Chairman's Newsletter: August 2023
In this news
Greetings WWT Family and friends,
I hope and pray you have been enjoying whatever season you are in — all over the world!
The summer season in the United States is almost coming to a close and although the important U.S. holidays of Memorial Day and Independence Day have passed, please allow me to say a very big "thank you" to all members of our military and their families. I am grateful for the sacrifices you have made to ensure our freedom and the American dream lives on.
Before I dive in, I want to call out an image that is near and dear to me. The photo was taken during the construction of our global headquarters facility, which opened in 2017. Written on the main crossbeam of the building is an important scripture message taken from Ephesians 2:20-22, which reads:
As we continue throughout our journey at WWT — no matter your role or title — I encourage you to remember these words, which give meaning and purpose to our work and glory and honor to God.
As mentioned in my last newsletter, the WWT board and management team have been very focused on strategic planning. In fact, half of our two-day board meeting last month was devoted to continuing our strategic planning discussions. A plan is in place to continue capitalizing on tremendous marketplace opportunities while ensuring our strong culture and core values remain a steadfast part of World Wide Technology well into the future.
Our board devotions reflected the importance of thoughtful planning, with Scriptures taken from James 4:13-16 and James 3:13-18. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, these sacred messages remain as relevant today as when they were written.
With respect for people of all faiths and worldviews, I believe we are to seek to glorify God in all we do. I hope you will enjoy reading these devotions focused on our part in fulfilling His plan at WWT and beyond.
As we look to strengthening the position of WWT in the global technology market, I am very pleased to reinforce Jim Kavanaugh's message on the tremendous first half we have had in 2023. Not only did we experience over 65 percent growth over budget, but we were also once again recognized on Fortune's Great Places To Work list for the 12th consecutive year! Additionally, our UK, Singapore and India teams also received this remarkable distinction.
Sustaining our mission of being a profitable, growth company that is also a great place to work for all is such an amazing testament to our culture, core values and, not least of all, our employees. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do to make WWT a Great Place to Work for ALL!
Speaking of culture: In late July, I was thrilled to see our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team host a DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) summit, titled "Driving Progress: The Future of DEIB at Work," at our global headquarters. The event focused on the importance of a diverse workforce and creating a culture of inclusion. Discussions and presentations featured a star-powered panel:
- Google Cloud Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker
- KPMG Chief Diversity Officer Elena Richards
- Enterprise Holdings Chief Diversity Officer Errin Braddock
- Synchrony EVP and Chief HR Officer DJ Casto
- Our very own Bob Ferrell, Ann Marr and Erika Schenk
Diversity, equity and inclusion have been part of the WWT DNA since its founding over 30 years ago and will remain an integral part of WWT's success moving forward.
Along those lines, I want to congratulate WWT CFO, Tom Strunk, on being recognized by CRN in its inaugural list of Inclusive Leaders. Tom serves as a strong example of WWT's values. I thank him for his commitment to fostering an inclusive environment that helps drive our organization toward a brighter future.
Operating in the technology space for over 30 years, we are no strangers to rapid change. Nowhere are we seeing change happen faster than in artificial intelligence. WWT has a proven track record of turning disruption into opportunity — due largely to our innovative and inclusive culture and core values. AI presents a similar opportunity for us to once again demonstrate our adaptability and resilience — to learn new skills, expand capabilities and drive positive change.
I want to encourage each of you to lean into AI. Our company is built on a culture of innovation and each of you has a unique perspective that can fuel our innovation engine and drive our AI journey.
Our younger colleagues are often the most open to change and this year's crop of WWT interns is no different!
Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with the over 200 college interns. I was impressed with their very insightful questions — some of which afforded me the opportunity to share stories of my youth growing up on the "other side of the tracks" in Clinton, Missouri.
It brings me such joy to see so much diversity of the students represented. Thank you to all the mentors who provide invaluable leadership and guidance to our interns. To be sure, WWT's future is bright thanks to these aspiring, energetic minds!
I want to give special recognition to the team that worked very diligently to secure our recertification as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) with New York City. This work will help WWT drive more value and impact in the nation's largest city. This recertification was critical for WWT to secure several important contracts, most notably the New York Citywide IT Purchasing Contract.
As one of only three contract holders, this contract makes us the sole provider of a growing list of partner solutions including Cisco, AWS, Cohesity, NetApp and Armis, among others, to mayoral agencies with a total five-year value in excess of $400 million. It is the largest awarded MWBE IT contract in the City's history! We are grateful for the opportunity to help drive innovation and serve the City of New York. Thank you to the amazing team who made this possible!
I had the honor of hosting Under Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development Don Cravins and his staff in June. Under Secretary Cravins leads the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in its service of the nation's 9.7 million minority business enterprises. I am thrilled to report that after more than 52 years in existence, the MBDA is now the United States' newest federal agency thanks to President Joe Biden signing the Minority Business Development Act of 2021 to expand the MBDA's impact.
The MBDA helps marginalized, historically underrepresented communities and businesses in expanding economic mobility for all. These are issues that are important to my life's work. I am looking forward to another visit with Under Secretary Cravins this October, when we are together for the 40th Anniversary National Minority Enterprise Development Week.
In May, WWT sponsored, and our leaders attended, the Minority Business Economic Forum, which was inspired by the World Economic Forum. The NMSDC event in Miami tapped top leaders of corporate America, the administration, and other thought leaders to discuss and enable action relative to how minority owned businesses can be an integral part of the American economy. The Forum was packed full of provocative discussions ranging from how to break historical economic injustices to building generational wealth through business diversity.
My good friend and fellow entrepreneur Eric Kelly — whose company, Bridge 2 Technologies, is based in Silicon Valley — hosted the third annual Global Intellect Summit at the NASDAQ on Times Square in New York City in June. Eric convened 100 prominent corporate, educational, financial and non-profit leaders to address the challenges of building an inclusive business ecosystem and strategies to connect global corporations to diverse-owned companies. His goal is to build a business ecosystem valued at $500 billion. We had a wonderful time ringing the NASDAQ opening bell.
A major component of Eric's vision is making society better, and that's why Eric invited me and Danny Ludeman from Concordance to address what we are doing to help reduce reincarceration in state prisons.
The cycle of repeated jail sentences takes an enormous personal, economic and societal toll on America. Concordance helps reduce reincarceration rates by offering individuals recently released from prison a wholistic program that presents a first real chance at healing from past traumas. The program focuses on treating substance abuse and mental health issues, job training and placement, and spiritual wholeness in addition to other skills needed to lead a successful life.
Reducing recidivism is critical to advancing racial equity in our country. You can read more about Concordance in the next section of this newsletter.
While we were at the NASDAQ, Al Zollar, a highly respected technology entrepreneur and a director of IBM, hosted a lunch for a small group of young men from the Eagle Academy in New York. My good friend Arnold Donald, former chairman and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, joined us. The Eagle Academy for Young Men is a college prep school for young Black men that is committed to the pursuit of academic excellence, strong character and responsible leadership.
The young men reflect Eagle Academy's success. Each of them has a life story that includes some extra "distance traveled," meaning that they are overcoming financial, family or personal challenges that others do not. I was very impressed with the strength of their commitment to excellence.
Concordance was in the news earlier this month when Wells Fargo, the financial services giant ($1.9 trillion in assets and significant WWT customer) announced it will donate $60 million to the First Chance campaign, which I chair.
Concordance's evidence‑based model breaks the generational cycle of crime, transforms communities, and changes racial equity for the better. It is a holistic program that provides a structured pathway for successful re‑entry into society and lowers crime and reincarceration rates in the process.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than one million people are held in state penitentiaries, including about 60 percent who are Black or Hispanic. Of those one million individuals, 71 percent will be re‑arrested within a three‑to‑five‑year period after committing additional offenses and will be imprisoned on average seven times in their lifetimes.
Wells Fargo Vice Chairman and former White House Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, and Governor Henry McMaster made the announcement in Columbia, the South Carolina capital, where Concordance will build its second re-entry center in Greenville.
Wells Fargo Senior Executive Vice President Kristy Fercho's remarks were powerful in communicating the devastating cycle that is perpetuated by many complex, co-occurring factors such as childhood trauma and mental health and substance use disorders, all of which Concordance's holistic program address with their participants.
Wells Fargo is committed to strengthening underserved communities and building a more inclusive economy. We are truly grateful for their commitment to ending the cycle of reincarceration and impacting change for generations to come.
WWT, meanwhile, is providing technology and services needed at each new Concordance center as well as supporting job education and training.
As many of you know, I am blessed with two beautiful grandchildren. As the saying goes, your children are an investment; your grandchildren are the dividends. So it was a pleasure for me to be interviewed by the grandson of a business leader I knew years ago and who helped shape my early career.
The late Harry Cornell was a legend in the furniture industry and served as CEO of Leggett & Platt in Carthage, Missouri. When his grandson, Brent Beshore, hosted me at his Capital Camp in Columbia, Missouri, on May 25, I was able to tell him how much I respected his grandfather and how positive Harry made me feel as I started growing WWT.
Brent's Capital Camp was a two-day gathering of young entrepreneurs who wanted to hear about the distance I traveled in the course of my 50 years in business. The real action was, as always, in the Q&A, and I really enjoyed seeing and hearing the next generation of business success. Brandon Mann from Kingdom Capital was there with me and we spoke of how Scripture has informed our approach to business.
Thelma and I had the pleasure of hosting a pre-race dinner on the eve of the second annual Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup Series race. The race was held June 4, and once again was a rousing success and sellout event. Through several hours of weather and crash delays, the crowd hung in there and cheered Kyle Busch onto victory.
The Confluence Music Festival , once again, brought a host of wonderful talent to the race. Fans enjoyed performances from many local groups, as well as Flo Rida, Bailey Zimmerman, Brothers Osborne, and the headliner, Dierks Bentley. There truly was something for everyone from all walks of music entertainment!
An astonishing figure on media relations I want to share from this incredible NASCAR weekend is that over 8.5 billion impressions were captured — an unprecedented number generating over $216 million in ad value and over 2,000 earned media placements. It was remarked by sports commentators that WWT Raceway has become the center of the NASCAR universe!
WWT and the Steward Family could not be more honored to partner with Curtis Francois and his phenomenal team to bring one of the most significant sporting events for WWT and our area to the Gateway Region.
We are now looking forward to welcoming the 7th annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 INDYCAR series race on Aug. 27 and the NHRA Midwest Nationals Sept. 29 – Oct. 1. As of the writing of this newsletter, I am excited to share with you that we have over 2,600 employees who will be attending the INDYCAR race. It is sure to be another great day of racing at WWT Raceway!
I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of aspiring young men who play on the Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Tour, a non-profit organization that seeks to bring greater diversity to golf.
As many who know me can attest, I am not the type you would want to have on your foursome in a golf tournament. But I am passionate about creating opportunities for others — particularly in places where underserved communities are conspicuously absent.
The APGA Player Development program, of which WWT is a sponsor, is a perfect example of how we can make a difference and best represent the values of WWT, the PGA TOUR and the APGA Tour.
As part of this commitment, we are excited to provide Chase Johnson, the winner of this year's APGA Ascension Classic, an exemption into the PGA TOUR's 2023 World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas.
I told the APGA players to recognize the impact they can make on this world by serving as role models for a new generation of aspiring golfers of color.
I thank them and all who made this year's APGA Ascension Classic possible through their hard work and determination.
Many of you know my family's deep passion for improving the community. Thus, it was an honor for my family to be recognized May 11 by FOCUS St. Louis, the region's premier leadership nonprofit that prepares diverse leaders to work cooperatively for a thriving St. Louis region, with their 2023 Leadership Award.
Dave II and Kimberly accepted the award on behalf of our family at the organization's 26th annual What's Right with the Region Celebration at Sheldon Concert Hall. The award "recognizes individuals who demonstrate committed leadership, generate a meaningful impact in the community, and encourage strong community engagement in others."
I was blessed to celebrate another birthday last month! As I was surrounded by my family and friends, I reflected on how God has been so gracious to me and my family. Ephesians 3:20-21 tells us:
I give all glory and honor to the One who has provided all things!
One of my greatest pleasures has been receiving so many wonderful notes of gratitude from those who read this newsletter, join the WWT Family and Friends prayer calls and submit prayer requests to our faithful prayer team.
I am deeply humbled by these expressions of gratitude and would like to share with you just a few of the comments I have received. Thank you to the tremendous team who makes this all happen. Again, to God be the glory!
- "Thank you for what you do for our WWT family."
- "Thank you for continuing the prayer calls. Because of this my faith has been strengthened, and I have been encouraged in some of life's toughest battles. Such a blessing to so many."
- "I love the newsletter and appreciate the call for us all to encourage one another."
- "Such an awesome summary of the great work taking place at WWT and beyond! Thank you!"
- "I am so grateful I work for a company that offers to pray for me!! That is simply AMAZING!"
In closing, I want to again express my deep gratitude and appreciation to every employee, customer, partner and to all of your families. YOU are the reason WWT has such a wonderful and embracing culture that not only permeates the halls of our buildings but reaches out to all of our communities.
May God continue to richly and abundantly bless you and your precious families.