Michael Adams, his wife says, never panics. About anything.
“Never,” she adds for emphasis. “You can always count on him to make rational, research-based, intelligent decisions. That’s just who he is.”
Ten years ago, with a newly minted MBA, Adams took an entry-level post with CalTech at a lower salary than he had been earning. Adams studied the company and its culture, and calculated it offered him the best chance to grow his skills and his career.
The gamble paid off.
For three years now, the 39-year-old Angelo State University graduate has served as CalTech’s chief operating officer, overseeing day-to-day operations. He also spearheads the company’s customer and employee retention efforts, and its customer service and satisfaction initiatives. His success, he said, was based on his willingness to start at the bottom (which has given him powerful perspective as a manager) and a desire to succeed.
“I decided whatever level I was at, I would be number one,” Adams said. “And I kept doing that. Things have worked out pretty well.”
In typical and refreshing Adams fashion, that’s an understatement.
CalTech, which provides information technology services to banks and financial institutions, today owns a strong market share across the state. Under his leadership, customer satisfaction has soared to 97 percent. The San Angelo-based company has sprouted five other offices across Texas plus one in Kansas, and has grown to about 100 employees.
And yet, Adams claims as his greatest professional achievement the accomplishments of a colleague. While coaching and mentoring a fellow employee, Adams learned of his prior experience with call centers. Tapping into that talent, he worked with the employee to greatly enhance CalTech’s call center – which that employee now oversees as part of the company’s management team.
That’s in keeping with Adams’ two-pronged approach to leadership. First, he said, he seeks to serve others, providing whatever support they need to be successful. Second, and this is “a little tricky,” he noted, he demands excellence.
“A good leader nudges people out of their comfort zone,” he explained. “As people stretch themselves and their capabilities and their desire, and they see success, your overall team gets stronger. Then people themselves grow into leaders because they’ve achieved so many things.”
Adams’ steady solidness belies his challenging childhood. He had no relationship with his father. He was raised by his grandmother, a hard-working woman who often had to leave young Michael alone to make ends meet.
At the time, he viewed his upbringing as a strike against him. Today, he realizes he was wrong. He credits his grandmother and his upbringing with teaching him perseverance. In turn, it stoked in him an “innate desire” to succeed. That includes being a doting dad who coaches his children’s soccer and basketball teams.
“I also learned a lot what not to do,” Adams admitted. “I made a lot of mistakes. But again, valuable life lessons that helped make me a stronger, better person along the way.
“Overall, looking back, I wouldn’t change anything.”