in our global vision. And it’s also nourishing for me, right? Because I, I, it’s a very lonely job, this job that I have, I can talk to guys like you that get it. And the rest of my time is spent trying to get other people to understand where we’re going, why we’re doing this, why we do it this way, and how I’m really, really open to new ideas. And, and to the other part of leadership too is to be approachable. You can’t be aloof and out of reach. And, but there has to be a balance. So the definition of leadership to me is just making sure we’re pointing in the right direction and that we have the sail and our wind in our sails to keep going in that direction.
Gene Hammett: I love the fact that you’re you talk about being open and being approachable? I think a lot of readers. Really confused. The fact that you know, what they do once they get to where you are. It’s not [00:16:00] just about time on the beach and time relaxing. It’s really a chance to reflect back and say, who do you want to become in this next version of yourself? And it looks like you’re going through those same kinds of thinking processes. AVS, is that fair to say that you think about how you’re going to make an impact from here and beyond?
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Absolutely. It’s like shedding old skin, right? It got us this far. It’s not going to get us any further. We can stay here and stagnate, or we can redefine ourselves to become bigger and better, or just better. I don’t, I don’t necessarily care about being bigger. How can we get better at what we do so that we can compete better? The other thing about leadership too, I think there’s a, there’s an inner. Step between management and leadership in its mentorship. , again, something that’s been really, really instrumental in my life is to have had really good mentors that weren’t necessarily the best managers or the best managers that could never become mentors. So there’s that level that, that I think gives me a lot of satisfaction is, is being a mentor to somebody that has. Young and green and, and is going through the same questions that I [00:17:00] had 20 years ago to offer something to him or her, and then to see that person thrive and come, come out. The fiery rings on the other side as a better professional, better person is very satisfying. So I think it’s a crucial part of leadership too, is finding that gear where you can really give back to employees that are up there are willing and willing to put in the extra mile, just to learn from somebody who’s been through that before.
Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious when you say that you’ve got a team that’s growing, you, hadn’t added more people, you’ve added more processes and more templates and automation across this company to be able to continue to scale. What do you take it from here as the company continues to make a, a better impact with its clients.
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: So I think, I think more volume. I think we’ll see, we’ll see a growth in our sheer numbers starting next year, because the last two years have been purely focused on building our brand image and the sales engine and the marketing engine. We’ve done decently well with that, it’s an ongoing process. You’re never done with a marketing project, for example. And then my goal next year is to leverage [00:18:00] all of that. As we look at starting 2010 and 22 on a, on a solid footing, I want to give more help to our competition. Like, you know, We go up against one or two big guys a lot. We beat them. Sometimes they beat us a lot, but we’re in the ring. So next year is going to be doing more of that and getting more volume in terms of clientele because we do great work. The clients that do stick with us have nothing but great things to say about us,
Gene Hammett: well, I really appreciate you being here, sharing your journey and your wisdom with us on the podcast.
Abhijit “AV” Verekar: Thank you, Gene appreciates it.
Gene Hammett: Hey, we just talked about the key things to create client advisers. That really are the employees putting clients first and taking ownership of their work. Some of the things that stand out to me is they’re focused on values. A lot of companies think that these are a little bit squishy, the softer aspects of the business. I disagree with that. I think that having strong set of values that really are aligned with the people using them consistently and operationalizing them across is really a sign of great leadership. What I’ve really the conversation across many, many conversations that is stands out, but also communication. You’ve got to communicate [00:19:00] effectively. And in the world I use from a coaching standpoint, you’ve got to communicate where people can’t misunderstand. And so that you’re able to have different kinds of conversations that allow them to take ownership of their work, all of this culminates into what leadership looks like into the modern world. It’s really interesting that the company Avero advisors is about IT modernization. And I think what we’re actually looking at is a modernization of leadership. , and, and that’s what he’s described to this. So that’s my perspective in today’s interview. If you want to figure out what your next step is a leader is, I encourage you to go to my website and schedule a call.
I want to talk to you about what’s really going on. And I do this for the last 10 years and my audience that’s listening to this deep in the podcast does want to grow. They’re open-minded too, to really what would be the next move for them as a leader, whenever you get more clear and really identify what’s getting in your own way, just go to Genehammett.com and schedule a call. When you think of leadership and you think of growth and with growth think tank as always the, the courage to see next time.[00:20:00]
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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