As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Vince Dawkins.
Vince Dawkins is president and CEO of Enertia Software, the leading developer of integrated enterprise solutions for the upstream oil and gas industry. Since joining the Enertia Software team in 2008, Vince has been integral in nurturing the growth and development of the Enertia application into a resource currently used by more than 150 leaders in the industry.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After graduating from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, I started my journey with industry-leading organizations that were influencing engineering, IT, and enterprise resource planning solutions. I’ve always had a passion for the initial architecture, conceptual design, and creative stages. In August 2008, I joined Enertia Software as a senior business analyst, where I was able to truly impact the development and implementation of an already robust enterprise application for upstream oil and gas producers. Since then, that’s been a large part of my drive to push innovation. I’ve been able to nurture the growth and development of the application into a resource currently used by more than 150 leaders, and it’s truly rewarding knowing we are helping organizations improve their efficiencies.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to try to take in everything and digest all of the details. During week one, everyone wants a piece of you — they want to know your direction and what you’re going to do and change. Every department wants some form of detail, direction, and clarity (be it marketing, HR, support, or sales), and you can literally drive yourself crazy looking for all the answers when it’s really a good time to just listen, take it all in, and trust in the people around you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
All leaders should have several mentors or coaches. Different coaches hit on different areas of life at different times, and they provide different solutions. I have received great feedback from my executive coach for work-related quandaries, my dad for life guidance, and my wife for day-to-day support and inspiration. They bring their own strengths and also know me in different capacities, so I have the opportunity to learn so much — and in some cases, gain multiple perspectives on a single scenario.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
At Enertia, we incorporate our mission statement and an annual motto into our day-to-day activities for a sole reason: purpose-driven business. In questionable environments, it’s even more important to give your team a purpose and reason to drive and push forward. Some might look at these types of incentives as “corny,” but you’d be surprised by how many are listening and reminding themselves that a greater objective is critical to continued growth and success.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
This past year has been a very uncertain and difficult time because our industry was hit hard due to the unprecedented decline in oil and gas prices. When our industry hurts, we hurt — so we make sure to reflect, give back, and provide resources and solutions both for our customers and ourselves. Incorporating new ways to connect with weekly town hall meetings and virtual happy hours are just some of the things we never had to do in the past, but it’s important to remain flexible to help people get through tough times. That’s especially true given that everyone struggles differently.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Absolutely. Once a week for about five minutes (LOL). Being a leader in itself is a challenging position, and there are many moments where it becomes difficult. As a conscious leader, you really have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Usually, the same few things appear minutes later that send you in the opposite direction and remind you why you started.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
First and foremost, leaders have to project confidence to instill confidence in their teams. Leaders’ focus has to shift toward helping their teams push forward during challenging times. Ultimately, your people should be a priority — so provide the insights, resources, and tools they need to be successful.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Being open to new ideas and listening. People should not be punished for giving new things a try. At Enertia, we encourage outside-the-box thinking, especially now when we can “test” things out without making a negative impact. Collaboration and inclusion also go a long way with encouragement.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Transparency — just being honest. Then, allowing people to understand the news by giving them time to process.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
When you think about it, that’s kind of what the job is: Anticipating the future, planning for the unknown, and then preparing for the unpredictable are part of the role. You have to be agile and adaptive to the things that come at you because there is usually no rulebook for these kinds of situations.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Keep going. Keep pushing forward and challenging your team, your innovation, your ideas. To stop doesn’t yield anything.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
First, being completely business-minded can have an adverse effect. Second, having no regard for the people who run the business can harm your organization, but the opposite can hinder things as well. It’s important to find balance between the two. Lastly, panicking at the sight of turbulence is so common. Don’t panic!
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Our industry is very cyclical, and Enertia has thrived by focusing inward during such times. We believe that slumps in the industry and/or economy are ideal times to improve upon ourselves. It’s also important to show customers that you understand what they’re going through by being lenient with invoices, allowing them to pay in installments, or extending deadlines, to name a few examples. Having some grace during difficult times will make them more likely to continue doing business with you in the future.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Be transparent with information.
Our ability to interact with one another often changes during uncertain times, and so must our businesses. Communicating — even overcommunicating — has been critical for Enertia. We have relied heavily on virtual resources to be able to remain transparent and keep communication lines open between our team members.
2. Balance your budget.
The oil and gas industry is used to uncertainty (it’s in our business model), and the majority of companies prepare for cyclical periods of positivity and negativity. I think it’s beneficial for companies in other industries to look toward oil and gas for inspiration on how to handle uncertain cash flow and disruption.
3. Remain confident.
Our industry was hit hard during the pandemic, but Enertia was still able to grow during this uncertain time. We had confidence in our ability to adapt and think toward the future so we could make the necessary changes to our business and advance during and after the pandemic. For example, we were able to build new service channels and assets; this includes our online platform Enertia Live and virtual implementation methods for customers.
4. Make bold decisions.
Amid uncertainty, it pays off to make bold decisions. You have to first ensure the health of your stakeholders — teams, clients, families, and so on — and then decide how to sustain yourself and find momentum. At Enertia, we decided to have virtual shutdowns to encourage time away from work. Although this might seem counterintuitive to a sustainable business at first glance, this has allowed our team to be even more productive. Giving employees time away helps them come back refreshed and prevents burnout.
All leaders know that collaboration is important, but I think it’s good to get a reminder every once in a while. Without effective collaboration, we can’t advance our businesses and push forward to new heights. Enertia hosts collaboration sessions that allow us to think about and discuss what’s going on in other industries that we can apply to issues in our own industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Apple’s “Think Different” campaign said that “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This quote is relevant to the work I do with Enertia as we continue to tap into our creativity and innovation to collaborate, engage, and serve our clients.
How can our readers further follow your work?