Amy Wright, president and CEO of Macro Solutions, is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council’s annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards in the Executive of the Year category for companies up to $75 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.
WashingtonExec spoke with Wright about why she started Macro Solutions, ways the business is involved in the community, and the turning point in her career.
WashingtonExec: How does your organization encourage employee engagement?
Wright: I strongly believe that ideation is important for growth, and to that end, we’ve worked hard to create an environment where employees know that new ideas are always welcomed and encouraged, whether they come from someone in the C-suite or on a project team. We’ve created internal Centers of Excellence and Innovation to encourage employee participation in sharing project ideas and innovative best practices. Also, since our teams are dispersed at client sites or with other partners, we’ve really tried to set them up with tools, like Slack, to be successful and feel like they are a part of the larger team.
We also make a point of getting the whole team together often for celebrations and outings. We believe hard work should be rewarded with some fun downtime, and when we aren’t at the office you’ll likely find us cheering on the Washington Nationals, celebrating team birthdays, or toasting the holidays at our yearly holiday party.
WashingtonExec: How is your business involved in the community?
Wright: Corporate citizenship is incredibly important to me both personally and from a business perspective. Personally, I serve, or have served on the board of these organizations: the University of Virginia Alumni Board of Managers, DC BUILD Board of Advisors, Bridges USA and the Americana Music Association Board. I am proud to say that as a company Macro Solutions also gives back to the community in many ways. Some of the nonprofits we contribute to include: the American Heart Association, Northern Virginia Women’s Center, Raise the Roof (which builds houses in developing communities), Capitol Hill Group Ministries, Autism Speaks, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, BUILD and Bridges USA. In addition, we provide employees paid time off, separate from their vacation time, to volunteer with organizations that are important to them.
WashingtonExec: What are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?
Wright: I believe a good leader needs to be a good listener, compassionate and be a confident decision-maker. It’s very important to be a good listener because as a leader you don’t have all the answers, and if you listen to really talented people who have a lot to offer and a lot of input, your decision is going to be a better decision.
It’s important to be compassionate because work is one part of people’s lives, it’s not everything. As a leader, you really need to understand the people that are working for you. You need to understand that they have lives and other things going on and you need to fit their work in with their life and be compassionate to what they are going through in their lives.
Lastly, it’s important to be a confident decision maker because in the end, everyone is counting on you to make the right decision. They need to see that you are confident in that decision and are willing to take full responsibility. A lot of times, you’re deciding how to strategically move the company forward, and in order for people to fully execute your vision, they have to feel that you believe in your decision.
WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would they say is your management style?
Wright: Hopefully, they would say that I am all the things I believe a good leader needs to be, but I also think they would say I am collaborative, supportive, positive, responsive and engaging.
Collaborative. Supportive. Positive. Responsive. Engaging. I really believe that these are traits a leader should have, and when I set out to start this company 17 years ago, the goal was to create the kind of company I would want to work for. Having a leader who understands the work that is being done, what it’s like to be at client sites separated from the team, and yet is still open and responsive to each and every employee is something that is hard to come by in this industry. Instead of waiting around for it to happen, I set out to follow the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, and it seems to be working out pretty well for us.
WashingtonExec: What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Wright: The turning point in my career was when the company I worked for mismanaged their business and had to dissolve. It was clear to me that some of the pitfalls they experienced could have been avoided. I had always thought I would be an entrepreneur, but I was at a crossroads — start my own company or look for another corporate job. I chose to start my own company, because I truly thought I could build a company that I would want to work for — one that is encouraging, compassionate, inclusive and allows people to continue to grow and learn. I have not regretted the decision and am proud of what I, along with the entire Macro team, have created.