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7 Questions with Dennis Wakabayashi

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Dennis Wakabayashi

Name: Dennis Wakabayashi

Current title: VP of CX Solutions

Current organisation: RR Donnelly

Dennis' mission is to help brands deliver best in class customer experiences.
He is currently the VP of CX Solutions for RR Donnelley, a global business communications firm specializing in the production, execution and delivery of customer engagement tactics along the entire path to purchase.
In May 2020, Dennis was ranked as one of the top 50 (CX) experts of the decade and among the top 150 CX influencers globally.
He regularly consults with Fortune 500 brands, defining CX strategies and leading tactical implementation with support from the teams at RR Donnelley.
Additionally, as an industry influencer, he shares the latest CX innovations and best strategic practices on social media channels with an audience of more than 50,000 followers.

7 Questions with Dennis Wakabayashi

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

The most challenging issue in 2020 was the change in the economic landscape. Many products and services became commoditized and therefore efficiency across and within business units became paramount to survival. Essentially companies with a strong resolve to make change eventually started to thrive while those who could not adopt technology and integration suffered. Ultimately it was difficult to watch the transformation in 2020 because it often meant people were displaced and their futures became less certain.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I started at the bottom as a production person in a print shop and over 30 years worked to understand the process, people, platforms and products that enabled businesses to scale. I eventually began to share that information with colleagues and on social media channels which resulted in being named as one of the leading minds worldwide on the topic of Customer Experience, and integrated marketing.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I'm rather disciplined in my approach and work to follow the same routine as much as possible. 4 am - 6 am is Yoga and Gym time. 6 am to 8 am is family time. 8 am to 8 pm is focused on helping brands discover the agility and efficiency that marketing integration delivers. Some refer to this work as delivering Customer Lifetime Value. I tend to work 7 days a week with a two day a month "OFF-GRID" sprint to gather my thoughts, reevaluate strategies and focus on mindfulness.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

I think 2020 revealed that "less is more." This means fewer steps in a customer journey, fewer layers of management, fewer costs, and more focused approaches to delivering value to known customers vs chasing a market of potential customers.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

My brother gave me Russell Brunson's book called Expert Secrets and it portrays leadership and storytelling together in a way that redefines "influence" in a way that succinctly defines innovation for personal and professional growth. I liked this book because it teaches you how to manage yourself such that you give the best to your audiences, employees or colleagues.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

I have a simple formula. Empathy + Collaboration = Growth. My approach to leadership is inclusive, open-minded and fosters courage for any person to lead the team toward success. Ultimately, leadership is not about a title, it's about empowerment. When we allow "anyone" to take charge of success - we all win. More simply put, I like to "pass the ball" and prefer to get the "assist" rather than be the person to score.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

I have had the opportunity to work with people of high integrity. There was a time in the last year when promises were made to employees and despite the challenges of 2020, I watched as certain leaders, used transparency, and honesty to guide positive change. What surprised me most of all, was that their determination to follow through on promises. This may seem "basic," but the truth is, not everyone is cut out to stand by their word when the going gets tough. I always appreciate seeing people who lead by example and set the stage for hope and courage.