MSP 501 Flashback: Goodwin PC Says 'Don’t Make Decisions Out of Fear’

2019’s MSP 501 Executive of the Year talks everything from management philosophy to leading during a pandemic.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

August 27, 2020

4 Min Read
501 Flashback

Often, a team is only as successful as its leader. Fortunately for the folks at Goodwin PC, an Olive Branch, Mississippi, managed service provider, they have Sam Underwood at the helm of operations management.

Last year, Underwood took home the Channel Futures MSP 501 Executive of the Year award. (Channel Futures unveiled the 2020 MSP 501 on July 28.) He stands out as the first non-CEO or company founder to earn the recognition.


Goodwin PC’s Sam Underwood (middle) accepts his award at the 2019 MSP 501 Awards.

Channel Futures will reveal the 2020 exec of the year at the upcoming Channel Partners Virtual event. But first, we wanted to catch up and find out what new initiatives Underwood has implemented at Goodwin PC over the past year, especially in the face of COVID-19.

Channel Futures: Let’s set the stage with your leadership philosophy or credo. What is it?

Sam Underwood: These may all seem like silly clichés, but we have most if not all of these posted on our walls, and they are repeated and referenced often. I personally live by these:

  • Respond, don’t react.

  • Bosses stand at the back and point. Leaders stand out front and say, “Follow me.”

  • Never make decisions out of fear; they will always be wrong!

  • The right thing to do and the easy thing to do rarely, if ever, line up.

  • Being a leader will never make you popular. If you want to be popular, tell people what they want to hear and never what they need to hear.

  • Have the fortitude to tell people the truth; it’s the loving thing to do.

  • Everything is personal; your coworkers are people, aren’t they?

  • Be a servant first.

  • Have the courage to say no and the grace to say yes. Have the humility to say, “I just don’t know and I need help.” Have the wisdom to know when to do each.

  • There is no excuse for abuse! Protect your people like they are family.

  • No grit, no pearl. No pressure, no diamond.

  • Keep it simple, Sam!

  • Finally, my favorite, because it came from my dad: “You never know how far a pickle will squirt until you step on it!”

CF: Any new additions or changes to Goodwin PC’s company culture since you last spoke with Channel Futures? (Underwood introduced rewards in the form of Texas Hold ‘Em, ping pong, GPC Bucks/“Easter eggs,” Kickin’ Boohonky and more.)

SU: We added The Wheel of Encouragement. It is just a spinning wheel with prizes on it and fun things to do. We added a bell the guys get to ring if they receive customer compliments or praise, and we all line up and let them run through a tunnel to ring it. They get extra GPC Bucks.

The 2020 MSP 501 recognizes the top managed service providers in the world. See the full list. Then check out our brand-new Hot 101.

We are going skydiving as a group in October because when we asked what was on each person’s bucket list, this was by far the most popular. The company is footing the bill. In our new building, we have planned for a full-size kitchen (everyone loves to cook and eat) and a workout facility.

CF: What other operational changes have you made since you last spoke with Channel Futures, and why?

SU: Improvement is a continual process that must be evaluated and assessed often. The key is to find a good core foundation and build on it. I think that we laid that foundation and we continue to grow as a result.

CF: What changes have you made within Goodwin PC because of COVID-19, and why?

SU: What a perplexing world! I would say that we actually saw opportunity because we want to be there for our current customers in their times of need. And we want to find and help new customers that may no longer have an IT services provider because of COVID-19.

CF: How has COVID changed or shifted the way you lead?

SU: Not really much, if anything! We definitely don’t make decisions out of fear. Our leadership philosophy is solid and built for times like these.

CF: What have you learned about leadership over the past year – COVID-19-related or not – that you didn’t necessarily expect to learn?

SU: Compassion goes a long way and is needed more now than ever. Although I knew that it was needed, I did not expect how much.

CF: What words of wisdom would you like to share with your fellow channel partners as we head into the second half of this strange year?

SU: Don’t believe everything you read on the news. A person is smart but people are dumb!

CF: Any other thoughts to add?

SU: I want to thank Channel Futures and all involved for the awesome award that I received last year. I definitely did not deserve it and could not believe that I somehow fell into that. It made me feel like I was on top of the world and it further inspired me to work to live up to the honor. Also, the ceremony was so well done.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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