Finally, it’s 2021! As we all wish 2020 a swift goodbye, let’s reflect on what the year taught us. This Year in Review is a special one. We sat down with Gray Mabry, CEO of iVenture, to discuss embracing empathy and why the Golden Rule is old news.
2021 is here. How did you feel at the end of 2020?
It’s funny how time changes perspective. If you’d asked me in June or July, I would have said exhausted. Now, I feel hopeful. There’s a part of me that craves change and growth — something 2020 demanded.
I’m incredibly encouraged by the way iVenture handled change. Everyone stepped up. Everyone came together for the mutual good.
At the beginning of 2020, you expressed the term Short-term Realism, Long-term Optimism. That seemed to be the theme of the whole year. Would you agree?
Absolutely. Short-term Realism, Long-term Optimism is about doing what’s necessary now — even if it means sacrificing — but never losing sight of the big goals.
When you realize no one knows what’s next, it’s easy to be pessimistic. What’s hard is getting comfortable with not knowing; with trusting what you’ve built, but I have a responsibility to do that.
2020 was a tough year for so many people and businesses. How has iVenture fared?
Most industries we serve found a way to pivot and move forward. Our job was to help them do so as smoothly as possible. We adapted and really leaned into those interpersonal strengths.
When we took iVenture remote in March, our team didn’t miss a beat. I think it’s due in large part to our culture. Everyone trusts everyone. We know how to hire people and get out of their way. Our team has always been set up to work remotely. Productivity actually went up.
I’m interested to see the long-term impacts of WFH on our culture. Our People Operations team continues finding new ways to build team bonds. My favorites have been the virtual Chili Cook-Off and the cross-state RV road trip Mark and I just finished.
What surprised you the most?
The selflessness and empathy of our team. Everyone was willing to make sacrifices, some we didn’t even ask for! Every meeting started with genuine check-ins with each other. People shared WFH tips, music playlists, educational resources for kids.
Personally, I didn’t realize how important my daily rituals were until I lost them. The drive to the office, getting coffee, checking in with people — losing these things was hard. But new rituals were made — more time with my daughter, more meaningful conversations with teammates, more iced tea.
Did your perspective shift on anything this year?
Being in a hurricane state, we’ve always had the technical ability to work remotely and securely. Seeing the team work remotely for so long and even increase productivity was eye-opening. It made me realize that we can offer WFH flexibility on a permanent basis.
Are there any lessons to take away from 2020?
Every business should use the SMaC method. Following SMaC (Specific, Methodical and Consistent) practices helped us stay true to our goals. It’s easy to follow the plan when everything’s great. The real test comes when things get shaky.
Following our company SMaCs kept us on course and focused on what really matters. There’s also something to be said about changing the Golden Rule. It’s important to step in another person’s shoes. Empathy is everything.
How do you feel about 2021?
Hopeful. We’re already seeing a global shift in how businesses operate. Hiring markets look different — more remote positions, more flexibility. But how long will this shift last? I’ve always said we’re at the leading-edge, not the bleeding-edge of technology. That also applies to how iVenture runs.
Some thought leaders declare the office is dead. I disagree. iVenture will always have offices. We’ll always encourage personal instead of virtual communication. There’s something essential about speaking face-to-face that Zoom, Skype or Teams can’t replicate.
As long as it’s safe to do so, that’s what we’ll do.
Any parting words of wisdom you’d like to share?
The Golden Rule is dead. It’s something we’re all taught in grade school, but does it really make sense? Treating someone how you’d like to be treated is biased. It centers you as the most important person. It doesn’t help anyone find a middle ground.
Really, we need to treat people how they want and need to be treated. We need to step into another person’s shoes, try to understand them and practice empathy.
I think 2020 has really shown how empathy, or lack thereof, can affect someone. In business, we tend to hide our feelings; to be stone-faced. But behind every business is people, so let’s communicate like people. It’s time to embrace empathy in business.
Ready for better IT in the new year? Let’s talk about your 2021 goals and beyond.
iVenture’s award-winning team delivers managed services, cloud and cybersecurity to Florida’s best businesses. With statewide coverage, our offices in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa make us your local IT partner. Whether you need end-to-end IT or a boost to your internal IT team, we’re ready. At iVenture, we give you more time to do what matters most.