By Travis Cantwell, business honors ’22
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker
Priding himself in building cultures that breed success, Wayne Roberts ’85 (BANA) and ’86 (MBA) has built a career as a “fixer” and “grower” of teams and companies. From his early days as a consultant at Arthur Andersen through stints at Trammell Crow Company and back at Accenture, he learned the value of getting results “through people, not in spite of them.”
Roberts spoke to Business Honors students on Nov. 29 as part of the Mays Leadership Forum series. He provided invaluable advice to students on establishing extraordinary cultures, finding value in people, and understanding your passion and professional mission.
Roberts serves Mays in an ongoing capacity as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board and co-chairs the Student Recruitment and Development Committee.
Roberts recalls career path
When Dell came calling in the summer of 2000 while working at Accenture, Roberts jumped at the opportunity. The mission: help create a technology consulting business within Dell, intent on increasing hardware sales.
Over the next seven years, Roberts helped build a 300-plus employee team that became an integral part of Dell’s services strategy. He attributes his time at Dell to helping him find his passion – to create winning teams. His next position at Rackspace Hosting took him further into the technology sector, where he served in a variety of executive roles focused on building and growing a company known for a world-class culture.
Once again, culture generated exceptional results.
In 2014, Roberts made the move back to Austin, where he spent time with private-equity-backed Accruent. When Accruent quickly sold, Roberts became a first-time CEO and president at Banker’s Toolbox. It was time to apply all of the lessons learned through a 30-plus-year career to a promising but stagnant company. Two years later, Banker’s Toolbox has grown to six times the size in terms of revenue, increased EBITDA, and is known as a great place to work. Now a software platform company and national brand, the focus on culture to generate results is showing strong early returns.
For Roberts, profit comes second; people come first. He explained that the “…right people share your values. They see their job as a cause.” He said he sees mission and values as integral building blocks of successful companies. “If you get the people and culture part right, the results will happen.”
Every day, Banker’s Toolbox provides lunch for every employee. On the surface level, this may appear to be extravagant, but Roberts contends that it builds a culture of collaboration and actually improves results. The numbers back that assumption, as Banker’s Toolbox has seen a massive increase in revenue in two-and-a-half years. People and profit are not mutually exclusive. They are intrinsically tied.
Key takeaways for students
- Manage your own career and have your personal “board of directors” to guide you
- Find your professional passion and use it as your career compass
- Be a Level 5 Leader by combining grit, an iron will, and humility
- The final act of leading is leaving. Build an organization that can endure beyond you
Manny Vera ’22, a business honors major, said he was “astounded at [Mr. Roberts’s] passion and commitment to create a strong culture where work doesn’t feel like work.”
Patrick Sorescu ’20, a business honors and finance major, said his biggest takeaway was, “Mr. Roberts’ career path was not straight or planned out, and I hear this from almost every successful Aggie who comes back to campus. It is tempting in today’s highly competitive world to want to think about tomorrow and to try to plan out a path in life that checks all the boxes, but this mindset is dangerous. However, one of the few areas where it is good to be long-term focused is regarding compensation; Mr. Roberts advised us to consider more than just the salary when choosing our first job out of college.”
Michael Walther ’19, a business honors and accounting major, called Roberts a great leader and said he, “thoroughly enjoyed hearing about his experience transforming Banker’s Toolbox into a software powerhouse.”
“It was interesting to see how he motivates his employees, grades them on a performance scale, and about the balance between financial rewards and strategic ones,” Walther said. “I drew comparisons between his relationship with the company that owns Banker’s Toolbox and the PE (private equity) firm that owned a significant stake in Axalta, where I did my internship.”