A Unified Vision: Jim DeBlasio Raises the Bar at Yorktel
Yorktel’s EVP of Operations discusses his vision for helping Yorktel achieve its potential as a leader in the UC space.
Throughout his career Jim DeBlasio has held senior leadership roles with Bell Laboratories, AT&T, Lucent Technologies and Internap Network Services Corporation. In each of these positions his approach has been consistent; set bold goals, surround yourself with the right talent and empower the team to achieve breakthrough results. DeBlasio has recently joined Yorktel as EVP of Operations and he has set his sights on leading his team to be recognized as the best in the video conferencing and unified communications (UC) industry, and repeating that tested recipe for success.
Jim’s career began in finance more than 30 years ago at Bell Laboratories and since that time he’s held a number of senior financial and operational positions in the areas of Software, Optical, Mobility, Networking Services, Internet Services and Cloud Technology. More recently, he was the President and CEO of Internap Network Services Corporation where he initiated a new set of cloud technology, IP and video products, was instrumental in helping the company achieve a doubling of revenue, a dramatic increase in new customers, and the first year of Net Income profitability in the company’s history, all without ever taking on a dollar of debt.
He’s quick to point out, “All I did was set forth the vision and strategy for the company. Our success was due to and driven by the many dedicated employees in the company who made it happen by truly acting as owners of the business.”
It was two years ago that DeBlasio first met Yorktel CEO Ron Gaboury and became acclimated to Yorktel’s unified communications business. “During our talks I came to appreciate Ron’s vision for taking his company into the Unified Communications space, the strength of Yorktel’s products and customer base, and most importantly Ron’s care and concern for his employees. I knew immediately Yorktel was exactly the kind of company with which I wanted to be affiliated.”
DeBlasio joined Yorktel in December 2013 and got to work right away identifying ways he could help the company dramatically improve the efficiency of its operations and grow with profitability. The EVP of Ops spent the first month of his new position meeting with as many customers as he could to gauge the market’s perception of Yorktel. He also spent time with Yorktel employees gaining a deeper understanding of the company’s business practices and observing how the various departments interacted.
“It was clear to me early on that Yorktel operations possessed all of the key ingredients necessary to become a leader in the industry. What we needed was an increase in our operational efficiency and alignment around a common goal.” That goal, which DeBlasio articulates consistently throughout the organization, is for Yorktel to be recognized as the best in the industry in terms of Product Delivery, Engineering and Customer Support.
With the help of his direct report team he set out to develop a strategy and a plan of attack. That plan includes three critical components: Customers, Process and People.
Customers: Develop a “Customer First” Mindset
One of the first points DeBlasio emphasized was the importance of identifying and exploiting Yorktel’s strengths in the market. “The key to business growth is differentiating yourself from your competitors,” he says. “And, when it comes to providing a complex IT solution, the most effective way to create a business differentiator — in addition to the IT products and services you’re selling — is by delivering world class customer service.”
DeBlasio tells his team, “Everything we do as a company should be in support of our customers. If you find yourself responding to internal email or attending meetings which are not providing a benefit to our customers – Stop.”
For him, success depends upon Yorktel providing leading edge products and a high level of customer service to its client base which continually exceeds their expectations. To accomplish this, DeBlasio notes that, “We need everyone throughout the company to be aware of and focused on the customer experience. Put our customers first in all we do.”
DeBlasio is a big believer in the adage that ‘you get what you measure.’ One of his first assignments for his direct reports entailed asking them to provide him with a list of the top items holding the company back from delivering consistent, world-class service. “We began with an incredibly long list and together we narrowed that list to 15 process improvement initiatives.”
Using Project Management style discipline he drives these initiatives to completion holding the process owners accountable to deliver a marked improvement in business processes and ultimately sustained profitability for Yorktel. He refers to this as his 180-Day Operational Plan.
It’s been said that a goal without a deadline is merely a wish. DeBlasio subscribes to this belief and he also prefers setting shorter-term goals. “I use a 180-day operational plan,” he says. “It’s long enough to make a real change, but not so far away that it’s too hard to embrace.” The initiatives in his plan fall into three main areas: Shareholder Value, Operational Excellence and Empowering Employees. Once an initiative is completed, the process improvement is documented and it is taken off the list to be replaced by a new process improvement undertaking. “In this way, DeBlasio says, ”we have an entire organization constantly working to improve and recreate itself.”
Empowering our Employees
One of DeBlasio’s goals is to empower his employees and encourage them to understand the company’s operations and how their particular role impacts the big picture. In that regard he has established a series of educational seminars designed to help all employees increase their knowledge of Yorktel’s workings. “The more you understand the business, the better the business will become,” he notes.
During the Lunch and Learn sessions, DeBlasio and his team also discuss tactical and strategic business topics such as which verticals are the source of the company’s best and largest customers, product portfolio and life cycles, and where the UC market is growing and how they can capitalize on it.
He communicates constantly with his employees, soliciting their feedback through a series of weekly skip-level meetings, by forming seven to ten person High Performance sub teams designed to achieve company-impacting breakthrough results, site visits and town hall meetings. DeBlasio says all of these approaches have a single goal in mind.
“I work hard to make my employees feel comfortable in their interactions with me, so in turn they feel safe when I ask them to stretch themselves to take on more and produce breakthrough results. Everyone is going to make mistakes and for us to truly be successful we can’t be afraid of that outcome.
“Real progress is achieved when you can rely on your skill set and push past that fear.”
Yorktel’s new EVP of Operations has certainly raised the bar for his employees and set some ambitious goals for the company. But if history is any indication, Yorktel couldn’t be in a better position.