Buddy Omohundro, L’02, is the recipient of the 2019 Top Workplaces Outstanding Leader Award for large companies in the Richmond Metropolitan area. We sat down with Buddy to discuss his journey from law student to General Counsel to Chief Services Officer at Apex Systems.

You started with the Apex Systems, LLC. as General Counsel soon after you graduated from law school. What experiences prepared you for your role?

I was one of those students who did not go straight to law school from undergrad. In fact, I worked for six years before I enrolled in law school, which was great for me. By the time I entered law school, not only did I have experience in several areas, but I also had a lot of incentive to do well. I understood the value of the education I was about to receive as well as the opportunity cost of going back to school as a full-time student.

Immediately after law school, I clerked with the Supreme Court of Virginia for a year with Justice [Elizabeth] Lacy. After that, I went to work for McGuireWoods. I practiced in their employment law group for a short time and then had the opportunity to go to Apex Systems, which is where I am today.

When I joined Apex, it was just starting to become a significant player in the IT staffing industry. They were at a point where they had decided to start a law department, so I convinced them in an interview that I was the person who could lead that charge. When I was offered and accepted the job, I remember panicking and thinking, “What am I going to do now? I don't know how to do this!” However, I used the experiences I had gained along the way to guide me, and, with a lot of hard work and dedication, as well as some luck, I created a legal department that has served the organization well, as we have grown to become the second largest IT services staffing firm in the United States.  After serving as Apex’s General Counsel for ten years, about four years ago I also added to my role: Chief Services Officer.

What is the role of a Chief Services Officer?

In our company we have a philosophy and a culture that the business is driven by our revenue-producing employees, our salespeople. Our entire mission revolves around making sure that our revenue-producers have what they need. The organization’s corporate functions - accounting, IT, HR, legal, communications, marketing - fall under what we call our “back office,” or shared services. As my role grew with the company, I became the leader of all of the shared services function - Chief Services Officer.

Even though I'm still General Counsel, my new role has shifted more to the business side of the organization. My role is to ensure that the corporate functions are running smoothly, that our revenue-producers are supported with the services they need to succeed, and that morale stays high despite the team’s heavy workload. It’s really more than a full-time job, but I absolutely love what I do. I’m still the final decision-maker around our legal issues, but the everyday activities there are handled mostly by other attorneys who report up to me. When I think about where things started when I came to Apex, it’s crazy to think we have a team of lawyers now. It's amazing to think about how much we've grown.

I understand that Apex has hired numerous Richmond Law students as interns. Can you tell more about that experience?

We love our Richmond Law interns and attorneys! Through the years, I have always remained interested in what’s happening at law school, and when I see how talented our interns and attorneys are, I know things are going well. 

The Richmond Law intern program we started nearly ten years ago has been extremely successful. We designed it so there is a ton of flexibility for the student interns. Interns may work as little as ten hours a week, and we let them come in when it is convenient for them and work around their class schedule. If they've proven to us they can work from home, we often let them do that. They get to be a part of an in-house law department, and they get great experience. Plus, the lawyers, as well as the other people who they work with in the legal department, are just nice, friendly people, so it's a positive environment every day.

Your involvement in the creation of that environment is probably part of the reason why you are the Richmond Times-Dispatch 2019 Top Workplaces Outstanding Leader. What does that recognition mean to you and how would you describe your leadership style?

Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to learn from some amazing leaders within the Apex organization. Their guidance has been invaluable in my development. Moreover, I really look at this award as a reflection of the team we have at Apex, not Buddy. What it really represents is how, as a company, we've built a culture that people appreciate, which is why the Times-Dispatch would recognize me as somebody who is successful as a leader. 

One of the things that I've always believed in, and tried to encourage in others, is cross-functional communication and activity. The best organizations ignore the differences between internal teams and strive to create a cohesive unit with a common mission. Whether it’s the revenue-producing employees and our corporate employees, or the different teams in our shared services, the more we spend time understanding each other, the stronger the team and business will become. We encourage team building activities, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing different teams spending time together. It’s those types of exercises that build a world-class culture and business. 

As a leader, communicating with teams is important, so I often have “all-hands” meetings or calls where I bring teams together and share what's happening with them. I believe transparency is a powerful tool in a successful organization. Further, I believe the best leaders develop their people. If leaders consistently strive to make others successful, the entire organization will benefit and individuals will rise to a much higher level. 

Interview conducted by Alexandria Brown.