Stephen Tracy works in IT, but if you ask him about the greatest challenge he faces in business today, he won’t bring up bitcoin, or the cloud, or even generative artificial intelligence.
“It’s growing other leaders,” he says.
To be clear, it’s not like the team at Entech doesn’t solve serious technology challenges on a daily basis. The Fort Myers-based company, which provides managed support services to its clients, is responsible for keeping the computers working at several local schools, and protecting area businesses from various cybersecurity threats.
But developing leaders is a unique challenge, particularly at a company that frequently grows via merger. “With that, sometimes their version of leadership isn’t up to our standard,” Tracy explains. (But not always: Tracy says Entech’s chief revenue officer, David Spire, is “one of the smartest, hardest-working individuals I’ve met in my life.”)
The good news is that, at least in Tracy’s experience, leadership is a skill that can be developed. It was true for Tracy, who started at Entech in a front-line technical role after studying IT at Florida State University. Nine years later, Tracy is the Vice President of Service Operations at Entech, and looking to develop a leadership bench of his own.
The key for him was working closely with the manager who hired him. Tracy was being given additional opportunities to lead because his own boss, Buddy Martin, was moving up as well. Martin, himself a former service operations VP, is now president and COO at Entech. Martin is also Tracy’s mentor.
Through working together, Martin showed Tracy the importance of thinking ahead. “Identify where we’re going and make a plan,” Tracy says. “It’s, ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do, here’s how we’re gonna get there.’”
Tracy expects the need for strategic planning to continue at Entech. These days the company is working with a private equity firm to accelerate growth, a partnership pushing out the time horizon. “They’re challenging us on, if you think you need something in a year to grow, you should be recruiting for it now. It’s all about the strategy. You move on from muscle and feel,” he says.
(This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Entech's chief revenue officer and the location of the company headquarters.)