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Team Game: Winning with a New Playbook as Vertiv

Rob Johnson •

This month marks the five-year anniversary of Vertiv and my tenure as CEO. It’s an important milestone in the 75-year history of our organization, as it launched an eventful period that has seen our company completely transform to a customer-driven mindset focused on innovation.

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When we became Vertiv, we promised we would operate the company as a $4 billion startup. That promise became something of a North Star as we moved forward. We certainly did more than change our name and logo during this time. Every region, every function, every GBU operates completely differently today than they did five years ago. It is these changes, brought upon by dedicated people across the organization, that have allowed us to chart our path as a public company.

These were massive changes – equal parts liberating and challenging – but the most encouraging part of the process was the energy we felt across the company. Everyone was up to the task.

There were myriad structural changes to be made. We executed a successful IPO, which is a monumental undertaking. That effort alone was a full-time job for everyone involved.

As important as all of that was, the cultural shift was just as critical and more challenging. We embraced our 75-year legacy and the advantages of having the scale and global reach of an established $4 billion global business, but we understood the need to adapt to meet modern goals and market demands. Our passion led us to operate with the fearlessness and agility of a startup and establish a culture of innovation and individual responsibility critical to succeeding in today’s economy.

I couldn’t be prouder of the progress that’s been made. We acquired companies, divested companies, and as recently as last month we added E&I Engineering Group. We moved quickly to add capabilities that complemented our portfolio and aligned with our expectations for the data center market. We invested internally as well, increasing our R&D spending and organizing to encourage and foster innovation in all corners and at all levels of our business. We anticipated the massive growth at the edge and expanded our portfolio to meet that need while simultaneously growing and revamping our channel business to support our partners in the edge evolution.

The growth of the edge, the rollout of 5G, and pandemic-driven investment in IT across many verticals have reshaped our industry and introduced unprecedented levels of demand into our customers’ networks, all while placing more pressure on telecom and IT networks to keep us connected. With initial help from Platinum Equity, our private equity owner, which provided much support in building our foundation and allowing us to reinvest in the business; and with recent guidance from our Executive Chairman, David Cote, and our outstanding Board of Directors, who provide guidance and good advice on a variety of topics, Vertiv has fared well these past five years amid the seismic changes occurring all around us. From the intensifying climate crisis to global supply chain delays to a global pandemic, we have navigated choppy waters.

Our perseverance and success through it all are testaments to that vision of operating like a $4 billion startup – that will now be well over $5 billion. We endured where others struggled because we have the scale, mass, and global connections needed to overcome short-term challenges. We remained nimble and adjusted to challenges in real-time. It wasn’t easy, but it was possible because of the infrastructure we put in place and, most importantly, the people.

I’m often asked what I’ve learned over these past five years, and there is no easy answer to that question. However, one truth has been reinforced: the importance of people. We are headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, home to The Ohio State University and its legendary American football coach, Woody Hayes. Woody won multiple championships and, when asked about his success, famously said, “You win with people.” Well, the people of Vertiv have been nothing short of incredible. We have asked much of them, and they have exceeded our expectations every step of the way. Our people are smart, driven, team-oriented, and relentlessly hard-working. They are the engine for everything we do, and they are the single biggest reason I’m so excited about the next five years. 

To Team Vertiv I say thank you, and congratulations on a tremendous five years. I hope you are as proud of our accomplishments as I am. More importantly, I invite you to share my enthusiasm for where we’re headed. We’re just getting started.

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