Rob Enslin keeps SAP North America moving forward in a down economy

The first thing Rob Enslin did was get on the road.

It was February 2009, and Enslin had just taken over as the president of SAP North America, the 10,000-employee, Philadelphia-based wing of global software solutions provider SAP.

The trouble was that Enslin was taking over the ship in the midst of a hurricane. The economy was faltering, and along with it, employee confidence was shaken as SAP swam against the economic current, attempting to build and maintain the customer relationships that supply the company’s lifeblood.

But in order to maintain a presence with customers, Enslin and his leadership team needed to ensure that employees across North America were not only on board with the growth-oriented vision and direction of SAP but also confident that the vision would be realized.

“I started doing town halls,” Enslin says. “I went to Chicago, Palo Alto, Dallas, Houston, and I just got in front of every employee with the same message and vision, just to let everyone know where I was. It was important that I got on the road, because when you try to communicate that type of message through a conference call, the dynamics of the interface are missing. People needed to see that I was absolutely sincere.”

Enslin needed to inform and encourage his employees, building their confidence in SAP’s future, and giving them the tools to help SAP’s leaders realize their vision: to turn SAP North America into a solutions-focused company that tailors its capabilities to meet customer needs.

Once he had the employees on board, he needed to connect with customers, discover their challenges and how to best construct SAP’s business model to meet those challenges.

“I had to show everyone that this is how we’re going to connect with customers, this is how they’re going to buy software, this is how we will be successful,” he says. “Internally, this is what we’re going to do to change, simplify our business model and do it really quickly.”

For Enslin, taking on his new role meant putting communication first. He needed to promote a message and stay on it and make sure that multiple groups with varying challenges and concerns were on board with him.