Ryan Angold of ADS: “Those who successfully survive and thrive in crisis situations tend to possess a few key qualities”

Those who successfully survive and thrive in crisis situations tend to possess a few key qualities. First, they can stay extremely focused in the moment, keeping a clear head and a calm exterior. These people also usually possess strong leadership qualities — they can take charge in the moment and make clear, unwavering decisions. Lastly, survivors are […]

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Those who successfully survive and thrive in crisis situations tend to possess a few key qualities. First, they can stay extremely focused in the moment, keeping a clear head and a calm exterior. These people also usually possess strong leadership qualities — they can take charge in the moment and make clear, unwavering decisions. Lastly, survivors are confident in their decision-making process and don’t waste time second-guessing themselves.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Angold.

Ryan Angold is the executive vice president of market sales at at ADS, Inc., a military equipment supplier that provides tactical equipment, procurement, logistics, government contracts and supply chain solutions. He has been with the company for over 10 years, working his way up in the ranks from Navy Sales Vertical Manager to his current position. Prior to joining ADS, Inc., Ryan was a vice president of expeditionary programs at Early Energy, LLC and served as a business development and senior program manager for Blackbird Technologies. He also served in the Naval Special Warfare unit of the U.S. Navy after graduating from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Ryan is currently based in Virginia Beach, VA.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in Grass Valley in Northern California. I’m one of seven boys, so you can imagine we had a lot of fun, did a lot of outdoor activities and were super competitive. I loved team sports and played as many as I could, which set me up pretty seamlessly for a career in the military. When I was younger, I played soccer and even aspired to be a pro soccer player. I also played football, I was on the ski team, and I did track and field including pole vaulting, jumping, and sprinting. No matter the sport, I was always competing with my brothers who were good athletes as well. This pushed me to practice hard and to get better as an athlete. I was also a good student — my dad and mom never had the opportunity to go to college so they pushed all of us to graduate and pursue a higher education. My interest in the military started in my junior and senior years of high school. I wanted to enroll in one of the military academies and play sports. My hard work in school helped me get into the Naval Academy and I achieved all of these post-high school goals.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

Today with ADS, Inc., my core mission is helping Soldiers,Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and First Responders get the technology and equipment they need. Our team engages DoD personnel at all levels, including major acquisition programs, to find out what equipment people need, even if it’s something that doesn’t exist yet. Then, our team works to provide the best equipment industry can provide and deliver it to our military as quickly as possible. What I find really interesting is how unique each project is, especially when we’re developing never-before-seen products with our industry partners. Each item is specialized to address different issues in the field, and oftentimes we’re developing lifesaving equipment used not just in military operations but also by first responders. As an integral member in a small business, I love that we work with other small businesses around the country to bring necessary supplies to those who serve. It’s a privilege to be charged with bringing this equipment to life and improving the comfort and safety of our troops.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. I really wanted to play football and had the opportunity to walk on to the team. I didn’t get as much playing time as I’d have liked, but I was fast, strong, aggressive and motivated at practice, which helped me transition when I graduated and went to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) and then on to serve in Naval Special Warfare as a Navy SEAL. Over the course of eight years, I deployed five times and served with SEAL Team Two and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. If my military career hadn’t been cut short by a devastating injury, I’d probably still be serving today.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

I quickly learned in BUD/S and reinforced throughout my service that you cannot assess someones mental and physical strength by looking at them, and you should never judge an individual based on their looks. After checking in to BUD/S, I remember observing other members of my class, some of whom were very built while others did not look as strong at first glance. Some members, including the ones who looked like they could dominate any athletic challenge, were unable to complete training and quit, while others had mental toughness and willingness to get better, stronger and not give up.

I learned that you cannot make assumptions based on appearance. The true capabilities of a person come from being tested in the most extreme environments and scenarios. No one person is the best at everything, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. As a team, we all play off everyone’s strengths and compensate each other where we are not as skilled. Whether one person motivates us physically or we aspire to have the mental toughness of another. Each member of our Armed Forces brings unique skill sets which we learn from one another throughout our time in service.

We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

I experienced heroism throughout my time in service. Many people perform heroic acts, some are recognized in public domains, but others might never receive the same spotlight. Any service member who is deployed to protect our country is an example of a hero. While I witnessed many heroic acts in service, I did not appreciate them until my time after. The most heroic acts were people making tough decisions to be in the moment and protect their teammates, complete a mission and ultimately, protect Americans.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

Whenever someone embarks on a mission to rescue someone, protect other people or get the “bad guys,” I see that person as a true hero. In the battlefield, there is a high probability that you might not come home. But even in everyday life or business scenarios, heroes are those who risk something precious — time, capital, safety, their reputation or even their own life — for the benefit of others.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

Absolutely — my military career helped me prepare for success in my civilian life and career at ADS by instilling key skills like problem-solving, focus and discipline, bouncing back from failure and teamwork. These same skills are essential to navigating corporate and everyday problems, and they are often challenges that great leaders have to master in order to reach the top of their respective fields.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes — Scott Moore was one of my commanding officers at SEAL Team Two, and I am grateful for his continued teachings and support over the years. Commander Moore (now retired Admiral Moore) showed me what strong leadership looks like immediately after he took command of SEAL Team Two. I had multiple commanding officers with different teaching styles while at SEAL Team TWO, all effective but different.

When Commander Moore came into our team room, his intensity, focus, clarity and message to us was focused not only on how we train and operate, but he was physically there with us through the entire process. During reconnaissance training, my team had set up a hidden observation point and we heard footsteps through the woods expecting to see our training cadre trying to sneak up on us and quiz us on protocols. However, Commander Moore emerged and started asking us how the training was going and how he would handle an unexpected situation. As a young, junior officer, I was very fortunate to receive guidance from someone who made me a better leader and operator which enabled me to come home safely after each mission.

I am lucky that my mentor-mentee relationship with now Admiral Moore (retired) still exists today and that he serves on ADS, Inc.’s Board of Advisors. I value his advice and friendship to this day.

We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?

In the military, the short definition of a crisis is “An incident or situation involving a threat to a nation, its territories, citizens, military forces, possessions or vital interests that develops rapidly” — one such that military forces or resources get involved. At its core, this definition points to a threat to that which we hold dear, whether physical or ideological, be it our nationhood, our safety, our business revenue our family, etc. In a crisis, we must act fast to protect these things we value.

Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?

It’s important to have planned and trained for various crisis scenarios ahead of time so that when a crisis happens, decisions can be made quickly. Speed to decision-making is essential for effectively handling a crisis. As part of that pre-planning process, leaders should thoughtfully assign one person to be the key decision-maker for each crisis scenario — someone who can lead the team through the crisis. Finally, practice training for these crisis scenarios regularly. You’ll find that training helps keep the whole team calmer and more prepared in the event that a crisis actually happens.

There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?

Having been in many environments where things were intense and a crisis-type of moment occurred, there is a very short time period to make the right decision, and depending on how significant the scenario, the decision can be the difference between life and death, or mission failure and success.

Once you realize that you are in a crisis, the first thing you should do is not panic. Panic is not an option given the decisions that need to be made under pressure. This can be conditioned through rigorous training in a stressful environment, and reviewing potential scenarios with teammates and superiors before going into the field.

Next, you will need to make a decision and not just wait to be told next steps. Making the right decision ultimately comes down to preparation and understanding of the mission. When you are thrown into a crisis, you are relying on luck more than anything else, but proper training can form cohesiveness with your team to point you on the right path towards the right decision.

Finally, remaining optimistic is key to maintaining your cool and making quick decisions in high-stress situations. By keeping the situation calm, your team will connect with that energy and work together to overcome any barriers in the way. My friends joke that there have been many times where I’ve made lighthearted comments in intense situations — my mentality is that there is always going to be something positive to come out of crises.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

Those who successfully survive and thrive in crisis situations tend to possess a few key qualities. First, they can stay extremely focused in the moment, keeping a clear head and a calm exterior. These people also usually possess strong leadership qualities — they can take charge in the moment and make clear, unwavering decisions. Lastly, survivors are confident in their decision-making process and don’t waste time second-guessing themselves.

When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My platoon chief with SEAL Team TWO was the best tactical leader I’ve ever worked with. He was someone who modeled these crisis survival qualities to the highest standard. He always stayed extremely focused and clear in making the right tactical decisions, which made the whole team better and more successful on missions. He also dedicated time and effort to developing the junior officers and building our confidence, so we would someday have the same experience and skill in making leadership decisions on our own.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

One of the biggest setbacks in my life was a traumatic spinal cord injury that ended my military career. Many people are surprised when I tell them it didn’t happen during a mission or training — I was injured in a recreational boating accident, where I dislocated my neck at the C5-C6 vertebrae. This left me paralyzed for some time and my doctors told me that I may never walk again, certainly not without the support of a walker. It was a devastating diagnosis, especially as someone who took great joy and pride in serving my country and had wanted to continue serving with the Navy.

It was so hard for me in the beginning of my recovery but I knew in my gut that how I handled this setback would make or break the rest of my life. I knew I had to get through it and find a way to have some sort of physical capability and walk. It took time but it worked — I made a recovery that nobody expected, and I became one of the only patients with a C5-C6 complete dislocation injury that can walk without a walker. After my injury, I knew my military career was over but there was still a part of me that wanted to support the military. When I pivoted my career and started with ADS, Inc., it was the perfect opportunity for me to keep pursuing my passion and stay involved in making our military more effective.

Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Prepare.
  2. Rely on your training and experience.
  3. Assess the situation.
  4. Remain calm.
  5. Make clear decisions and execute.

During my time in service, I spent a lot of time developing strategies and training with my team ahead of our missions. If we didn’t rigorously prepare, we would have been at a disadvantage when faced with a crisis in the field. Once we were faced with a crisis, we banded together and relied on our training and experience to help us survive.

In my fourth deployment, we were tasked with a night infiltration on vehicles to meet another group at a different convoy. There was a strict timeline to move from point A to point B, and we spent a lot of time studying our route before beginning the journey. While driving, the environment did not look like what we anticipated based on our planning and rehearsal, and it was critical for us to rendezvous to have a successful mission. I spoke up and made the ground force stop since something wasn’t right. While this was a difficult call, and put our lives at risk, we realized that we were about a 7 kilometer difference from where we should have been to meet the other team. If we did not stop, it could have led to a potential disaster and mission failure and loss of lives.

Even though this was a very intense and stressful situation, I followed the five steps above and ultimately saved the mission.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would urge those reading this interview to not forget about the sacrifice our veterans and military families make to maintain our freedom — help your local veterans and donate to organizations that support these groups if you can! I am so inspired by the work my team does through our ADS Mission Give Back programs, which work to contribute meaningfully to military families and nonprofit organizations. ADS’s scholarship program is an amazing way we give back to children of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. As an organization, we also support and collaborate with like-minded organizations that provide for our troops, through donations and special events at our Warrior expos.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

While I have been listening to a lot of Joe Rogan, I would love to have a meal with Elon Musk. He is a doer and a maker, and truly believes in finding the next generation of technology. I deeply resonate with his thoughts on harnessing the intelligence of the next generation by emphasizing development in science and technology instead of business and finance. It’s important for both technology companies and the Department of Defense to leverage this intelligence to continuously innovate offerings and ensure our Armed Forces have the latest and greatest technological solutions to maintain a competitive edge against our adversaries.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-a-0377b81/. You can find ADS, Inc. at www.adsinc.com and follow the work my team and I do on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. Our YouTube channel is awesome and has lots of great content.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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