Social business is not just social media, it takes real transformation – Interview with Brad W Martin and Vala Afshar of Enterasys

Back to paradise

Today’s interview is with Vala Afshar and Brad W. Martin of Enterays who have recently written a book called The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, which charts Enterasys‘ transformation into a truly social business.

This interview follows on from my recent interview with Neville Hobson in Lessons from ten years of blogging and eight years of podcasting and makes up number forty-five in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Vala’s name may be familiar to some of you as I interviewed him back in September 2011 in: What is a Chief Customer Officer.

There’s some great insights in interview and less theory and more ideas about what they have done, what works and what they have achieved. Below are the highlights from our interview but take a listen to the podcast for the full story:

  • Vala and Brad have just written a new book called The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, which charts Enterasys‘ transformation into a truly social business.
  • Social Business Excellence

  • There is not a standard definition of a social business but it is not a business that just uses social media tools.
  • Social business is a mindset.
  • A social business, for Enterasys, is one that has made a conscious decision to move from a command and control mindset to one that is driven but collaboration and co-creation of value mindset both with your employees and your customers.
  • But it all starts with the Why, as explained in Simon Sinek’s TED talk: How great leaders inspire action.
  • Enterasys through it’s advanced use of’s tools and predictive analytics has been able to move from a defensive approach to customer service to a offensive and proactive approach to customer service.
  • Doing so has allowed them to build huge amounts of trust with their customers and keep with companies that are much larger than them.
  • Their approach is built on three pillars: innovation, product quality & good service delivery.
  • You can’t move to this proactive approach without harnessing technology.
  • Whilst culture, people and process are still the first things that you should get right, the use and leverage of technology supports the advancement of these three.
  • The greater the amount of advocacy you have with your employees, your business partners and your customers the greater the opportunity to create momentum.
  • Mistakes will happen and your ability to recover is crucial.
  • What they are doing is definitely working as they continue to produce great results and last year won awards from the Boston Business Journal and the Boston Globe for creating great places to work.
  • If you create a place that people want to show up then everything else follows.
  • A key element in building their more collaborative and knowledge sharing environment is their move away from email and the use of Saleforce’s Chatter.
  • Leadership is about conversations and conversations improve culture.
  • Enterasys invites their customers and partners into their Chatter groups.
  • They have also invented technology that allows some of their equipment to post status updates into their Chatter groups so they can keep track of their health and performance and they believe that they are the only form in the world right now that is doing this…..which won them half a dozen innovation awards last year.
  • The biggest benefit of social transformation in business is humanising the business and part of that is putting a face to the business so that it is not B2B or B2C it is about P2P or people to people.
  • Blogging is an important part of becoming a social business as it is an important part of expanding their ‘Why’. Twitter updates are fine but blogs are essential ways of sharing and expanding on ideas.
  • Blogs are the meat and potatoes behind the tweets or status updates.
  • In a social era the best ideas are going to win and it’s not about the best size or the best titles.
  • In today’s era, the best strategy is ‘care more’ and that is irrelevant of size.
  • A top tip for success: Be interested.
  • Generally, the most interesting people are the most interested.
  • Challenge convictions and none of us are smarter than all of us.
  • The third party validation and their financial results make their story worth reading and learning from.

About Vala and Brad (taken from their Enterasys bios)

Vala Afshar

Vala Afshar holds the new position of Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys Networks. In this dynamic role, Afshar is responsible for global marketing of Enterasys, including brand awareness, demand generation, social media, PR, analyst relations, channel marketing and much more. In addition to leading global marketing, Afshar continues to excel in driving all global services and technical support functions for the company. In his 17 years at Enterasys, he and his support team have received numerous prestigious industry awards for outstanding support as well as service ratings that are unmatched in the industry.

Afshar is a recognized social media advocate, having been the keynote of several industry events including Salesforce’s “Dreamforce 2012”. His thought-leadership has been sought after by leading publications including Forbes, The Economist, ZDNet and many more. To his credit, Vala was recently named by InformationWeek as one of the “Top 10 Social Business Leaders”, Oct 2012 and recognized by Forbes as one of the “Industry Leaders Shaping CRM”, Oct 2012. Vala was also named “2012 Top 50 Men in Technology on Twitter” by Blue Focus Marketing.

Afshar recently co-authored a book entitled “The Pursuit of Social Business.” He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts.

Brad W Martin

Brad W. Martin is the Vice President of Quality and Engineering Operations for Enterasys Networks. At Enterasys, Martin is responsible for global software quality assurance, global engineering services, corporate program management, manufacturing technology, corporate quality control and continuous improvement. As the business lead for product and corporate quality, Martin leads a structured continuous improvement program that reaches across the business. Martin and his teams have implemented an award winning quality information infrastructure at Enterasys and have been recognized by industry publications and analyst groups for these achievements. Martin has presented the Enterasys structured quality approach at Aberdeen’s Product Design and Delivery Summit and he and his team were 2012 recipients of the “Manufacturing Leadership 100” awards in two quality leadership categories.

Martin joined Enterasys in 2000, has held a variety of increasingly senior-level engineering management positions. Previously, Martin was the Director of Global Engineering Services. Prior to Enterasys Martin was the Manager of Pre-Sale Engineering and Inside Sales at Hussey Seating Company.

Martin earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maine.

If you’re interested in learning more about Enterasys’ journey to social business excellence, you can pick up the book here, or reach out to Vala Afshar and Brad Martin on Twitter as they’d love to hear from you.

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc


  1. James Lawther says:

    Adrian, interesting interview that provoked a question

    Do you have to have the social technology?

    The interview discusses moving away from command and control, utilising predictive analytics, having a clear why, moving from defensive customer service to offensive and a whole host of other moves

    But do you really need social media to pull the whole thing off?

    How does that knit everything together?


    • Hi James,
      I think the social technology is an important element in the overall recipe. Essential? I’m not sure. Important? Yes.

      Why? I believe it helps us get out of our inboxes and into the communities within our organisations allowing us to share information and knowledge in a more open, transparent and accessible way. As a result, it reinforces and facilitates the knowledge sharing and collaboration elements of the culture that Enterasys has…..tying many of the elements that they have developed together.

      That’s my view but I have asked Vala and Brad to respond too.

      What do you think? Make sense?


    • James,

      “do you have to have the social technology?” is a great question. To achieve full potential and scale then the use of social technologies is needed. Social technologies enables organizations to listen more effectively and engage in a more personalized manner. The communities we build using social networks help humanize the business – putting a name to a face and to a like-minded community. Social tools are just that, tools. People are social, tools scale.

  2. Thanks for clarifying, I guess it is how well you use your tools that counts


  3. Thanks for finally writing about >Social business is not just social media, it takes
    real transformation | Adrian Swinscoe <Liked it!

  4. Hello Adrian
    I got value out of this post of yours. And it occurred to me that this is a take on social business that speaks to me. In particular, the following resonate with me:

    “Their approach is built on three pillars: innovation, product quality & good service delivery.” Yes, they get the value of basics. You have to have the right product to attract the customer. To keep the customer you have to provide good service. To ensure you are relevant you have to innovate to come up with the next product that will attract/keep customers.

    “If you create a place that people want to show up then everything else follows.” I love this one, it gets to the heart of all organisational issues. Most people, in most organisations don’t want to show up, they do show up only because they have to to pay the mortgage…

    “Leadership is about conversations and conversations improve culture.” Wow, they get that culture is simply a network of persistent conversations. And leadership is all about shaping that network conversation to bring about that which is necessary to bring about. Who leaders talk to, what they say, how they say it, when they say it, where they say it, how often they say it -matters.

    “The biggest benefit of social transformation in business is humanising the business and part of that is putting a face to the business so that it is not B2B or B2C it is about P2P or people to people.” Love this one, again so true, and so neglected.

    “In today’s era, the best strategy is ‘care more’ and that is irrelevant of size.” How many businesses genuinely care for their customers? And so genuine caring, as in feeling the happiness/pain, of another is so rare. And so welcome by those who are cared for. That includes the people in the organisation – employees. And the people on the outside – the customers, the suppliers, the community.


    • Hi Maz,
      I am really really pleased that you got a lot out of that post and interview. What I find particularly interesting is that they are not talking about it, this is not theory, this is how they do things and they are creating fantastic results for all.


  5. Magnificent website. Lots of helpful info here.
    I’m sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks in your sweat!

  6. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels.
    I will appreciate if you continue this in
    future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing.

  7. just came by to look at this website. It is really good and I enjoyed browsing it, thank you very much
    for the helpful post!

  8. I was able to find good info from your blog articles.

  9. Can I just say what a relief to uncover somebody that actually knows what they are talking about over the internet.
    You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make
    it important. More and more people have to read this
    and understand this side of your story. I can’t believe you are not more popular given that you definitely possess the gift.

Speak Your Mind