Rocket Software: Inspiring Followers, Building Leaders

The Communications Challenge

It takes a special kind of courage to build a unique organization with a successful strategy – and then ask it to change. But that’s what CEO Andy Youniss needed Rocket Software to do. The company had entered a new phase, and its leadership team needed to step up to new challenges. Preston was engaged to help develop a conference experience that would have real impact.

For over twenty years, Rocket had been the “quiet brand behind the brand” in enterprise software. Working with multiple partners and industry channels, it offered deep technical expertise and numerous products. As both CEO and founder, Youniss had grown the company through many acquisitions. He knew that the upcoming annual Leadership Summit had to deliver a strong message to inspire this audience and drive change.

Our first step in building the conference experience was to alter the setting to clearly state “things have changed.” In the past, this group had met in a typical classroom setting, complete with distracting phones and laptops. Now they would enter a theatre with a colorful themed backdrop that focused attention on the presenter and the action on stage.

Taking action – “Moving Forward” – was a key theme of the event, underscored by many interactions built into the agenda by Preston and the Rocket event team. The CEO keynote incorporated Q&A moments, when Youniss walked the room with a handheld mic to gather input. During the break afterwards, and throughout the event, attendees were approached by a camera crew, who captured their responses over five days as the agenda unfolded.

The Engagement Outcome

Interest and engagement began building on day one. On the final day, index cards were handed around the room, and attendees were asked to record their aspirations and commitments for the year and to share them with each other. By that time, it was clear that an inspired performance had brought the team closer, with a new sense of shared mission. From the passionate stage presence of the CEO’s opening address to the impromptu performances at a closing party, the Rocket team was genuinely inspired to Move Forward together.