Chairman's Newsletter: December 2020
As 2020 comes to a close, WWT Founder and Chairman Dave Steward shares his thoughts on the business, WWT's legacy and what is inspiring him.
As 2020 draws to a close, I am reminded that, even in the midst of unforeseen adversity, I have countless blessings for which I am so thankful. From the isolation caused by a global pandemic to the nationwide social unrest to a tumultuous political season, we have all faced circumstances we could never have foreseen a year ago.
The great Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This quote embodies the World Wide Technology family and spirit, especially during this year.
Reflecting back on how we have weathered the many storms we have faced — not just in 2020, but over the last 30 years of WWT existence — I often ask myself: How will WWT be remembered?
I believe this year parallels our 30-year journey and helps answer that question.
Like the great eagle who continues to rise until it flies above the storm, we have continued to lean in, look up and continue to soar above the storm. Our story is one of sacrifice, service, faith, triumph and celebration.
I find it ironic that WWT celebrated its 30th anniversary during such an unprecedented and challenging year. Many of you have heard the stories of struggle during our early years.
- There were many times I went home without a paycheck but was blessed to be able to meet payroll for my employees.
- I watched as my car was repossessed in front of employees like Angie Densmore, Kathy Knobelock and Joe Koenig, who were depending on the success of this company for their livelihood.
Yet even in the face of some very dark days in the early 1990s, we still believed we would prevail and chose to walk by faith not by sight. And look at us now!
I know I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I am forever grateful to the people who chose to stand by my side and forge this path with me. Specifically, Jim Kavanaugh had the courage to leave his steady job and step out in faith to help me launch WWT.
Although we did not realize it at the time, we were blazing a trail — a black man and a white man building a technology business. And not in the center of Silicon Valley, but in the heart of the Midwest. Also, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Julene Tojo as well, who also stepped out in faith to support the launch of this business and the countless number of leaders who weathered the most difficult challenges in our company’s history.
It is important we recognize the value each of us brings to the table. Not one member of our WWT family is more important than another, for when we all work together we represent the full body of Christ, and the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in all of us.
Three decades later, we have grown our vision into a $13 billion company with 8,100 full-time employees serving the entire globe — all thanks to each of you and your unique, God-given talents and skills.
When WWT first began, I remember carrying two satchels containing our 8(a) Business Development certification application into the office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. It was not easy, but we won acceptance into the program, which helps level the playing field for small businesses owned by economically disadvantaged individuals known as 8(a). This acceptance helped build momentum for the success WWT has experienced to date. With the help of SBA leaders like Maureen Brinkley and the hard work and dedication of many employees, WWT has become the most successful 8(a) and small business story in the history of the program. Truly inspiring!
We are now blessed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with diverse suppliers every year to help them grow their businesses. Scripture reminds us, “To whom much is given, much will be required!”
Big things have small beginnings, and that is exactly how we grew with our first customer, Southwestern Bell Corporation (now AT&T). We began as a value-added reseller but have since blossomed into an award-winning technology solutions provider. Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, AT&T’s first Director of Diversity, played an important role in cementing our relationships. I am proud to now have her on our WWT Board of Directors. She continues to be an invaluable resource to help grow our business and strengthen our Diversity & Inclusion programs.
Speaking of D&I, this year General Bob Ferrell was appointed to lead our Diversity and Inclusion efforts, partnering with Ann Marr. I am happy to report we have seven new Employee Resource Groups that will continue to strengthen WWT and position us for continued growth with a diverse employee population that is a Great Place To Work for All.
I am so thankful to our thousands of customers and partners who have placed their trust in World Wide Technology. Because of them and our incredible workforce, WWT will realize the most successful year in history. While so many businesses have been forced to cut jobs or even shut their doors for good, WWT continues to thrive.
As a result of the increased diversity, equity and inclusion focus around the globe, I have been blessed to speak at a number of fireside chats this year. In addition to celebrating Black History Month with our UK team, I have shared the stage with executives at OptumServe, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco, HITEC, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Economic Club of New York, to name just a few.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share our story and that of WWT. I pray our story may inspire others.
At the onset of the COVID pandemic, we instituted a company-wide prayer call. I am thankful to those who have chosen to participate. These completely voluntary calls have featured remarkable musical talent and inspirational guest speakers and are a wonderful time of fellowship that has grown to include many of our customers, partners and friends. I want to thank you for your many kind words of encouragement. I received one note from a new employee telling me he was being pursued by WWT and another top organization, and he chose us because of the prayer calls! Thank you to the amazing team leading the coordination of these calls!
So, how will WWT be remembered? In a recent WWT interview, Board Advisor Brandon Mann said, “Culture is not developed in a crisis; it is actually revealed by it.” For me, I believe 2020 will be a major component of how WWT will be remembered for a long time coming. We have leaned into the storm! We have come together to support one another and are soaring higher than ever! Thank you for all that you have done to support the success of World Wide Technology. As always, I am grateful to have you in our family, and I thank God every day for all of you.
May God continue to richly bless and protect you and your precious families. In respect for the many faiths gathered under the WWT umbrella, I wish each of you a Happy Holiday Season, Happy Hanukkah, a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of God’s abundant blessings!