Every business goes through difficult times. Leading through challenges is part of the job. Discover the strategies that will help you be a more effective leader. Today’s guest is Steve Latham, CEO and Founder at Banyan Hills Technologies. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4651 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Banyan Hills Technologies is an IoT company and a trusted partner for innovative software solutions. Steve gives you his strategies when leading through challenges. We look at what happens during the hard moments of leadership. This interview will help you when you are leading through challenges.
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Steve Latham: The Transcript
About: Technology and entrepreneurship is Steve Latham’s passion, second only to his family and friends. He is proud to have been a part of building successful hardware and software solutions for Fortune 500 companies and small private firms. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has extensive experience in cloud-based software and the Internet of Things. Steve Latham founded Banyan Hills Technologies, an Internet of Things company in 2013 to provide businesses with end-to-end IoT services and bring to market a cloud-based IoT platform we call CanopyTM. It’s a comprehensive software solution for operators of self-service devices and on-premise control systems.
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.
Steve Latham: I think probably for a lot of founders. , there’s one of the things that I feel like founders do pretty well is they, embrace change and they’re highly adaptable to unexpected events. I mean, I think that’s one of the secret skills that founders, or maybe secret thrills that founders look for. To start a business and they have, they’re able to accommodate that. Whereas when I think you have a large team and that you have aligned to a vision and you’re executing against that vision and suddenly things begin, unexpected that begin, begin to happen. Then, the team that is looking for some stability, certainly you need them to have founder type of traits. They need to be hyper. , they need to be hyper-able to adapt to unexpected events. And I think that’s really uncomfortable for most people. I think that’s really uncomfortable.
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 moment of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today we look at leading through challenges. When you are the leader of an organization, you will have challenges that you have to face. Not all of them will be as difficult as the pandemic. Not all of them will cause your company to be an uncharted waters, but you have to lead through challenges. You have to expect the challenges are going to come. It could be from, outside pressures from the competition. It could be the market pressures and changes of technology you have to lead through. The one of the best ways I know to do that is to understand what other people are doing and to find out what works for you.
Because not everything that we talked about in today’s episode may work for you, but there are some nuggets in here. If you’re willing to be open and really absorb what you could be doing to lead people through challenges. I really love today’s conversation with the founder of Banyan Hills Technologies. We’re talking with Steve Latham and Steve really opens up about, you know, being more transparent, what that really means and looks like inside of his organization. He talks about over-communicating and we also look at empathy and the need to being more empathetic through difficult times. Is necessary. If you want to lead a team to the other side, when you think about all of the things that make you, the leader that you are, sometimes you have to learn to, to develop new skills and develop a new mindset around this. When you go through difficult challenges and you also have to prepare for these challenges in advance being intentional, if you’re kind of curious about what’s next in your own leadership, we have a group of people go fast-growth boardroom, which is an amazing group of founders and CEOs. We get together and do some fun stuff.
It’s all about you being an extraordinary leader. I want to help you continue to scale your company, increase the impact on your team has. And increase the overall value of your company when it’s time to sell. All of those things are packed into a fast-growth boardroom. If you think you’re a fit, check it out, just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. You can check it out and see if you are a good fit for that. If you are encouraged you to apply, you will have a conversation with me because we don’t let just anyone in. And I’d love to help you become a stronger leader, help you, you know, center yourself around the right things that will help you be that leader that your team deserves. Just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. Now here’s the interview with Steve,
Steve, how are you?
Steve Latham: Doing great. How are you?
Gene Hammett: I’m excited to have you on the podcast. I’m doing great by the way. , excited to talk to you about this topic today. Before we get started, I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you. But I’d love for you to tell us about Banyan Hills Technologies.
Steve Latham: Sure thing. , so Banyan is a company that was founded eight years ago. , Banyan the core purpose of the company was to build a software technology, a software platform that could be responsible for connecting to device networks, and then managing them centrally. And, probably the unique thing about Banyan is the way that, the company was started was first built a services company, and we offered technology consulting services in exchange for revenue, and then use that revenue to sell fund the build-out of our management platform, which is called a canopy. So now that we’re eight years old, Post pandemic. We, where a company that has bootstrapped itself into a, a software platform canopy that it’s, it’s, it’s its own business. It’s a SAS product that we’ve taken to market. And we sit, we have, lots of interesting customers, a cost across a lot of different industries where we’re really realizing now the vision that we first set out to do in 2013.
Gene Hammett: Love the story here we are devices. We’re creating a lot more devices. They need to be connected. And my understanding is you guys provide a layer of technology that allows that to happen. , where did you get that idea?
Steve Latham: From my, my experience before Banyan was I worked, I worked for a company, the NCR, the NCR Corporation. And I was responsible for a line of business within that with an NCR where we ployed unintended self-service kiosk out in the marketplace. , this particular kiosk was a DVD rental kiosk business. And the, you know, I think only the people that have done something similar to that can truly appreciate how difficult it is to manage a network. 10,000 to 60,000 devices that are unattended, but supporting customer transactions and payment transactions and inventory movement to do that effectively, you really have to have a management platform that gives you as an operator. 100% visibility into the health of the machine and the software. And the business that’s transacting there locally to that kiosk. And so what we, what we built at NCR was very fit for purpose for a DVD rental kiosk. And the, it just, I became aware that there was such a larger opportunity that pretty soon all devices, regardless of what they were, we’re going to have the ability to connect to the internet. And they would all have, have to have. A management layer, software management layer to provide an operator that full visibility to keep them available and operational for, for business.
Gene Hammett: I love the technology of this, and we probably could talk all day long around, you know, where things are going in the future of connected devices. Since you’ve got your finger on the pulse of this, but we came here to talk about something quite different than that, which is about navigating through challenges and leading people through difficult times. What. Obviously, we’ve just, I wouldn’t say we’ve come out of the pandemic, but we, we are, it is in the rearview mirror. Would you feel the same?
Steve Latham: I definitely feel that way. I feel like we’re starting to see, the world begin to heal and pockets of opportunities, resurfacing, and yeah. , which is incredibly exciting given the unexpected outcome of the pandemic over the last two years, really, when you think about an 18 to two, 18 months to two years. And so I definitely am starting to see signals and signs that the world’s recovering and including things like getting on airplanes and drive into driving through traffic. It’s just nice and refreshing to have those soldered sorts of problems coming back.
Gene Hammett: It’s interesting how much. Probably lamented getting the middle seat and traveling and all of the stuff that goes with it and even sitting in traffic and now we get to realize, okay, it’s because we’re coming back and we can actually see a positive side to these things that we would normally relate to negatively. When you had looked back over the challenges that you had to lead your team through. What are the top two or three that come to mind that we need to talk about today?
Steve Latham: Well, I, I, you know, the one thing that stands out to me is that I think probably for a lot of founders, there’s. One of the things that I feel like founders do pretty well is they embrace change and they’re highly adaptable to unexpected events. I mean, I think that’s one of the secret skills that founders, , that are maybe secret thrills that founders look for to, to start a business and they have, they’re able to accommodate. Whereas when I think you have a large team and that you have aligned to a vision and you’re executing against that vision and suddenly things begin unexpectedly. Then begin, began to happen. Then, the team that is looking for some stability, suddenly you need them to have founder type of traits. They need to be hyper, bill. They need to be hyper-able to adapt to unexpected events. And I think that’s really uncomfortable for most people. I think that’s really uncomfortable. So as a leader, I’m going through something like we did in the last couple of years. I think I developed an even, , an increased level of attention and acknowledgment of the fact that it’s, it’s very, very difficult for people to accept any level of change, but. Especially when it’s coming on an hourly basis, like we were dealing with March of 2020.
So I think the ability to, to be, too, to acknowledge that change is happening to acknowledge that it’s difficult for everyone involved to be as transparent about that change that’s happening, as, as possible through communication and then as deliberate as possible in plans to, to work through those things it was, was probably a big part of what worked well for us in 2020,
Commentary: Steve just talked about transparency. Being transparent is a very powerful way to show up for your people. What it isn’t is just you laying it all out on the line. Transparency means you’re, you’re being a little bit, intentional about what you’re sharing. You want to make sure you have processed a lot of the feelings you’re going through. You don’t want to just rip it. To anger and frustration without you having a good understanding of how you’re getting through it. But you want to make sure that you’re able to share these things openly with your people. I do believe that financial transparency is a good thing inside of businesses, telling people what you make, you know, bottom line, even top line, and all of the costs associated with running the business will help them hopefully contribute to this. But the emotional transparency that you have as a leader is also a powerful force inside of every interaction you have with the people you want to make sure that you are working through those things with your coach or with your, you know, significant others possibly you want to make sure that you have a good sounding board in yours. It helps you understand and process the real deeper stuff before you share that with your people? I really believe that because a lot of times I think a lot of leaders feel alone and feel like they’re not being supported and they can’t share these things. So if you have someone like a coach to talk to or a mentor, then you can actually process as them, them, and then share them with your team. That sequence of things will help you do this in the right way, help you kind of frame things and give contacts to what you’re feeling and how that helps them move forward. So hopefully this will help you become the better leader that you really want to be back to. Steve.
Gene Hammett: You set a big word there that I like to put a spotlight on because I feel like it’s so important to us becoming modern leaders and that’s transparency. , when I was in corporate America, there wasn’t a whole lot of transparency and I worked in some, some big companies, which I didn’t expect to get it. Cause I didn’t know what it was about but also work in some small companies too. And I was just a cog in a wheel. But I think today’s work environment is fostering a sense of transparency that really does help bind people together. Is that kind of what you’re talking about Steve?
Steve Latham: Yeah, definitely. And it’s something that, I think, there are plenty of examples or moments that I’ve struggled with this since that, you know, sometimes as a leader, you tend to naturally manage the message a little bit. And when sometimes the teams that are working with you need to know, , need to know as much as possible need to know that one year human, that you have your own set of emotions that you’re anxious and that, level of exposure are being vulnerable. Develops a level of trust that is necessary. I think, to work through difficult moments.
Gene Hammett: You know, you talked about some emotions that I think a lot of leaders try to put, you know, keep in their pocket for the most part. But when you’re anxious, when you’re unsure, when you were, you know, frustrated even. Are you letting people know that as you lead them and as you have different kinds of conversations?
Steve Latham: Increasingly, I think that I was, I would like you to describe, I think I was trained, initially to be careful about, about that to be a little bit more consistent in my message and my own emotions. And, and I think that does result in, some stability. But, but the downside of that is when people are especially last year, I mean, last year that the target was moving, not, not monthly, it was moving weekly or sometimes even daily. And I think as a result of that, people were highly, highly anxious and uncertain about the future, personally and professionally. And so being able to hear more frequently, from myself or my management team, that we feel the same way. But here’s how we’re coping with it. Here’s what we’re doing about it. And just being transparent again about our plan will need to change on a frequent basis. And we’re asking for your trust that, that we are thinking through these plans deliberately, we’re asking for your feedback and, and we’ll work through it together. And, and honestly, for those that, like I said, there were plenty of mistakes, that have been made, but I think. That really, we’re able to work through this effectively. Those were some of the things that caused us to be more successful than not.
Gene Hammett: I love this conversation, so I’m ready. Can I continue along these lines? Transparency is a part of that, leading through difficult challenges, but what else would you say contributed to creating alignment with everyone even when they’re virtual, I’m assuming that your office was not designed to be virtual?
Steve Latham: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. So we, we immediately, jumped into, we went overboard, I think in the communication front we were getting at. So we did a couple of things. One is we began to survey, the employee base, frequently, and we surveyed on. You know, everything from a traditional survey that would look at like an employee satisfaction to thoughts about, we got feedback about when, when to close the office, how to reopen the office when we reopened the office. And so we began to ask questions that would really survey the employee base to get as much feedback as possible. And then we, we, on the reverse side, we started communicating, weekly. And, so we were communicating weekly. That was an all-hands with everyone in the company. Everybody had video conference going and we did similar things that we saw in the market, in the more broader market with happy hours, virtual happy hours.
We had, we celebrated employee anniversaries or birthdays. And we even, when people had to leave the company, we celebrated their time with us. And so, it’s the frequency at which we got feedback and then responded to it, went into overdrive.
Gene Hammett: Is there anything you could, look back and share with us that you wish you would have done differently or that worked really amazingly well that you weren’t sure about.
Steve Latham: Differently, you know, it’s, if I had to say that there was anything that I would do different, I may have started some of the habits that we just talked about earlier. And, you know, as I look towards the future, I think, you know, both personally and within the workplace, There’s so much that I feel like I learned, that I probably devalued prior to the pandemic and the pandemic force me into some healthy habits and force this business into some healthy habits. And I think the real test is going to be how to sustain those healthy habits going forward. And for me, I, even now, as I’m talking to you, I can feel ourselves a little bit of natural tension falling out or pattern on some of these things. But the one that I just think is, so important is that constant, continuous communication and feedback loop. What I learned about our employee base and our culture, from getting that feedback is what was the most valuable thing I probably could have taken away.
Commentary: Now, Steve’s, just said, he wished he would have started the habits earlier. I think the habit is a good word, but I think a better word inside of an organization for positive things is rituals. This, this word ritual comes from like ceremonial and religious aspects, but you don’t have to think of it like that inside your business. But a ritual is something that you can do and people come to expect and it gives them energy. It gives them a positive lift. Some examples of rituals that I’ve seen work are how you talk about values across the core organization. One of my clients has shout-outs. We’re in meetings. They actually talk about these values consistently. That’s one ritual. You also have rituals of communication. How you actually communicate on a regular basis. My team meets almost every, Monday to Friday for 15 minutes as a standup meeting. And that’s what we do is a cadence for our, it becomes a ritual. It gives us energy. Another way to do this is how do you recognize someone’s, achievements or input or working hard? Yeah. , accomplishing something difficult, doing the impossible. Those can become rituals too. I’ll give you some examples here because rituals are something that you can do intentionally it’s better when they come from within the organization, but you have to encourage the fact that rituals are something that reinforces what we’re trying to continue doing. And you want to start those as early as possible and keep them going, make sure that continue to give energy to the organization and to the people around you. , back to Steve.
Gene Hammett: I love the fact that you over-communicate it. I think a lot of people weren’t sure what that frequency of communication should be in a cadence. And my whole suggestion around this with my clients and whatnot was over-communicate be consistent and it’s a lot better than the stories they make up when you under-communicate.
Steve Latham: Now, without a doubt, without a doubt,
Gene Hammett: Steve, you have talked a little bit about, you know, what’s going on in the culture. I’m just very curious. What changed within you as a leader through all this?
Steve Latham: You know? Yeah, that’s a great question. I, I think one of the, the adversity that we were presented with really tested my endurance and resilience, there were, I think I could probably relate to anyone listening. We all had, we were all tested one way or the other from a business perspective. I, I felt like I started to think about nothing, but business. And I think that, as I look, as I look forward, I, you know, where I really feel like I grew was I developed a deeper level of empathy for, for everybody that works within our company. I think I also developed an appreciation for things that I may be had as blind spots. You know, The classic example of this is that I very much was on the road quite a bit, pre-pandemic spending a lot of time on airplanes and hotels. And, I’ve got an amazing family, and always have known I have an amazing family, but then being forced to be in the same room with them, the same house with them. It was such a healthy thing, such a great thing. And, and, that’s an example of having that time and having the opportunity to do it helped me appreciate the value so that I can just make sure that that’s something that I keep repeating. And I think the same as it comes back to the business as well, I really felt like I’ve in, through the pandemic.
I got to know, our employees, at a much deeper level, I get to appreciate what was important to them at a deeper level. And so that I can continue to feed, the right. The right, set a direction into our vision to support them going forward.
Gene Hammett: Those are beautiful things. I had a lot of conversations with my family. We only have one kid and my wife and we were all working from home in school, from home and, and anytime the negative aspects of the pandemic would come up, my mind would always kind of connect to, and maybe it’s because I’m an optimist of the beauty we had so much time together, you know, a lot more dinners at home, a lot more, conversations and playtime and watching movies and all of the stuff that we’re doing. And I’m sure now you have empathy, not only for your own family but for your employees, families as well as they, they went through the same, change to.
Steve Latham: Yeah. With w there’s no question. I mean, I think that, yeah, I love, I love those moments. I cherish those moments now that the trick is to keep those moments happening. And not just for myself, but for, for the employees of Banyan as well.
Gene Hammett: Well, I want to start wrapping this up. Steve, you’ve been talking about leading through challenges, and really appreciate the fact that we have to prepare for this in advance. So what are you doing now to prepare for any challenges that may be in the future?
Steve Latham: Yeah, I think that’s a really great question and timely. We, I H wrapping the business with more insulation is a big part of my day-to-day at the moment, you know, that’s, I think about the company when I started at where, where we started the conversation, it’s a self-funded company through our services were. And there are lots of pros and cons of that. One of which is we, we ran very lean. , we’re hyper, you know, again, hyper-efficient in terms of how we managed our financials, , and celebrated some great success. But when the pandemic hit that put all of that test. And so I think a, you know, I have an appreciation for boy. It really helps to put some insulation factors in place, and that could be everything from growth capital to, having a strong bench, to, to insulate again. Key employees that need to leave for one reason or another. , those are examples of things that I think we’re, we’re laying new infrastructure in place to help us in, in anticipation of future. Hopefully not pandemics, but things that could be similar in terms of their impact.
Gene Hammett: I got one, the question for you, Steve, and, and this may be a touchy subject, so you can actually decline answering this. But, I think a lot of companies are struggling with let’s get back to work. They, they’re not real sure what it will look like. Probably it won’t look like it used to, , it will be some hybrid version of this. Are you guys doing that kind of planning and thinking through what work looks like in the future?
Steve Latham: Yeah, there’s, I, you know, I, I, and, and in some cases, I actually feel like we’ve done pretty well. Coming through that, I would say there was a moment really at the beginning of this year, we reopened our office by the way, for our management team at the beginning of the year. And then we incrementally rolled it out to the balance of the employees over the first couple of months. And the first thing that I saw was just pure exhaustion. , everybody was on a treadmill and it had been running at level 12 for you know, many, many months, and being able to reset in a way to where people could fall back into some level of productivity was a challenge. It took, it took a while. And I think though that now we’ve read Bennett. We’re able to really rebound from that. I think people are now settled back into. They’re they’re, work-life balance. And they’re back into the office, into their projects. We’ve been able to recast and reset our vision relative to where we had an impact on the business. And I actually feel like we’re probably executing as well as we ever have towards, towards our strategy. So, but I definitely think. And I think that probably happens different for different companies, but for us, I feel like a knock on wood. I feel like we’re kind of on the, on the w we’re past the hurdle, the majority of the hurdle, there.
Gene Hammett: Steve, I appreciate you being here on Growth Think Tank sharing your journey of leadership through this tough time leaders are all always going to be seeing tough challenges. So appreciate you helping us through that.
Steve Latham: Yeah. Thank you, Gene, and really appreciate the opportunity.
Gene Hammett: I always like to take a moment here. Steve listening in, but I’m going to recap what I’m taking away from today’s interview to help you understand how to apply this as you expand your leadership capacity. The first of that is we all have to see these challenges coming, not necessarily for something that’s going to stop us, but for an opportunity. And there was lots of opportunity in this past year. I think the ability to be more transparent to share that you don’t know the answers that you aren’t sure what’s going on or something frustrates you is a power inside of our companies. I think also over-communicating when you have a chance, and consistently communicating and having the right cadence will help people relieve that pressure. That’s going on the stress because you’re sharing with them, you’re including them in what’s going on. And then finally, you know, having more empathy is better than having a, you know, a drought of empathy inside your leadership because empathy allows you to create connection and listen to what’s really going on, listen beyond the words and so that you can connect with these people, help them rise to the occasion.
I love the fact that you’ve listened in these episodes to be a better leader. If you’re not sure what your next step is, make sure you check out some of the free content we have at GeneHammett.com. And if you want to be a leader that really understands fast growth, then will help you create a game plan. Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call there with me.
Absolutely free. I’d love to help you move forward. As a business owner, founder, CEO of a fast-growth company, we don’t have to be on the Inc 5,000, but you have to want to grow and be driven fast as always lead with courage. Will see you next time.
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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