C-Suite: Bill Akins

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,275 views 

Class of 2022 C Suite Bill Akins Chief Operating Officer James+James, Springdale

Fast fact: A retail data scientist, Akins had leadership roles with Rockfish and Walmart Global Tech before he joined James+James in 2021. Over the past 18 months, the company has quadrupled payroll from 30 to nearly 130 employees.

What is the best business advice you have ever received or given? Early in my career, I proudly handed a client a 175-slide PowerPoint deck full of “data.” This wise client returned it saying that “insights without action are nothing but overhead.” With small and large companies alike evolving to data-driven decision-making organizations, this advice could not be more timely 25 years later.

What’s the most recent book you read? “Navigating the Metaverse” by Cathy Hackl, Dirk Lueth and Tommaso Di Bartolo. James+James experienced a dramatic hockey stick-shaped growth curve from 2020-2022, quadrupling sales/headcount/market share largely due to our very intelligent marketing team’s embrace of social commerce and digital customer acquisition. For us to experience the same type of growth curve again over the next two years and longer, this book has been an essential blueprint for how to not only do something good in the physical world but also receive a virtual/digital benefit in return.

What do you think is most important in creating a positive culture? Attitude. From the top-down, bottom-up and influencing those around us (and vice versa), having a positive attitude makes you productive, helps you deal with any problem effectively and look at failures as a means to introspect and improve yourself and your company.

If you had $1 million to give, what would you support? I would provide a grant to Apprenti — they create alternative pathways to access tech talent and help organizations address digital skills shortages. The tech industry is seeking to diversify its workforce, and through the time-tested model of apprenticeship, Apprenti is actively recruiting women, people of color, veterans and people with disabilities to provide economic mobility to underrepresented groups.

What is the most used app on your phone? “McKinsey Insights” app without question. It provides direct answers to complex questions in an interactive format, helping managers understand difficult-to-digest tech terminology and global trends running rampant in today’s headlines. One of our senior leadership candidate interview questions is to tell us about how they took a difficult process and made it understandable, scalable and economical. C-level execs of the future will have to have this skill, and the app embodies it.

What is one thing you would change about your company if you could today? Core tenants of James+James are job creation and unapologetic growth. We can’t have one without the other, so I am hoping that we are able to use Web 3.0 to accelerate our ability to draw in future leaders with an eye toward agile craftsmanship, offering even more opportunities to pursue career paths that don’t require degrees, certifications or relevant industry experience to succeed. Web 3.0 leverages machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain to achieve real-world human communication.

Which supporting skills do you think are most important when it comes to leadership? If COVID has taught us anything, today and tomorrow’s leaders are preparing to live and work in a fast, fluid and disrupted world. If they are going to thrive in their careers and stand up as leaders in society, they will need the skills and competencies to bring different people together — from across boundaries both physically and digitally — to solve common problems.

If you could change one thing about your leadership style, what would it be and why? I would ingrain the ability to recognize unproductive patterns, both within myself and in workplace interactions. As an 11-year-old company, we still have to constantly think like a startup and are looking to pivot quickly into a 70/20/10 model: 70% of our effort focuses on improving what we already do very well, 20% on looking at how emerging technology both in the factory and online helps us create a better customer experience with raving fans and 10% on innovations that our competitors 10 times our size have not even thought about yet.