The following is a transcript of the interview that can be watched in its entirety on YouTube here.
In a world where technology plays a crucial role in the success of businesses, small to mid-sized companies can find themselves struggling to keep up with the latest advancements. That's why Burke Autrey, CEO of Fortium Partners, the #1 Provider of Technology Leadership, offers his expert insights on the matter. In an exclusive interview with Jeff Crilley, CEO of Real News PR and host of the Jeff Crilley Show, Burke tackles the tough questions and provides valuable advice for companies in need of technology leadership. Keep reading to learn more.
Jeff: Coming up next on the Jeff Crilley show, we're going to talk to the CEO of a company that is the largest provider of technology leadership on the planet. This is the Jeff Crilley show. It seems like every single day, we're hearing about another security breach. Even large Fortune 500 companies are suffering from this, but what happens if you're a small or midsize company and you might have an IT person, or maybe you don't? To talk about that today is Brooke Autrey. He is the CEO and co-founder of Fortium Partners. Thanks for coming on the show.
Burke: Hey, Jeff, thanks for having me.
Jeff: So, tell us a little bit of your journey. Did you start in technology?
Burke: I started years ago in consulting: PwC, Deloitte, some of the largest consulting firms around, and then I eventually got the idea of moving into technology leadership. Consulting has a certain lifestyle that you have to be on the road all the time. So, it was a little bit of a different move for me, career-wise, but I started doing technology leadership in 1997 (very similar to what we do now) and eventually joined a firm called Tatum when they were starting a CIO practice. They were known as CFO providers, and they were starting a brand new practice to do CIOs. Then years later, after that firm was acquired, we started Fortium Partners to provide technology leadership in the form of CIOs, CTOs or CISOs - the security function, to companies of all sizes.
Jeff: Tell us why that's in the best interest of the of the companies that you serve.
Burke: Search (and hire) is an interesting thing. A search (firm) provides a full-time W-2 employee and that means that the company grabbing that person has to have a need for that person full-time. And they can really only afford or attract the person who is willing to go to that company on a full-time basis. So, we changed the script a little bit and we offer people that are incredibly experienced (25+ years of experience) and offer them on a fractional basis, sometimes on a virtual basis, and sometimes even on a very short basis for a very particular situation, such as the security incident like you mentioned before. Companies have an extreme need for extreme leadership right away. And sometimes we will do that.
Jeff: And your partners stay up to date on all the latest stuff.
Burke: They try. It's hard, but they try.
Jeff: There's a lot of IT people out there who were good when the company had 50 employees, but now the company is 500 people large. Is that when they call in somebody like you?
Burke: They call when they need leadership. They need someone to take charge. They need someone to step into the gap and take responsibility for the strategy, the issues that they're dealing with, a bunch of employees, and a budget. It's not just a specific situation, but CEOs need leadership. They need someone to step in and take responsibility for what needs to be done, which is very different than consulting, right? Sometimes with a consultant, there's a project, there's an outcome that is desired; and the entire team is working to get the outcome. But they're not working for the company to accomplish what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis as well.
Jeff: Absolutely. We caught a recent podcast; you like to do podcasting and I think it's wonderful that you're a thought leader in your industry. When you do podcasting, what are some of the topics that you'd like to get into?
Burke: There are people who are interested in our model. It's different. There aren't a lot of people doing what we do as the largest provider of technology leadership in the world. As a leadership function, we represent a portion of the $4 trillion a year worldwide of spending on technology products and services. So, people come to us because of all of our technology leaders, but specifically, we're the one with the largest group under one roof. They come and ask about: What do CIOs think? What do CISOs think? How do they respond? What products do they want to use? How do they find what they need? From vendors, there's a real interest in that. And certainly, people do want to know about issues that affect their business. How do we spend on technology wisely? How do we prevent security breaches? You mentioned that at the start of the show. Those topics are on everybody's mind because technology is so pervasive.
Jeff: Absolutely. We've got some video of hacking. What are your clients saying these days? So that has to be priority number one.
Burke: It is. Honestly, we do the CIO function, the CTO function; and the Chief Information Security Officer function is the one that's most closely aligned with security, compliance, and governance. So, they definitely come to us for that. And that's because there's hardly any company that is safe from the bad guys trying to steal their secrets or lock up their data. We do get a fair amount of calls from companies that are in crisis because they've been locked up through ransomware or they need to get ahead of it; and they realize: we better do something now or else we're going to be in trouble. Yet, no company is absolutely secure. You have to have good leadership to put in the right products and services - and the right mindset, the right policies, and procedures just to just to give you a fighting chance against the bad guys when they come.
Jeff: The entire nation is suffering from staff shortages in various industries. What does it look like in technology right now?
Burke: It's hard. I had a partner telling me the other day that one of his clients happens to be in the security realm. They're having a really hard time finding people; there's just a shortage. And so, there's a lot of talk about the availability of people, but we're finding in the technology space, it's very tight market. And what we're advising our clients is you cannot restrict that labor pool by saying they have to live in Dallas. Or they have to necessarily go to the office because through the pandemic, people have realized they have a choice. Some of the best people are now wanting to put their choice of lifestyle ahead of where they go to work. Yet they're extremely valuable and they're hard to find. Our advice is to make that pool as large as possible, whether that's in the office, not in the office, in the US, outside the US, and so forth. Just try to try to do your best to be flexible in those areas.
Jeff: Tell us about companies that work with you. It's pretty seamless and they likely think your employee is a member of their team, right?
Burke: Yes, it's really interesting. Having done this myself for 25 years or so, oftentimes when we move into a company and take on the role of the CIO or a CTO or a CISO, we are viewed by the company as employees. I would say it's an employee with a little bit of a different take. Oftentimes after hours, because there's an outsider that's in there, there's almost more of a willingness to come to that person to talk about the business and their career because they're not really talking to their boss in the traditional sense. They're talking to someone who could have a great influence on their career. I find that our partners really enjoy that aspect of it. They get the benefit of delivering what they're really good at and the company really values, but they also have the benefit of providing just a little bit of career advice or a little bit of a different perspective than if you were a traditional full-time employee.
Jeff: So, when you're looking for new partners, you’re looking not just for smart people who know their way around a computer, but as somebody who can communicate and have empathy.
Burke: That's always the best. First, we're looking for people who have a career full of technology leadership experience, generally, not someone who's had their first or that's aspiring to have their first CIO, CTO or CISO role. We're looking for people that have done that many times at many companies because that's what our clients are looking for. They don't want someone who is just now arriving at that role, but they've done it and they can benefit from that person's perspective and years of experience and instinct on how to solve the kinds of problems they're coming up with. So that's what we're looking for. And it is great if they have that ability, that empathy, the ability to listen. Yet most executives I find have that ability once they've been in business 25+ years.
Jeff: Okay, any final thoughts you'd like to leave people with?
Burke: Gosh, we're having a blast. We're having a blast at Fortium. I think we've developed a company that is providing a real solution for clients who are have a hard time finding technology leadership, especially on a short-term basis or finding it quickly. And interestingly, we're providing a real solution for people who are at a point in their career where they don't necessarily want that next full-time job. Maybe they're wanting to take some time off, or maybe not work full-time. They're at a point where they want to change the makeup. They might want to work hard for six months and then work less hard for the next six months. We're providing a place for people at that stage with that experience to do some of the best work they've done in their careers; and do it in a way that they really feel like they're giving back to the industry that's given them their livelihood for so many years.
Jeff: Outstanding. You've been a great guest; we're going to end with your website, which is fortiumpartners.com. Thanks for coming on the show.
Burke: Thanks, Jeff. Appreciate it.
Jeff: And that's it for now. We'll see you next time.
About: The Jeff Crilley Show launched in 2015 and is a daily online streaming show that is recorded in RNCN Podcast Studios’ (Dallas Location) and Fort Worth Location. The show highlights businesses and news topics that can apply to the everyday listener. Jeff is a former news anchor from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.