MSP 501 Executive of the Year: Goodwin PC's Sam Underwood

Underwood is the first non-CEO or company founder to be named “exec of the year.”

T.C. Doyle, Senior Director of Content

September 11, 2019

3 Min Read
Star for Executive of the Year

Sam Underwood of Goodwin PC is the 2019 Channel Futures MSP 501 Executive of the Year.


Goodwin PC’s Sam Underwood

Underwood is an unusual choice for Channel Futures, which traditionally bestows such an award on a founder or CEO of an MSP 501 company. But Underwood is no ordinary executive.

Officially, Underwood serves as the operations manager at Goodwin PC, which is an Olive Branch, Mississippi, managed services provider. (Olive Branch is just across the border from Memphis, Tennessee.) On the 2019 MSP 501 list, Goodwin PC ranks No. 485.

At Goodwin, Underwood oversees the operations of customer networks under company management. This includes the analysis, implementation, monitoring and upgrading of all functions and aspects relating to these networks. Among other things, Underwood oversees the hardware customers purchase, the applications they choose and the securitization of their data assets. It’s a big job, in other words.

“Sam is literally at the heart of our operations; he’s an indispensable guy in a critically important role,” says Goodwin PC President Brian Eason.

But capably performing these duties is not why Eason nominated Underwood for this year’s “Executive of the Year Award.”

“Sam Underwood is the best operations manager there ever was or has been,” says Eason. “But he has natural gifts that have transformed our company, some right before my very eyes.”

Texas Hold ‘Em, Anyone?

Consider the company’s culture. Among other things, Underwood introduced lunchtime poker to the company, which has increased company morale and situational awareness, says Eason. Underwood also introduced break room Ping-Pong, which increased friendly competitiveness among the company’s help desk engineers.

After working to increase employee competitiveness, Underwood focused his energies on talent retention. To that end, he introduced several new initiatives to recognize Goodwin PC employees who went above and beyond everyday duties to please customers. First was a program called “GPC Bucks,” which doled out play money that could be redeemed for real-world benefits. Think noise-cancelling headphones, big-screen monitors, gaming consoles or even hot-air balloon rides.

Underwood went so far as to hide “Easter eggs” throughout the company’s facilities that, when found, could be “purchased” using GPC Bucks. Fellow employees began to arrive at work early and stay late just to find these prizes.

In addition to creating awards for those who drove improved levels of customer satisfaction, Underwood also created a rewards system for those who achieved monthly, quarterly and yearly objectives around operations excellence, sales achievement and more. Underwood created an award named “Kickin’ Boohonky!!” that recognizes company excellence based on hours billed, support tickets closed, average time to resolution, errors and more. Underwood created five silver trophies that are now handed out on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

“The above are just examples of where Sam has taken the bull by the horns and incorporated culture components to recognize, reward and build a culture and community that drives results,” says Eason.

While the results that other executives of the year have achieved are equally compelling, the path that Underwood took to get there is very…

…different. He didn’t set out to be a tech executive, for example. Instead, his started his career in law enforcement and local government. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Belhaven College, he enrolled in the FBI National Academy. Later, he received an MBA from Belhaven.

Underwood worked for local governments for several years and served as the CEO of his own freelance consultancy. But it’s at Goodwin where his career has taken off.

When Underwood is not working, you may find him walking Civil War battlefields searching for historical artifacts, which he turns over to a local museum, or creating art sculptures from everyday objects including outdated technology devices.

Whether it’s U.S. history or technology nostalgia, Underwood finds a way to put things to work.

“Sam is the best,” says Eason. We all need a ‘Sam’ in our business.”

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About the Author(s)

T.C. Doyle

Senior Director of Content, Informa

T.C. Doyle, is the Senior Content Director of Channel brands at Channel Futures, and is responsible for the editorial direction of A veteran technology writer, editor and video storyteller who has covered the IT industry for more than two decades, he was previously the Executive Editor at Channel Partners, and the Editor@Large with Cisco, where he traveled the world in search of stories that captured the social and technological transformations occurring in the economies of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. A frequent speaker at IT industry events and trade shows, he resides in Park City, Utah.

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