INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Inc. 5000 Entrepreneur and Ntooitive Digital CEO Ryan Christiansen Tells Us About Mindset, Leadership, and Fatherhood in the Age of COVID-19
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these times?
Ryan Christiansen: Like any family, there has been an adjustment period during the pandemic. As a father of two school-aged children, my wife and I were initially worried about the progress of their education because of the school shutdowns; however, we are lucky that we live in a time where technology is available to allow for substantive virtual instruction. While nothing can replace the advantages of in-person learning, educators have really done a phenomenal job of embracing the tools available to them and providing our children with meaningful lessons.
The crisis has also offered opportunities for personal growth and introspection. The recent pandemic has forced me to re-evaluate priorities and strengthen deeper bonds with my immediate and extended family. Whether coming together with my wife to invent a new recipe or going for a scenic drive with my kids, it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to cultivate closer relationships with loved ones. Spending more time at home than usual does have its perks!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Ntooitive Digital.
Ryan Christiansen: Ntooitive Digital is the byproduct of leveraging my previous work experience in the tech sales and advertising arena, combined with finding the right business partner in order to make my vision a reality. From the very beginning, the goal was to build out innovative and data-driven digital marketing strategies that leveraged sophisticated technology. With the joining of Vikas Khorana, Ntooitive’s co-founder, president, and chief technology officer, we were able to lay the foundation for a future-proof startup capable of competing with the best marketing and advertising agencies in the market. Our strong personal and professional relationship, combined with our eagerness to innovate, has propelled an openness to new ideas and a willingness to experiment and take risks.
The early days weren’t easy, and we made mistakes, but in the pursuit of building better tech solutions trusted by leading companies, those mistakes pushed us to develop industry-leading marketing technology. Little did we know that our humble beginnings would five years later result in becoming one of the top 20% of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., ranking #839 in the nation and #9 in the state of Nevada on this year’s Inc. 5000 list.
How does Ntooitive Digital innovate?
Ryan Christiansen: Not every problem has an easy solution, so I fervently believe that you must constantly listen to your customers and anticipate their needs to provoke forward-thinking innovation. By doing so, we stay better prepared and positioned to tackle any situation thrown our way.
We have made it a point at Ntooitive Digital to search for new ways to make our clients’ lives easier and, at the same time, grow their business – it’s baked into our value-driven culture. Ad hoc responses never really work well, especially now as the world faces enormous business challenges and begins to recover from the pandemic.
We’ve also structured the company understanding that there is a “no cookie-cutter approach” for providing solutions to the constraints our customers may face. I’m often asked how our ability to customize is scalable, but I assure you it can be done when executed the right way. We have attracted some amazing talent who are on-board in supporting this mindset and have thus done quite well when it comes to our pace of innovation and removing critical constraints that hold back business growth opportunities.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Ryan Christiansen: The pandemic has caused widespread damage to the economy – so wide that it’s almost impossible to calculate the losses and hardships our country and the world has faced.
While confidence may be shaken, many businesses out there, including customers we serve, have shown their resolve, resilience, and adaptability for change. We have watched closely as executives have adjusted, reconfigured, and begun to focus on other areas of their business where Ntooitive can help. For example, we have seen clients investing more in their core infrastructure. They are bolstering their corporate websites and, in many cases, solidifying their e-commerce presence as a business largely moves online. Technology has been the key to survival for many, so we are thankful that our multifaceted business model is prepared to help organizations deal with the pandemic’s impacts and still be able to achieve significant efficiency.
Besides helping other companies deal with the virus, we have taken a close look at our own business model. We have made similar adjustments to increase efficiency and strengthen our balance sheet. The pandemic has forced us to look in the mirror and invest in certain areas that may have been overlooked or simply not prioritized.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ryan Christiansen: Having spent much of my professional life inside the media business, I’ve weathered quite a few storms. Traditionally, my role has been to focus on growing Ntooitive Digital as a company. While I’m still laser-focused on this goal, I’ve pivoted my attention to housekeeping affairs like expense reductions and reworking contracts in light of the pandemic – some of these decisions have been undoubtedly challenging.
I believe company leaders should be smart and empathetic about the pandemic’s reality and the impact it has had and will continue to have. But it behooves any business owner or executive to make adjustments to their operations in order to ensure efficiency, growth, and profitability going forward.
We were also initially worried about our culture being strained due to the shift to remote working, but it’s a transition we obviously had to make. Our employees’ health and safety is a top priority, and I’ve been particularly pleased with how our resilient team has coped with remote work.
They have stepped up beyond all measures and have done their part to ensure Ntooitive’s continued success. We have been tremendously satisfied with how the team has responded.
We are also very lucky because Ntooitive is a cloud-based company. We were never reliant on or tied to a physical location, which has allowed us to continue to thrive despite these trying times. With that being said, I do miss the interpersonal communication and in-person interaction with one another. Quickly bouncing a new idea off a colleague now means picking up the phone, writing an email, or utilizing chat. Regardless, technology is available to ensure collaboration and team building, even when we can’t be together physically.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ryan Christiansen: I believe that Ntooitive’s unique approach to how we do business and our thirst for always innovating will continue to bring us great success and allow us to stay in the game for many years to come.
We aim to demonstrate quantitative value on a daily basis, and we do that by ensuring that our customers recognize that they have the right advertising, marketing, and technology partner in us. Whether it’s a phone call with our 24-hour help desk, a platform tutorial with an account manager, or a 1:1 meeting with a technical expert, we are always here to help.
As the public’s consumption method continues to move to all things digital, it’s important that we closely track trends and project how things will evolve. We’ve invested heavily in our own infrastructure and technology and remain well-equipped as we plot the path forward.
Your final thoughts?
Ryan Christiansen: I’d implore every leader to remind themselves of the importance of empathy and kindness. You win at leadership when you serve your team rather than expecting them to serve you. During this pandemic, it’s proven especially important for organizations to pay close attention to their employees. We know that people want to be a significant part of something significant in life and their career, so I would recommend remembering to stay positive, focus on the organization’s accomplishments, and do whatever possible to maintain a rewarding, positive, professional, and value-driven culture.
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