Unprecedented with Adam Thompson

Published 18th June 2021

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Adam Thompson, CFO of Synergy Sports, who spoke to us about how the pandemic has shifted his focus.

 

A background into you and your business?

I’m a CFO who is always looking to work across and inside the businesses I am in. This is not always easy working in a global business, but I love the challenge. Being a ‘Finance Guy’ is always so much more than the numbers and for me, the fun is making those numbers relatable and relevant to what we do as a business.

Synergy Sports is a global Sports Technology business providing data intelligence and sports entertainment solutions to players, coaches, teams and other users. Although basketball has been a key focus, we are now operating in other sports and growing the scope of what we do as a business. We have also just been acquired by Sportradar and our journey of growth and development continues.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

Leadership is about walking the walk. Set the example and remember that you cast a long shadow. Your behaviour will define what others do – whether that’s working late, or just as importantly, taking time off – it’s important you set the right behaviours and stick to them.

Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations

My Dad. He taught me the value of engaging with the people you work with and being aware that there is often more to a situation than meets the eye.

What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be?

That I helped people develop and grow, both within themselves and within the business. Driving a team to improve personally and collectively, which then has a significant impact on how we operate and the impact we have. This is what I would want to be known for.

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?

Be transparent and do what you say you will. 

What impact has Covid-19 had on you?

On a personal level, it has brought us closer together as a family and I have loved spending time with the kids that I would never have had otherwise. That said, it’s not been easy and at times I have felt isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Thank goodness for the garden, the family and Lego.

Professionally, it has worked for me, as the role I moved into just after the first lockdown started is a remote one anyway. The business is largely used to operating like this and I have found adapting to working from home really easy.

What impact has covid had on your business?

When live sports events were cancelled globally, we were really concerned about the impact this would have on us. Our customers (sports teams and leagues) have definitely suffered, and so we have needed to support many through this period. However, our product is important to them and as we have transitioned into other sports, we have continued to see growth in the top line but also in the relationship and networks we have. Customers have appreciated our collaborative approach and see the relationship with us as a long-term one.

Where were you and what were you doing when you first realised that Covid-19 was very serious?

Socialising with some former colleagues in early March and thinking that this might be the last time for a while. How true that was!

Are there any people within your support network who made a big positive impact on you as a Business Leader during those early weeks/months?

As Lockdown was announced I found myself in quite a unique position. I had chosen to leave the business I had worked in for over ten years to take a break and look for the next big challenge. It was potentially terrifying that I had made this choice at probably the worst possible moment to (a) take a break – you couldn’t go anywhere and (b) look for the next big challenge – no one was recruiting.

My coach was a big help in those early stages of Lockdown. Helping me focus on the important things I needed to spend time on. It would have been very easy for COVID panic to set in; instead, I identified the things that were critical for me and then for the business I started working in.

Once working again, there was very much a sense of getting back to doing the basics really well – collecting cash, billing and staying engaged with the business.

The word pivot was used unprecedently in May/June. What have you done to innovate or differentiate you or your business?

We recognised the value of a long term relationship with customers and looked to provide value-added products that cemented this and gave the customer even more access to great videos. This was more of an evolution rather than a pivot.

What remain your 3 biggest challenges?

  • Making sure that our data keeps pace with the business.

  • Working in a standard way across multiple territories with different legal and accounting requirements.

  • Finding time for strategic thinking and idea development.

How have you/your business evolved from a digital/tech perspective?

Internally, the business was already pretty technically evolved. That said, we realised the need to standardise the systems we use in 2020. We rolled out a new ERP, are working on a new CRM system and continue to standardise the platforms we utilise as a global business that has come together through acquisitions. Finding one way of working has been key. We are starting to see the benefits of this now as we have single data sets that we all understand and can use to make decisions.

How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?

I feel that I have handled it pretty well; although there have certainly been some darker moments – particularly at the start. I think for many people and families this has been a highly stressful time and I recognise how fortunate I am with the people and things around me.

The business has done ok, being used to working remotely in most places anyway. It has been good to see colleagues supporting one another in multiple different ways. There is a true caring attitude in this business which really helps.

Looking back to March 2020. If you could change one decision that you made, what would it be?

Don’t do an ERP implementation mid-year. It makes the year-end audit so much more complicated.

Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

Aside from the inevitable post-COVID bounce back, I suspect that the global economy will probably slow down further as the world settles into a new normal.

The SportsTech sector will continue to grow as players, teams, leagues and fans look to more remote ways of ingesting information, communicating and being entertained. It’s an exciting time for us and the pace of change will be exhilarating.

At the beginning of 2020, we were in a talent short market. What is at the top of your "people strategy" agenda for 2021?

I am conscious that 2020 was not a great year for people's development. There was little focus on this as attention and budgets turned to managing the COVID situation. I would like to spend more time with my team collectively and individually, thinking about what’s next for them and how I can help them to develop in order to get there.

I’d also like this to permeate through the business and will be working with those responsible for training to make sure we have the budget and the impetus to do this.

Has "succession planning" risen up your people agenda?

It has always been there. I have not always managed it very well, but I am very conscious of the need to have planned and ideas in place. I also know how important it is to have amazing people working with you to bring out the best in yourself. 

What are you doing to retain your superstar / Leaders of the future?

I think I need to do more. I do my best to spend time with people, listening and advising. It’s not been an easy time to do this, but I know how important it is to have open conversations with these people.

Fast forward to 2050… What would you say to your future self… That you did well or badly in 2020 to learn from?

“You became so much more resilient in 2020 and this will help you with whatever life throws at you. You didn’t always step back from the details to think. Some perspective at certain times would have saved you time and effort.” 

As a Leadership Team, how have you re-defined your vision and values? What have you done to make your culture remote-work friendly?

It was crazy, but I discovered that we had team members working from home using the worst possible chairs and tables. All because they didn’t want to ask for the budget to buy a chair. This was insane and as soon as I realised this, we made sure to review everyone’s home-working set-up and invested where necessary.

We’ve tried to keep everyone as engaged as possible with one another with multiple internal events. The latest is a snack exchange with someone from another country. I am extremely excited to see what I get from my colleague in the US!

What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?

Take every opportunity that is presented to you.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.

Family was already pretty high on my list, but the Pandemic has made me realise how important time with the three ladies in my life is! COVID has been brutal and cruel to so many families. Time with the girls will always be my priority now – however much I love and am devoted to my job.

If you have enjoyed Adam’s Unprecedented blog and would like to learn more about him, you can connect with him on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can visit Synergy Sports’ website or find them on LinkedIn. For more Unprecedented blogs, feel free to browse our list of blogs here.

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