There are always certain players on the field that everyone wants on their team because irrespective of who they are playing for, the craft and skill they employ is what grabs the attention of the crowd more than the game itself. One such individual is Sid Nair and we are pleased to feature him here among the Inspiring CEOs of 2020. Nair is currently the President and CEO of Affinitiv, a leading provider of end-to-end marketing and software solutions serving automotive manufacturers, dealership groups, and individual dealerships. Nair began his professional career in 1995 when he joined Wipro fresh out of business school. Under the guidance of a phenomenal leader and business tycoon, Mr. Azim Premji, he acquired a sense of ethical standards and entrepreneurship that continues to live inside him to this day. He was groomed in a culture where everyone was encouraged to take on challenges, stretch goals and create effective business plans with new products and strategies. In just 3 years, Nair was promoted to be a National Sales Manager based on his ability to learn faster and eagerness to grow the business to the best of his potential.
After working with Wipro for 16 years across diverse roles and different continents, Nair was ready to use his acquired skillset and expertise to take on new challenges and was offered an opportunity to be a part of Dell Services as the Global Healthcare Business Leader. Reminiscing back at the time, Nair shares, “Michael Dell had just acquired Ross Perot’s software services company, Perot Systems, and he appointed a new leadership team to drive growth. The challenge ahead was a lagging segment, a massive global team of 10,000 people, and migrating the team from the Perot culture to the Dell culture. At the end of my 5-year journey with Dell Services, we had grown the healthcare business from $1 billion to $1.5 billion, improved profitability by 5x, and grew the team from 10,000 to 15,000 people.”
Nair’s capabilities did not go unnoticed once again and he was asked to be the Chief Sales & Revenue Officer for the $10 billion Americas region of DXC Technology. This new mega $25 billion services company was created by the merger of HPE’s $20 billion Enterprise Services business with Computer Science Corporation. Nair exclaims, “Not only did I learn a lot during the merger, but it was fantastic to lead the creation of the new go-to-market strategy for the Americas region. We signed some of the largest deals in the industry with multiple billion-dollar transactions from blue-chip companies.” He then had a unique opportunity to be the first Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Cox Automotive, a market leader in software solutions for the automotive industry and led a team of 3,000 members with a $8 billion portfolio of products. He led the charge to grow the business before he got the call to help Rackspace, the leading cloud services provider to go IPO. As the Americas General Manager with a $2 billion book of business he led them to not just the best 3 sales quarters in the company’s history, but also paved the way to double digit growth. After fulfilling his role at Rackspace, Nair knew it was time for him to move into the next challenge. In their search for a transformative CEO to lead the company’s growth, the investors at Affinitiv found Nair as the perfect fit.
“Our vision is to create customers for life through reimagined experiences.”
Leading the change with Affinitiv
Affinitiv has been in the business for more than 20 years with its headquarters in Chicago and five offices around the nation in Atlanta, Cape Coral, Clearwater, Denver and Houston. Affinitiv supports over 6,500 car dealers 25 OEM relationships. The company’s mission is to drive the next-generation customer experience by partnering with the automotive ecosystem to accelerate retailer performance and inspire loyalty. “We separate ourselves from our competitors by forming a true partnership with our clients through a technology-driven approach to reach their unique goals. We continuously monitor customer expectations and benchmark automotive companies against other retailers, and we discovered some key gaps dealers need to address to deliver a modern experience at every touchpoint in the buying and servicing process. Our products and solutions are uniquely engineered to address those gaps and enable auto retailers to engage with consumers in unique and meaningful ways. For example, we have invested heavily to enable seamless, touchless experiences for both sales and service customers alike given the heightened concern about COVID-19,” says Nair. “Our vision is to create customers for life through reimagined experiences.”
Affinitiv was born out of 7 different smaller companies coming together over the last 4 years through a series of acquisitions. Looking back at their culture of winning, it will be quite interesting to see how Nair will steer the ship for them. His plan? Win through teamwork. “With every team I led, I always created a vision and a plan to get there,” shares Nair. “I then asked people who wanted to be on the bus to hop on, and those that do not agree with the vision to get off the bus. I was able to evaluate my leaders in this process because the best leaders are always capable to bring the right people onto the bus. In the past, I have seen how some leaders struggle with people on their teams that don’t want to be on the bus, but still hang on and slow down progress.” To create a more inclusive workplace Affinitiv launched its diversity council, BRIDGE, over the past year. “This is a group of progressive-minded Affinitiv team members who have volunteered to lead our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives to bring our company and culture together.” A new weekly newsletter highlights high performing team members of the week. “This helps motivate and show employee appreciation,” says Nair. As COVID-19 tightened its grip around the world, Affinitiv moved its operations to home as well and are planning to continue in the same manner until the end of this year. “We provided a platform for our team members to collaborate better with a Fun-From-Home culture,” says Nair. It was a major change, and it is now more crucial than ever to keep the team together and motivated until things go back to normal.
Reflecting on moments like these when true leadership comes into play, Nair says, “Leadership style is a leader’s approach to providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. The three basic leadership styles we see the most are: Authoritarian (Autocratic), Participative (Democratic), and Delegative (Laissez-Faire). By the nature of most of the roles that I have executed in my 25-year journey in the technology industry, change management was primary on my agenda. That led me to adopt a transformational leadership style where I created a vision for the team and created a new management system for the teams to immerse into. My management system is basically a playbook of expectations and metrics for my leaders as they work with both the external and internal ecosystem. The flawless execution of the management system has been the mainstay of my success.”
“With every team I led, I always created a vision and a plan to get there….I then asked people who wanted to be on the bus to hop on, and those that do not agree with the vision to get off the bus.”
Driving transformative growth
Typically, every day is a long day for Nair but for him times flies fast when you are having fun. Outside his job and office, Nair makes sure to spend at least 90 minutes engaging himself in some physical activity such as working out, swimming with his boys, playing basketball with them, or something as simple as taking his dogs out on a walk to clear his head. Apart from this, he loves spending time with his family and friends and keeps his weekends reserved for them. As for his current goals for Affinitiv, Nair is focused on taking it to the next level. “We have just launched our new mission and vision statement. Our associates are very excited about our new values statement and our new go-to-market strategy is adding new clients as well,” says Nair. He is excited about working with the new leadership team that is executing the revenue and cost transformation programs to drive double-digit growth.
Ultimately Nair sees his life’s purpose in a very simple and clear way. As a company that is obsessed with employee and customer success, Affinitiv has impacted hundreds of lives in a positive way, and that, Nair highlights is the primary measure of success. “I believe I have had a positive influence in many lives of not just people who worked with me, but also their families. I cherish the relationships I have built with many of my customers who are still personal friends to this day. While it is challenging to transform a business, the real sweet taste of success is to see the impact you can have on a person’s life,” says Nair. “The best wishes of the ecosystem that we live in will drive me to be a better human every day. I cannot ask for anything more.”