Leading in a time of change
2020 Executive of the Year award winner Dave Franchino earned his leadership stripes as an early employee of Saturn and through leading Delve following the 2001 dot-com bust.
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When Franchino started at Delve in 1996, he was blessed to join a company when its business was booming. The company had more demand than it could handle, and his primary focus was on recruiting new staff and sustaining culture. Then, in 2001, the 9/11 tragedy occurred on top of the dot-com bust.
“I describe the drop in sales interest like someone shutting off a faucet — we suddenly went from not having to worry about sales to wondering how we would make payroll,” recalls Franchino. “There was no playbook for how to survive as a business without completely losing sight of all we were trying to stand for.”
During the recession of 2001, Franchino says Delve made a net profit of just $25,051. “I’m probably prouder of the job our team did that year than many other years with much more impressive financial performance. Ultimately, we got through it by working to prioritize hard work, courage, honesty, open communication, and compassion. It was really hard and frightening, but an incredible learning experience, as well. Getting through that period gave me confidence that we could get through other challenges. Beyond that foundation, leadership has been a continuous process of making mistakes and learning from them.”
That’s not to say that leadership was always something on Franchino’s radar.
“I have to say I’m a bit of an ‘accidental’ leader. I had a great career with Saturn and had honestly always imagined working as a manager in a larger firm, rather than leading a smaller one myself. Even when I joined Delve, I had no inkling that I’d end up running it. But I’ve always been a curious individual and tried to think strategically and creatively, and I think this has led me into leadership roles.
“Some of the most important responsibilities of being a leader have little to do with glamor or excitement, so I try not to get too caught up in the trappings of the role,” he continues. “If you’re in it for the long haul, the blocking and tackling of running a business aren’t particularly glamorous but they’re vital. Besides, just when you think you have it figured out, something happens, or you make a mistake that reminds you of how humbling leadership can be. That said, I do enjoy the feeling that I can help drive our strategy and use my experience and instincts to lead us in new directions.”
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