(Did you miss this week’s Leadership Brief? The following interview was delivered to the Leadership Brief subscribers’ inbox on Sunday morning, November 22nd, in conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decision makers. Click here to receive weekly emails.)
Dave Steward is not the founder of your typical millionaire tech company. His company is based in St. Louis, not San Jose. He brings deep faith to the workplace. Earlier this year, he wrote a Goodbook leadership on applying Bible principles to the business environment, along with a preface by Bishop TD Jakes. He was a salesman, not a technician, and was once FedEx’s salesman of the year.
And the 69-year-old Steward is a rare black chairman, especially in an industry that suffers from diversity at the advanced level. His privately owned $ 12 billion company, World Wide Technology (WWT), thrives in today’s COVID-19 environment, where a wide range of companies choose to install complex computer systems and other digital infrastructure. We are supporting. With more than 5,600 employees and offices worldwide, the company is the largest black-owned company in the United States. Steward recently joined TIME for a video conversation about the impact of COVID on business, why he chose to keep WWT private, and how his father stimulated entrepreneurship.
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(This interview with World Wide Technology Chairman Dave Steward has been summarized and edited for clarity.)
It became true that the pandemic accelerated the transition to digitalization by five years. In what areas do you think demand is rising?
Security practices have skyrocketed as cyberattacks have increased by more than 100%. Cyber attacks are hitting every sector, from federal, state and local to utilities and healthcare.
So are the bad guys also digitally pivoting?
It’s off the chart.
So are you adding personnel to your cybersecurity team?
We add employees across the entire business, from networking to architecture to engineering. Give it a name and add an opening. I think there are currently 700 openings. I can’t find the right person right away.
Your slogan is “Experience Silicon Valley in St. Louis”. Is there a problem with hiring the best technicians to live in St. Louis?
No, we don’t because it’s always ranked as one of the best workplaces by Fortune and Glassdoor. I challenge everyone to find the health care plans we have and the benefits plans we have that cover our spouse and the whole family at the lowest cost to our employees .. And we haven’t increased that cost for 10 years, longer, 15 years. But I think culture is also important. We all have a set of core values that we all believe in and feel very important and very comprehensive.
Why didn’t you publish it?
The question is why we do so. The only shareholder we are concerned about is me. And my overall goal and purpose is not just money, but a way to serve clients more than anyone else. How to continue to improve and how to invest in the long-term way is 50 years from now, not a quarter from now. Investors on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and elsewhere are not very patient.
So have you kept many investment bankers away over the years? How do you reject them?
When I think of investment bankers, I think from their point of view, how can I make you better as an investment banker? And when you find a new technology that you think is really good, how can you make it even more valuable and help eliminate the risk?
I heard you were a good salesman! So when you market an IPO, do you turn it into your company’s sales call?
It’s a great opportunity.
One day I asked. Do I work to audit rail fares? Or am I in the business of using technology in new and innovative ways? “
-Dave Steward, Chairman of World Wide Technology
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Let’s talk about your company’s origin story. Your first business was to stitch together technologies for auditing fares. Have you ever seen how the advent of computing power is transforming American business?
One day I asked: Do I work to audit rail fares? Or am I in the business of using technology in new and innovative ways? That was the moment of the light bulb. I decided to be part of the technological revolution. So in 1990, I started a company called Worldwide Technology with five people and 4,000 square feet.
Is it before or after Al Gore invented the Internet?
That was before he made the internet.
Today it’s a $ 12 billion company, but your book describes the early dark days of embezzlement.
I don’t say that that way. Some money has been reassigned.
Have you been reassigned to your personal pocket?
Yeah, a personal pocket.
Was the company at risk? Was it a lot of capital at the time?
That was the case. I had my car recovered from the company parking lot. I had to get out there and take the briefcase out of the car, as if nothing had happened.
When you grew up in Clinton, Missouri, you probably had a lot of entrepreneurship from your father.
Entrepreneurship from my father, and such encouragement from my mother.
You describe your father as a very skilled anything shop.
He was inevitably so. He was a master mechanic, bartender, hunter, and security guard. You give it a name. He cleaned the office. He was a janitor. For reasons such as racism, prejudice, racism … he was the first entrepreneur I’ve ever seen. That’s why I wanted to be like my father. And my mother was a microcosm of optimism and encouragement, always encouraging us to be special.
Innovation will not occur unless people of color and diverse thinking are at the table to challenge the status quo.
–Dave Steward, Chairman of World Wide Technology What was your childhood like?
I was born in 1951. I graduated from high school in 1969. So, during that period, think about Brown v. Board of Education. I will be in the first grade. They said they would integrate the school system, but the Ku Klux Klan didn’t say so. happen. So my dad had to patrol the town all night to give his five children time to go to school safely. He really put himself in danger. But he was 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds on average, so maybe they were more afraid of him.
How did your family look like?
I didn’t have an indoor bathroom until I was 8 or 9 years old. There was a dip bucket and a slop bucket with water. It was troublesome to take it out every day. Until the second half of life, we didn’t know we were so poor.
Did you face a lot of discrimination that grew up in Clinton?
There were adversity and challenges. It was a very difficult time. One movie theater we couldn’t go to, another movie theater we had to sit on the balcony. I couldn’t do roller skating. I couldn’t even go to the swimming pool.
Is there one event that sticks to your claw?
I was 8 years old and was told I couldn’t join the Boy Scout. And my mother had to tell me.
What was the conversation like?
To get over it, you have to blindfold. I remember this, we cried together. [Steward teared up recalling the incident.]
Received the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest honor a boy scout can earn. Now you think of that wound and pain, and the power of forgiveness and all that, and I could have easily bittered about it for my entire life. That is the power of forgiveness that my parents taught me. And here I think 700 people around the world have won the Silver Buffalo Awards.
What about the country in terms of racial relations today?
We have problems, but we live in the greatest country in the history of the world. It used to be a place where the caste system could not be overcome. I used to have to live on the other side of the railroad tracks, but even colored people have a duty not to be distracted. There are unique gifts that we bring to America and to relationships, growth, development, understanding, and a common foundation. We have something in common. We all love this country and we all have something to contribute in our own way. Innovation will not occur unless people of color and diverse thinking are at the table to challenge the status quo.
Book: My Bible.
APP: I always look at the new Bible and understand the deep meaning of it. There are many pastors I have read their material.
Exercise: I’m in this regimen of getting up every morning, stretching and exercising. I did push-ups 100 times in a row every morning. It started to hurt my shoulder, so I reduced it to only 30. After lunch, I have this routine. I walk a little faster. I have these hills that do about 25 minutes.
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