I enjoyed participating in a GrowthHackers Ask Me Anything session last week. There were lots of great questions on management, leadership, and culture, and I was happy to share my experience. We’re publishing some of the questions and answers here for you. Jump over to the GrowthHackers’ site to read the full session.
Porus Daruvala: What would you say are the top 3 lessons you learnt as CEO at Cordys that you’ve been able to apply at Sencha?
- Make decisions much faster – the world is moving at warp speed
- Doesn’t matter how technically fantastic your product is, it has to be easy to use
- Put the right people in the right positions
Sean Ellis: I’d like to know how your company approaches growth. How do product, marketing and sales work together to drive customer acquisition, conversion, retention and expansion?
Hi Sean – great question and one of the main themes of my organizational activities at Sencha, especially when I first started. It is absolutely critical that engineering, marketing (PM and PM!) and sales are 100% aligned on the product roadmap…and that they all understand that the “finished and released product” is so much more than just the “core product”. It has to include product notes, sales engineering training, account manager training, documentation, brochures, website info, tech support training, press releases, FAQs, etc. etc etc. Put that end-to-end list together and drive the conversation around this holistic approach.
Javier Feldman: What are your top challenges marketing to developers and how you’ve been able to overcome them?
Hi Javier. The number one challenge is making sure developers that are building data intensive enterprise apps that will live for 5+ years in the enterprise and used by hundreds if not thousands of users consider technologies that fit this profile and not just the hottest technology or the “fun” technologies. Developing the application is only a small part of the entire lifecycle. Developers also need to consider how to maintain, enhance, upgrade and support the application – and these are much harder (and more boring!) conversations. So usually you need to bring in all players into the conversation – developers, managers, executives, business owners.
John Phamvan: What are the top 3 tech trends you see from your perch that will impact most companies this year?
- Building applications in the “digital age” that can create actionable intelligence and help business decision making from the reams and reams of data we are all creating.
- Finding good technology people and keeping them – because every company in every vertical in every geography will become a “digital company”.
- There are so many technology platforms to choose from – many new ones come out every year – how do you choose the right technology for the long term.
Dani Hart: In your experience leading teams, how important is company culture in regards to growth? Are there any things you’ve seen done well to contribute to successful teams?
Hi Dani – culture is very important to all aspects of the company. Please take a look at at this recent article on leadership and culture for some of my perspectives:
Tri Nguyen: Do you think international experience of some kind will be essential for founders moving forward, especially those based in the US, to succeed in non-English speaking markets? Whether yes or no, could you elaborate on why you believe that to be the case?
International expertise is critical for any business. No matter where it is based or where it started, at some point some aspect of the business will go “outside the origin country’s borders” – either for hiring or for sales. The world has become too small for this not to happen. And deep experience is important. There is a world of difference between 1) international business travel and 2) actually living overseas and deep within the local economy and culture. The first one will get you into a world of trouble because most people think they are “experts” at this level…and that will lead to some bad decisions.
Anuj Adhiya: For those of us that haven’t had the opportunity to be in the armed forces, do you have any tips on how leadership skills can be developed/honed?
Hi Anuj – there was one shocking experience I had coming out of the Air Force and into the “civilian world” working for a big company – and that was around the “walls” that were built between engineering and marketing, or marketing and sales, or finance and manufacturing. I refused to acknowledge those walls because my view was we were all one company. I pro-actively reached out to my peers and counterparts (not the bosses) and asked how I could help them if they needed something from my department – and asked for nothing in return. Do that across all departments – and ask for nothing in return – and pretty soon you will be known as the “go-to-guy” in the company to get things done. I have two recommendations for books as well: 1) Predictive Leadership by Kirk Dando and 2) Leadership and Self-Deception from the Arbinger Institute.
Danielle Olivas: Who have you drawn influence from, or who has inspired your career and how?
Hi Danielle – did you ever play the question game: if you could have a two-hour lunch with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be. My answer is Winston Churchill. The right guy at the right time…and then it wasn’t the right time and he wasn’t the right guy – but overall an absolutely amazing leader who literally saved the world. That being said, I was very lucky to have great mentors throughout my careers (both Air Force and civilian) that supported me, pointed me in the right direction and cleaned me up after my disasters! My father was also a big influence – his basic philosophy was “if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything…just don’t make the same mistake twice”. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – they are better life lessons than successes.