The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is CEO (Private Company, Annual Revenue <$150M) finalist Eric Olson, CEO of Buchanan & Edwards. Here, he talks key recent achievements, what has made him successful, a career turning point and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
We successfully transitioned from a small to large business with 100% full and open revenue at the end of 2021 . . . and as if that transition wasn’t hard enough to achieve, we managed to do it during the pandemic!
What has made you successful in your current role?
Finding leaders. I believe strongly that my most important job as CEO is to recruit, develop and empower leaders at all levels of our organization. This is also where I find the most satisfaction and fulfillment in my role, and I’m extremely fortunate to work with so many talented and caring individuals.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
As a young consultant, I had the realization that I could make a direct and meaningful impact as an individual. It was a major turning point when I realized that even from a junior position, I could make a positive impact on a large number of people. It was a huge rush and an invigorating moment for me.
As an executive, I reached a turning point when I realized that my job was to work ON the business, not IN the business. This is something I try to remember daily and it has served me well.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
This is such an exciting time for our industry and our country! The pandemic has changed all the rules, and as a result, 2022 is shaping up as a once in a lifetime opportunity to write a new playbook.
Understanding what our customers and our employees truly want is imperative. Both have changed how they view the world, how they view themselves and how they view their relationship with work.
At Buchanan & Edwards, we’re putting a major focus on talent retention and growth through our talent advocacy team and are working to stay ahead of the curve. Whether it’s career development paths, new compensation models or flexible work arrangements, it’s our job as employers to pivot, adjust and evolve to fit into this new environment. Businesses must lead the way or risk being left behind.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
My goal is to work myself out of a job. As I mentioned earlier, I’m always on the lookout to identify leaders within our organization, and I look forward to the day that I can pass one of them the reins.
I believe that every day is an opportunity to find, mentor and promote leaders in your organization, so I practice that every day by engaging and pushing my leadership team to do more and go further.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
That failure is a part of success. I have failed and will fail again and that’s OK! Just don’t fail on the same problem set twice.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Embrace change. Realize that you can never get to a steady state. Realize that just when you have finally figured it out, another challenge will appear. Once you realize and accept that, you begin to understand that the only thing we really control is ourselves and how prepared we are for the inevitability of change.
I try to meet with every new employee on their first day and share this advice. I tell them to focus on getting better every day. Focus on solutions and not problems — solve for process. I tell them to focus on looking ahead instead of just what is right in front of them. If they do this, then they will be much more successful in their career. I have to remind myself of these same principles every day, too.