The anchor for successful entrepreneurship, especially in the Philippine digital technology space, is thoughtful problem-solving. An extensive understanding of issues and the context in which they exist is crucial, and for Patrick Gentry, CEO and co-founder of Sprout Solutions, this means drawing on the diverse knowledge and experience of everyone in his organization.
According to Gentry at his keynote speech during the Institute of Corporate Directors’ (ICD) monthly luncheon held on November 15, “servant leadership” is their key approach to corporate governance. Beyond transparency and compliance, this style of stakeholder engagement has helped the company foster an environment that provides employees at all levels the opportunity to influence Sprout’s direction as an organization.
“That kind of approach to leadership is extremely appealing to the high-level resources that are coming up through the ranks right now,” noted Gentry. “Those people that are between 30 and 40 that have 10 years of experience under their belt, they really look for that style of leadership and that style of government.”
Gentry explained that servant leadership encourages employees to voice out their opinions to steer a business towards optimum impact for everyone affected by its operations. This is particularly advantageous to digital technology companies, who need to keep their products and services relevant to the market while attracting new talent that can help the business keep up with changing demands.
“In this age of digital disruption, we rely on innovation, and to have innovation you have to have a lot of diverse ideas coming up from the bottom,” said Gentry. “The people at the rank and file level are the closest to these issues and a lot of times have a lot of amazing ideas.”
This is why the company holds diversity in such high regard. Not so much in terms of creating an environment that boasts diverse genders, races, and cultures, but one that respects the ideas and thought generation they bring to the organization.
Further commitment to the diversity of perspectives and ideas manifests in the company-wide “10th man rule,” which mandates at least one person to disagree with any agreed upon course of action to encourage full exploration of possible solutions. In what Gentry calls a “conflict-averse society,” this helps Filipino businesses practice good governance by ensuring all concerns are made public.
This sentiment towards diversity was shared by Alfredo E. Pascual, CEO of the ICD and renowned finance expert who is currently an independent director on the board of SM Investments Corporation.
“There is greater recognition now that having a diverse membership on the board, diverse in terms of skillset, knowledge, age, and gender, could result in greater value creation for an organization,” said Pascual. “That opens up the entry of independent and open-minded directors, directors who have different viewpoints.”
The current challenge, according to ICD chairman, Francis Estrada, is reconciling best governance practice with the “dynamism and disruption” that technology exposes business ecosystems to. He ruminated on a need to change the perspective on how corporate boards approach company growth.
“Maximization of shareholder value is not the issue we are dealing with in a more fundamental way,” said Estrada. “The issue of an ethical foundation to all innovation and entrepreneurship is indispensable.”
Sprout Solutions is the country’s leading HR and Payroll management software solutions provider that aims to drive growth of Philippine businesses with their innovative technology. Through end-to-end processing and seamless automation, Sprout guarantees its clients immediate compliance with government regulations so that they can focus on company growth.
The Software-as-a-service (SaaS) company is currently four years old and had around 10 employees in the beginning. With a growth rate averaging 10 percent a month, Sprout now has close to 300 people and manages the HR information systems of corporate clients such as KMC and Intellicare.
“People saw our vision that we are here to do something good,” said Gentry as he contemplated the role that ethics has played both in the growth of the company and the evolution of its services. “We wanted to show that Sprout is more than just an office, we really want to do good by helping others do the right thing.”