Recently, we had a candid conversation with van Wyk and asked him several questions about his and K2’s journey.
TEC: What is your leadership style and how does it contribute to your company’s success?
AvW: I lead by empowering my employees. As a manager it is my responsibility to harness the unique skills of my team and guide them in the overall direction that meets the vision of the company. We dream big at K2. We dream first and then we ask how we meet this vision as a small company. I think it’s important to inspire passion for the mission in your employees and to empower them to add their own capabilities and strengths into the mix. Each employee has an individual flavor to add to the business, and has an obligation to push the company into places we may feel uncomfortable. It is my job as a manager to allow them to do that, and accept these contributions and leverage them for the betterment of K2.
TEC: Can you provide more color on a time(s) when you failed and what it meant for your overall career?
AvW: Back in 2004, we were releasing a new version of our software. Under pressure, I allowed the company to do too much too fast, and ultimately released the update too early. This was a horrible experience for our customers and partners. This decision also lead to extreme problems for my staff, and in reality, it almost bankrupted the company. But every failure has its silver lining. From this challenge I learned how to manage people differently, and what it meant to build successful software that is useful for our clients, and I learned how to run a company with practically no money in the bank. This failure taught us how to serve our clients and has driven us toward our success.
TEC: What public figures inspire you and why?
AvW: Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He talks about how and why coaches should move away from being prescriptive, and take steps to understand how to empower their players to be the best on the field, and allow them to play their own game. This is a fundamental underpinning of how the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, and a discipline I try to instill in my own company. It is amazing how much you can learn from an industry that’s completely unrelated.
TEC: Do you have any mentors? If so, what is the best piece of advice he or she has ever given you?
AvW: My father. My dad taught me to dream big and go for it. When I was very young he gave me a quote from Theodore Roosevelt which read, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” It has been hanging above my desk ever since.
It is a reminder and an inspiration for me to dare to aim high, and to be immune to failure on the way towards success. It is the most impactful gift anyone has ever given me.
For the full interview, visit TECBlog.