“Focus on the People” – Carl Day of Apogee on Leadership and Teambuilding

Leadership

Interview with Carl Day, Chief Sales Officer, Apogee   

In an insightful conversation with Carl Day, Chief Sales Officer at Apogee, we explore the transformative journey that has defined his leadership philosophy and the pivotal role of prioritizing people within an organization. Carl’s diverse career trajectory, stemming from early technical roles to steering sales strategies at renowned corporations, reflects his profound commitment to evolving company culture through a people-centric approach.

Hello, Carl! It’s a pleasure to have you here. To begin, could you share with our readers a bit about your background and what inspired you to take on the role of Chief Sales Officer at Apogee Corporation back in 2020?  

Of course. I’ve had a varied career to date, starting with a short spell of training to be a marine, followed by some time as an engineer’s labourer at a company that made and installed sprinkler systems and then as a photocopier technician.   

I then joined the technical support division at Ricoh, which was a turning point in my career as the company was truly invested in the training and development of its employees which allowed me to make the leap to sales. I started as a junior account manager before progressing to a regional sales manager. 

I think it’s so important to listen to what your employees have to say and to consider the impact any decisions you’re about to make could have on them.

I then decided I wanted to cut my teeth at a board level and made the leap to Toshiba where I was national sales director on the board of Toshiba in the UK. At this point, I decided to also undertake a work-based learning degree in Leading Sales Transformation at Middlesex University. After Toshiba, I spent a short time at a governance and risk company but soon realised it wasn’t for me. 

I was then approached by the then CEO of Apogee who had read about what I’d done with my degree and how I’d introduced learning into sales in previous roles. He felt that because Apogee had been a privately-owned business and was acquired by a corporate company, my understanding of how to transform behaviour and culture would make me a good fit and I agreed. So, in February 2020, I joined Apogee as Chief Sales Officer (CSO).   

In a transformative role like Chief Sales Officer, decisions often impact the entire team. How do you involve your team in the decision-making process, especially when implementing changes, to ensure a collaborative and inclusive approach?  

I think it’s so important to listen to what your employees have to say and to consider the impact any decisions you’re about to make could have on them. In such a big company like Apogee, even the tiniest of changes can create the biggest of ripples, so I make sure I take a step back and consider the potential outcomes and implications of the decisions I make and encourage other managers to do the same.   

Leading a transformation in a sales culture requires effective leadership. How do you measure and assess your leadership effectiveness, and what feedback mechanisms do you have in place to understand how your team perceives your leadership? 

For me, there are two ways of measuring progress, one is the lag measure, and the other is a lead measure. A ‘‘lag’’ is the ultimate result – like pipeline, revenue or gross profit (GP) targets. The difference is that I cannot effect lag measure, but I can effect lead measures. Lead measures are typical activities such as customer visits or account managers educating themselves in the right area, for example. This could be through account planning, presentation delivery or truly understanding their customers’ world and the needs of different personas within one organisation. 

I can measure progress on all our ‘‘lead’’ factors, and I can influence this by having an aligned leadership team that supports these goals. We currently measure these through a competency framework agreed with the sales leaders, utilising tools like e4enable which allows us to correlate lag results to our lead measures. For example, we have seen a 40% increase in opportunity with customers where there is smarter activity within that account. 

To ensure we get the right feedback from the different stakeholders, we hold regular meetings and 1:1s within each team. This is alongside ongoing field accompaniment to ensure we can see first-hand what the customer engagement is like and is all underpinned by the data and trends we see in our CRM. This is also combined with a ‘‘Voice of the Customer’’ project to ensure we gather insights from all areas – and that ultimately, our customers are happy with the account management engagement they are receiving.   

As a leader, how do you ensure your team has the necessary tools for success? 

I subscribe to the idea that if an individual has the will, we’ll help them gain the skill. We do that through a variety of initiatives and by creating a culture of listening whereby if somebody feels they need extra support or guidance, they are empowered to speak up about that and we’ll ensure they are equipped with the skills and tools they need to succeed. 

Investing in the professional development of your team is vital. What specific initiatives or programmes have you implemented to ensure that team members have opportunities for continuous learning and skill enhancement?   

One thing I was keen to implement was coaching. It’s something I’ve benefited from and that can have a really transformative effect. This approach ensures individuals are taught how to do their role, how to get results and how to grow the business, rather than throwing them in at the deep end and expecting them to produce results out of nowhere. In sales in particular, there are elements of the role that can create anxiety, so we put a lot of energy and resources behind coaching to help upskill individuals and also give them the confidence to do their role. 

In an environment encouraging risk-taking, how do you foster a culture that allows team members to experiment with new ideas?  

I believe that failure is the one inevitability of business. I think for any business to progress, you need to learn how to fail and how to create something positive from failure. That ethos is something I try to instil in my team so that they feel empowered to try something new – and inevitably the results will come.   

You’ve emphasised the importance of people and company culture. How do you actively prioritise and invest in the development and well-being of your team members to ensure they remain a key asset to the company?   

I believe that failure is the one inevitability of business.

For me, well-being initiatives aren’t about Pizza Fridays or after-work drinks, for example. Instead, I believe it’s important to understand what poor mental health looks like and to cultivate an environment where we respect the well-being and mental health of individuals. The coaching we offer plays into that, but we’ve also introduced a non-industry mentor to the sales team who is there to offer support.   

Work and personal life are interconnected so individuals can talk to the mentor about anything that is impacting their well-being and those conversations stay between just them and the mentor. We feel this combination of coaching and mentoring is really important to ensure individuals feel supported and cared for by the company.   

For emerging leaders aspiring to make transformative changes, what advice would you offer based on your experiences and the lessons you’ve learned at Apogee?  

I would say focus on the people first. The people are what really matters, so you need to make sure you have the right individuals and that they are respected and listened to. As a second point, and one I touched on previously, I would say, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure in itself doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you can learn from that failure and create something positive out of it.  

Executive Profile 

Carl Day

Carl Day has been in the technology and managed services industries for the majority of his professional life, and has extensive experience leading direct and indirect sales teams in both B2B and B2C markets. Carl is passionate about personal development and work-based learning and coaching, all of which are critical for Apogee as we invest in developing our skills and effectiveness in this area. He has a Master’s degree in leading sales transformation, and a track record of implementing and enhancing programmes that drive sales performance and ultimately, growth in market share. 

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