Yukon Palmer on How To Navigate Uncertainty.
Yukon Palmer is the Founder & President of FieldLogix, a Field Resource Management provider for fleet operators. He is a thought leader in the domains of AI, startups, and entrepreneurship. In this interview, he shares is insights with The Industry Leaders about how to navigate through uncertainty as a business leader.
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
I founded FieldLogix back in 2002, just after the dot-com bubble burst. I was a fairly motivated 27 year old and I was completing my MBA at San Diego State University. I wanted to become a leader in a company and the mid-sized corporation that I worked for didn't offer many advancement opportunities. In addition, the job market was fairly tight, so I was not able to find a role that could put me in a leadership position anytime soon. I decided that the best way to gain a leadership position in a company was to start one myself.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
We've encountered various uncertain periods over the past 21 years, but I would have to say that the post-COVID period has been the most uncertain to date. As we emerged from COVID, we encountered several COVID staff outbreaks, excessive employee turnover due to "The Great Resignation", the inability to fulfill orders due to the supply chain shortages, the 3G telecom sunset, rapid inflation, and a moderate recession. We began to recover from one of these events only to deal with the next one. I personally learned how to remain nimble and make necessary changes as quickly as possible when these issues occurred.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
A core principle should be to focus on your customer's experience first. Despite all of the challenges, we've always placed a high emphasis on our customers' experience with us. Ensuring that we have happy customers makes that one less challenge that we had to deal with while we were managing other issues. It also gives us a sense of pride and purpose that helps us mentally as we manage the other challenges.
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
During our weekly stand ups, we always share famous quotes on resilience and adaptability with the team. This helps everyone understand that these challenges are faced by everyone who becomes successful. I personally share my insights on the company, the market, and our future during our monthly staff meetings to ensure that everyone knows that I still have the passion and energy to persist during tough times.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
I believe that any decision is better than no decision. When we face difficulties, we try to do something so everyone focuses on a path forward. Sometimes, the things we try are not successful, so we try something else. We do not allow ourselves to fail because we were too afraid to try something different. The forward momentum helps keep everyone motivated to persist during high levels of uncertainty.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
Making rash staffing cuts in product development is probably the most common mistake that many technology leaders make. Many leaders announce broad R&D cost cutting initiatives before having a true sense of how economic issues may impact their business. Some even fail to explore how they may be able to benefit from these issues. Rather than cutting back on product development, we continued to invest in our product to help our customers become even more efficient. This has led to significant new sales growth within our existing customer base due to their satisfaction with our services.
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
I have learned to remain nimble and flexible to meet uncertainties and challenges. One of the primary lessons from the most recent set of challenges is to keep my operating expenses low and invest more in product development and marketing. I would advise other leaders to keep their operations streamlined and to look for new opportunities when challenges arise rather than rashly cutting costs.
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
Great leadership books include Good to Great by Jim Collins and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. In Good to Great, Mr. Collins discusses the need to have employees who fit the company's stage and environment. Shoe Dog covers Mr. Knight's ups and downs when operating Nike and how he persisted through many challenges.