Adam Torres and Kevin M. Campbell discuss life and business.
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Managing a business and a family is no easy feat. In this episode, Adam Torres interviewed Kevin M. Campbell, Chief Executive Officer at Syniti. Explore business and life lessons from Kevin along with his new book, Mission Matters: World’s Leading Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Top Tips To Success (Business Leaders Vol. 10, Edition 10).
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About Kevin M. Campbell
As CEO, Kevin drives the growth agenda of Syniti with poise and at ease. With a solid track record in driving growth at scale, Kevin joined Syniti as president, global consulting and services April 2018, and was named as CEO in February 2019.
During his 20+ year, 2-term tenure at Accenture, he was Group Chief Executive for Outsourcing and Group Chief Executive Technology where he drove double-digit growth. Kevin was also CO-COO for Bridgewater Associates and COO for Oscar Health based out of New York.
As CEO, Kevin’s leadership remit here is simple: Inspire and empower those around him to deliver on the business’ vision and purpose. He oversees all aspects of our operation while also taking every opportunity to engage with customers, partners, and employees on the ground around the world.
At home and in relaxed mode, Kevin devotes himself to family life and the resulting bike rides and activities that come with such a commitment. He also coaches his children’s sports teams and can often be found at various sports fields hurling encouragement. This has even been turned into a group activity when they attend Atlanta United FC as season ticket holders.
Syniti enables agile enterprises with silo-free enterprise data management that helps turn complex data challenges into competitive advantages.With a unified learning platform and one of the world’s largest teams of data-focused experts, enterprises and global alliance partners choose Syniti when they require trusted data to ignite business growth and reduce risks.
Syniti is a portfolio company of BridgeGrowth Partners LLC. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts with offices in 25 countries around the world, Syniti operates in all global regions and industry verticals, and maintains a 99.7% client success rate across thousands of complex data projects and initiatives.
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to missionmatters. com and click on be our guest to apply. All right. So today’s a very special episode. We’re bringing back onto the show, Kevin Campbell, who is a chief executive officer over at Synody.
And also I’m proud to announce an author in our recently released. volume 10 of our best selling business leaders series. I’m happy to announce. First off, Kevin, Hey, I just want to say welcome back to the show. Thanks. And thanks for having me. It’s always great to be here and talk with you, Adam. All right.
So we, we got a whole lot to cover today. Like I’m excited to get into the content. Of course, we’re going to talk about the book, of course. And I want to get into that as well, but we’ll start this episode the way that we start them all with our mission matters minute. I know, you know, the drill. So Kevin, we at mission matters, we amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts.
That’s our mission. Kevin, what mission matters to you? Well, the mission that matters to me. Is about, you know, making sure that data, which is the, it’s really the fundamental building block of all business. The data is accurate, reliable and trustworthy. That’s the mission that matters. In addition, of course, to, you know, being the dad of my kids and making that happen.
That’s great. Love bringing on mission based individuals to share, you know, why they do what they do, how they’re doing it, and really what we can all learn from that so that we, we all grow together. So great having you back on. And just just to kick us off and and to get into this. Book. So life and business lessons from a CEO and dad of seven.
So lots of different ways you could have approached this, this particular content. I found it pretty unique that you brought in, you know, the family part and the business part. Like tell us a little bit more about the angle and why. You know, I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’m fortunate to have a lot of great mentors, and if I could spend a minute, I’d just say, since we published the book one of my original mentors and a role model for me, my dad passed away during that time.
And, you know, so I, I dedicate what we did in the book and the chapter in the book to him because he taught me a lot of this stuff and he always taught me about lifelong learning, right? And I’m always trying to learn and I’m always trying to say, what have I experienced that I can learn from or that I can teach other people, right?
And the most poignant thing for my dad was at his funeral service, the pastor said, you know, I was most impressed with your dad. When he said to me, you know, my dad was 86 at the time me. Hey, Pastor, you’re gonna have to teach me how to die because I don’t know how to do that. And that just, like, gave me goosebumps and made me think about the fact that you know what?
We’re always on a journey to learn. So I’m thinking about what can I pass on to everybody else that I’ve learned? And I don’t believe that I’m a special individual or I’ve got any magic formulas. But so I looked at You know, what have I learned as a CEO? And I said, you know, what did having seven kids also teach me and what the parallels are?
Now, forget about the joking parallels I have that, you know, raising young kids is just like raising a young company, right? But it really was a chance for me to bring out and try to humanize some of the lessons that we’ve learned along the way and try to tell the story in a way that makes sense. Well, thank you for sharing that.
And of course, sorry to hear about your dad, but I am I am glad that you were able to honor him and honor his legacy through this as well. So great and happy to be part of that story with you. So looking at this concept of being really let’s just say a lifelong learner now, just circling back to sanity for a bit.
You Like you, you know, you’ve held a lot of roles, you, you know, I’ve been at the helm of, you know, you’re at the helm of a large company, like being, what does that mean in context to, you know, what you do on a day to day at Synody? So, you know, what, what I do, and it goes back to some of my lessons learned.
And so first, you know, a big thing with me is mentors. And I talked about my dad, but I’ve had other mentors as we have on the way. And I recently had one of the people that, that works in my organization say, Hey, would you be my mentor? And I always say yes to those requests. And she said, you know, I want to learn how to be a CEO.
So this is a woman who’s maybe 25, 26 that says, I want to be a CEO. And so, you know, it’s easy to say, I don’t have time for that. I can’t do that. You know, I can’t do anything. But what I really said, and this is where it all relates is I am gifted to have had great mentors and still great mentors along the way.
So what our job at, you know, when we’ve been given gifts is to pass those gifts on to other people. And so what I say is, you know, I can’t mentor or talk to every single person just like doing with the, you know, with your your, your podcasts and the books here. But I can try to impact some people and I can pass some lessons along.
So at Synody, we’re about you know, a growing company. Right. It’s doing stuff and data that’s unique and different, but yet at the same time, right? We’re trying to also teach other people how to do what we do and so it’s that concept of everything goes full circle Yeah, and so just to kind of and for everybody watching this by the way So we won’t we’re not gonna hit every one of these points because we do want you to pick up the book, right?
We I’m a publisher. I sell books, but we’ll hit a couple of them, but I’ll read them kind of broadly So you have a? feel for the content and the context of the conversation. So so the title already read. So life and business lessons from a CEO and data seven, and then some of the sections within that.
So prioritization is critical, but balance is in the eye of the beholder. People are key to creating and sustaining success. Mentors matter as. Kevin just talked about have one, be one and be sure to give back your toughest clients are your best clients. And then it’s lonely at the top. So just to maybe kind of pick some of these apart a little bit more.
So people are the key to creating a sustaining success. What do you hope your readers get from that part of the, a part of the work? Well, having grown sigma person and discipline and process. I had the pleasure of working for Ray Dalio, the legendary investment. Wow. Save for me. Kevin, it’s about the who, and I like the first 17 times he told that to me.
I kept saying, what do you mean the who? And he said, you know, you can put all those processes in place and you can do all that stuff, but the who is super important. And. I learned from him to put back the balance on who’s in the right job. And do we have the people in the right job that right on? The people are there.
Our objective is leaders, right? If you look at, so to speak, our mission. They aren’t. My mission is to get people that work for me to do more than they think is possible, right? And if we do that, people did that for me are exceeded the expectations of what a boy out of the Midwest, you know, could have done and and and exceeded.
And my job is to empower them to be able to do that through a combination of, you know, coaching, controlling and inspiring. So again, yeah. The people, the people are the core of the business. The people are poor and getting them, you know, when you have one of those moments, I had, you know, two of my leaders presenting to a client recently, and it was one of those experiences where you’re just, just like a dad, you’re super proud, right?
You’re super proud and say, wow, these guys are amazing. Right? And so that’s why I go back to, it’s the people that matter, right? They’re all different. Right. And one of the things, I mean, just kind of bringing it to present day when we talk, and I, and I love this thought process. And even on my team, like I, I, I mean, we’re, we’re a smaller company.
I never claimed to have it all figured out. Not saying you claim do either, but I never do. And I’m always thinking about, we’re always thinking about new ways to look at problems and things and how to attack those and how to add value for our clientele. And I’m always like, we got, we got the right people on board.
We got the right people on board. We have to, you know. Work out and figure out some of the other things possibly that aren’t, you know, are maybe holding us back or that next level, what that looks like. So that being said, for those that are out there that are maybe like, and obviously, you know, different size of companies, different, you know, industries, but right now there’s all this.
Stuff in the media for context, we’re recording this in August of 2023. So there’s all this stuff in the media about, you know, about people not wanting to work or not, you know, we’re all back to the work. Should we go to the office? Should we not in that context, if you, there’s some leaders out there that will watch this and they’re like, well, I’m trying to get some of the right people, like, what do you think are some of those ingredients that help get the right people on board?
Well, I think there’s a couple of things. One is the pandemic changed. You know, the landscape, you know, as we were talking earlier, it changed the landscape for all of us forever. So you can’t go back, got to go forward. And what I try to work with my team on is we got to reinvent the future. Right. And, you know, we went through the great resignation and, you know, now we’ve got the great stay.
And, and, you know, with more economic headwinds that people have, people aren’t moving around, they moved around a lot. Now they aren’t moving around. But what’s important is why do I stay where I stay? And what I got my team focused on is what, and I saw this the other day when some company said, we want all the people back to the office.
And the people say. But you got to tell us why, what do we get out of being back to the office? We don’t want platitudes. And so, you know, what I’m challenging my HR and my leadership team with all the time is saying why and and so not going back doesn’t make any sense either because you and I talked about what’s the power of when we’re in person.
And how great that feels. So the thing is, how do I keep experimenting with ideas and concepts to say, how do I give employees that wow moment when they are with their fellow employees and whether they’re having a slice of pizza or they’re having a brainstorm session about something and they say, wow, that was a really good day.
Yeah. And to bring it back to my kids, you know, I’ve got a daughter that’s a second year law student. Right. And I’m, you know, watching her, she finished her first internship and she’s now interviewing for second years. Wow. And I’m listening and I get to translate and think about it from her perspective.
Cause she’s like, why do I have to go to the office then? Right. Why do I have to do this? And so it just gives you another filter. Ask the people, but in the end of the day, you gotta love what you do. Dad said to me early on, try to find something you love. Until you find something because other than sleep, you’re probably going to work more than you do anything else.
So if you don’t love it, that’s a, that’s a mistake. And one of the things, I mean, as we’ve gotten to know each other, I mean, you, you know, I had to bring up the sneakers. I had to bring them up as we’ve gotten to know each other, I can. I see that you’re not just saying these things like even you’re looking for moments of, of ways to improve culture, build on what’s been built and and also just make people feel included that their ideas are heard.
So you gotta say that the sneaker example for me, because they’re a big deal. And I’m telling you, you launched, I wanted to document this you launched the mission matters sneakers. So thank you for that. You’re you’re welcome. As we were chatting a little bit before you can see the sneaker back there.
And what happened was, you know, we were talking about we’re getting ready to do a yearly show that we do with one of our big partners. And one of our product and engineering people, she said, Hey, you know, we always do shirts or, you know, jerseys or pullovers or something like that. I got so many of the last me a lifetime do something else.
And she said, Hey, how about if we do sneakers? And it was a great idea. Now, at first we said, Oh, we can’t do that. That’s crazy. How can you do that? But you know what, I got some super creative people on the team and they put it together and, you know, we got custom made sneakers. They’ve got our color on it.
They’ve got our name on it. And we wore it, you know, for this thing and now it’s, it’s caught on, right. And it’s caught on, you know, now I’m always afraid and not afraid to wear the brand and be the brand. And, you know, at that show, I had to fly up to New York to give a talk. And I came back and I knew we had something when.
17 people in the airport on the way back, including all the TSA agents. Never say anything nice to you. Usually. Right. It to me, I like your sneakers. Wow. So I catch it right. To be able to do that. And I was with a group of CEOs and I told you. Over the course of a weekend, every one of those CEOs said to me, I like your sneakers.
Wow. And so, it’s catchy, it’s different and it makes a statement. And it started from an idea from one person that we had, and then, you know, a lot of people, other people riffed off of it, and figured out, you know, what they were going to do, and how we were going to make it happen. And there’s some great stories that are already coming out of it.
And I told you I was in Europe. And now people are saying, how do I get those sneakers? So that’s how you know, you’ve made the next step when they’re saying, how do you get there? And, you know, thanks to my team, we’re doing, you know, some con sales contests. And, you know, we had an all hands meeting recently.
And the question in the chat was. How do I get some of those sneakers? What do I have to do to get those sneakers? So now it becomes a thing, right? So one suggestion and you know what, you got to be willing to have some bad ones. Yeah, able to say, Oh, that was a shitty idea. Right. Let that one go now. Right.
It’s great. So it’s a great story and I love you telling it because well first I wanted to document it I think it’s hilarious, but I think it’s a great idea But second and like for the other leaders out there that’ll watch this it’s kind of like the way I think of it is like being on the lookout or just kind of like It’s trying to figure out where the, I always feel in my organization, the next great idea is not going to come from me.
So I’m listening to the conversation. I’m listening to the chatter. I’m asking questions and I’m just trying to listen. Right, right. I know that as a leader, your job, like I said, get people to do more than they think, but get, try to get those ideas to be able to come up. And sometimes, you know, it requires that you challenge people.
And say that was that’s not a good idea or well, I think there’s the problem with that. And that’s the thing. Still, most of us struggle as leaders to get that right balance between tell do and facilitate what’s going on. So And I’m a believer you need a strong hand to be able to do that. Let’s let’s, let’s pull out another, another section of the book.
So your toughest clients are your best clients. Now, you know, that sounds nice. It’s flowery when we’re dealing with our toughest clients. Sometimes that’s not the, the easiest thing, but like, why include this into your work? And then there’s the chapter. Cause I, I think it’s one of those things that I learned early on, right?
Because I always said, You know, growing up in consulting and building systems, right? You always say, Hey, I need that perfect client. It’s really great work and they agree with everything I say, right. And I get to do whatever I want to do. And you know, you’ve also got the nightmare clients that don’t agree to anything.
And so you’re always finding that perfect client. And it was somewhere along the way where I said to myself, you know what, if I look at the clients I’ve had, the ones that I thought were perfect, probably weren’t perfect. And the ones that were, that were, I learned the most, I ultimately had the most fun where we created something that was new, that people still talk about 10 years later, are these ones who push your thinking and together, right?
It sounds like consulting ease, but together that one plus one equals the three or the four or the five, right? It’s that you push each other to do something. If you both could do it on your own, you don’t need each other, right? And, and whether we’re talking about mergers and acquisitions, or we’re talking about, you know, how to create, you know, a new who’s and what’s for the company, we’re trying to innovate something new, it happens when you put good minds together and they push each other.
And so, you know, again, I listed it as one of my five biggest lessons learned, right during the time that, that we had there. That I’ve had right so far as CEO is to say, Hey, those are the clients that are super important. Yeah. And I, I look back. So when I was reading this and I was kind of going through, I look back into my career.
Cause I don’t know whenever I’m, when I’m reading a book, whether it’s ours or someone else’s, I tend to kind of project my life and my experiences on it to kind of like test it. I mean, that’s the way I digest information. So when I, when I was looking back on my career, like I even went back to the earlier days when I was back when I was in a financial advisor and in finance.
And I was like, You know, the ones that were kind of like my thorns, like they always pushed me to get better always. And then as I got further and further, and now even in media, things like that, like even the fact that we’re doing this, this this interview by video was the based off of, you know, some of our, our authors and other individuals saying, you know, Adam, audio is good, but we want to do video.
And I’m like, video is hard videos of pain, like blah, blah, blah. But Kept pushing, kept pushing. And so when I look at a lot of our progress and progression, it’s always from the clients that speak up wanting a little bit more. And it’s a, and it’s a, it’s a good thing. I feel like our products have gotten better and throughout my entire course of just my, my career, I feel like it’s, it’s up my game.
It ups my team’s game and we re. Look at kind of like requests and things like that in another light. Like first is, is it feasible? Does it make sense? Like, can it be like, is it going to actually get the objective they want? Right. You can’t give it out everything all the time, but I love this piece of it because I hope, I’m hoping to that people that are, you know, watching this, it really start.
Thinking and taking that, that feedback or whatever it is that may make that client a little bit more tricky, we’ll say to see if that trickiness, if you can satisfy that, does that help lift everyone up? Like that’s the goal. And I, you know, the thing I would add on there, you know, I’m working on back to, you know, on my kids.
Cause I’m always trying to translate these lessons, lessons to them. And, you know, one, one of my mentors said to me, you know, we all get to the end of the day or the usually the end of the week, right? And we’re frustrated, right? And or tired or we had a bad week and you start complaining. We all it’s human nature, right?
Start complaining. And one of my mentors said to me, listen, always put when you say I don’t like this. Say, I get to do this if you feel the same way. And I think all of us don’t think enough about all the things we get to do. And when I think about those toughest clients, when I complained about those toughest clients, how I get to work with those clients and my attitude changes.
Yeah, right. So instead of that math test that I have to do or that really tough client I’m going to talk to today, say I get to.
And see if that helps you. I get to do these video interviews. Come on, Kevin. Part of this show is therapy for me. Thank you. I get to do video. That’s exactly right. And it’s become, and it’s honestly becoming all joking aside, it’s actually become one of my. Favorite things now is to get on these interviews.
They do and do the video at the beginning. It was a new skill set. It was something else, you know, I had to develop and learn, but now it’s my favorite part of the week. I’m like, I get to do these. So I’m, I’m thankful for that. I’m gonna pull out one other section from the book here. It’s lonely at the top.
Like, what, what do you mean by this? Well, you know, whenever I say that people are like, wow, wow, wow. Right. You know, it’s lonely, but, but in the end, right. I think it’s one of the things that being a CEO that not enough people, at least for me, not enough people told you, right. Cause it’s a privilege, right.
To be there. It’s a privilege to lead your company and all the other stuff, but nobody prepares you for the fact that, right. There’s some decisions that you can ask advice from a lot of people, but you got to make it yourself. Yeah. And I saw a great clip the other day by Kirby Smart. Kirby Smart is the is the head coach of the two time back to back world champion, Georgia Bulldogs.
So I got to put a, put a little push in there for my Georgia Bulldogs. Yeah. He said, you know, everybody talks about leadership and there’s books you can read on leadership and stuff. And he said, nobody wants to tell you about the price of leadership. Hmm. And he said, the price of leadership is not everybody’s going to like you.
Yeah. Right? Second thing is you’re going to make this, you have to make decisions that are unpopular. Third thing is you got to make decisions where the evidence isn’t clear and you’re going to feel uncomfortable and the lonely at the top. I say, because I wish everybody would know that and acknowledge it.
And I’ve had other CEOs say to me, whoo, thanks for saying that, right? I feel lonely, right? And then I talk a little bit about what are the things that I’ve found that are helpful to me, right? Having a coach, right? Or two, having mentors. So it ties back. Those are things that when you get really lonely at the top, you gotta make sure.
That you’re going forward and you’re making sure that you’re getting that perspective and you’re trading off and you understand that all decisions aren’t easy decisions, right, but that’s important. And that’s why a lot of those I didn’t realize this earlier in my career, but that’s why a lot of those CEO groups exist, right?
Like the EOs and like the YPOs and all of the different groups is because you know, those I guess that shared those common experiences and individuals, not only to learn from each other, but to have built camaraderie and community around that, right? Right. And if we think about it, you know, we’ve got boards of directors help give us advice right along the way, but we also, we need some times where we can just vent.
Right. And just say, man, I’m like in a tough spot. Right. And things are there and we don’t expect sympathy, but it’s just it’s human nature that that’s how you ride through all of the emotions. I’m sure, you know, when the pandemic hit, you had to have had some moments where you said, because all of the rest of us.
Oh, yeah. Oh man, what’s this mean for my business? Will it ever be the same? Will it not be there? And sharing that with other people makes a big difference. Well, as we close this out, I want to, I want to maybe go a little bit further in vicinity just so we so people know exactly what you do and maybe, and leave, and also a call to action if people want to learn more.
So maybe tell us a little bit more and as, and how people can really connect with the company and just get more information. Yeah, so sanity were about data, right? And we do the hardest day to work for the world’s biggest companies, right? That’s that’s what we’re all about. And when you talk about data, it’s migration, moving to the cloud, moving to new versions of systems.
consolidating because of M& A. That’s a big piece of what we do. It’s data quality. You know, I thought when you were talking before, you might say, you know, chat GPI, right? It’s going to make, change and revolutionize the world. Well, we’ve had a ton of hype, of hype cycles and they go up and they go down.
Yeah. Tell people all the time, if you want the goodies, You got to pay the price of having the quality data, and that’s why that important and governance. Who does what right in the company? So if you’re have any issues, first of all, I tell people every problem is a data problem, right? So, you know, call us and we’ll talk to you about your problems and what you can do.
But also, if you have big complex, you know, you created a data lake, which is a common term, and it turned into a data swamp. Right. You know, how do you fix that? How do you get that? And what you get vicinity is a point of view and people that it’s all we do is data. A lot of people do data as part of something else.
But we’re a built for purpose data company. And that’s what makes us unique. And you can go out to www dot synergy dot com. Right and go look us up and look at what’s what’s there you can also i’m, you know, kevin campbell at synody. com You can email me anytime and I will always respond to you and and get get back to you about what’s there So again, we haven’t we things have never been more exciting for us at our company And yes, there’s headwinds in the market and there’s lots of reasons to To gripe, but data is more important than ever.
One of my, one of my teammates says we were in data before data was cool. And I love that, right? Cause now data’s cool. And so everybody, you get to hang out with the cool kids to be able to do that. So it’s great. So happy to talk to anybody, happy to answer your questions and and thanks Adam for having me on.
Oh, man, always a pleasure, seriously, collaborating with you and a lot, a lot of fun promoting this book. And I know we’re just getting started a whole lot more content coming out around the book, around your story, around all of our authors stories. So excited to have you be part of this project. So again, thank you.
And to the audience, as always, thank you for tuning in. Hope you got a lot of value out of this. Hope you learned a lot. I sure did. If you did, don’t forget, hit that subscribe button. We have many more mission based individuals. Coming up in the line and we don’t want you to miss a thing, Kevin, as always pleasure collaborating with you, man.
Can’t wait till the next time we get to do this. All right. Thanks for having me. I really enjoy it and I’m looking forward to the next time too. And you know, the book’s a pretty good book, so it came together.