Interview Tag: Learning

Achieving Faster With Mentors, Being Proactive, Open & Communicating Well with Alain Benzaken

Achieving Faster With Mentors, Being Proactive, Open & Communicating Well with Alain Benzaken

Video Highlights

00:31 -- Learning from your Mentors

03:06 -- Being Proactive, Eliminating excuses

04:21 -- The Future of Technology

Tweetables

#Achieving #faster with #mentors, being #proactive, #open & #communicating #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click To Tweet]

#Achieving #greatness with the right #mentors #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click To Tweet]

The #science of #transparency #noexcuses #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click To Tweet]

#Open #communication #sets #teams apart #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click To Tweet]

Alain Benzaken: So I’ve had challenges in a bunch of different companies. I always call the biggest challenges as the Super Bowl challenges because literally, a couple of companies this happened to, I had to keep a site up during the Super Bowl. When they were advertising our company in the Super Bowl and literally we would have Super Bowl traffic coming to our website.

Alain Benzaken: And so, those are really hard challenges because you can manage scale and growth at a steady level but when you get these incredible spikes of traffic, that’s when it becomes a challenge. That’s usually when your systems break down because it’s hard to test for and it’s hard to anticipate.

Alain Benzaken: And so I had that a couple times and we had to plan for months ahead of time. One was at TheLadders when we did a commercial and we really got to keep the site up and Taco Bell was down for, like, 6 days.

Alain Benzaken: And the other was by the Buddy Media when we had huge spikes we had brand advertisers advertising on Super Bowl, go to our Facebook page, and we were hosting the page.

Alain Benzaken: And so, those are the challenges. So I call those the Super Bowl challenges and they’ve happened a bunch of times. But in the long run, I’ll tell you that in terms of the scale and growth, again and again, the challenge has always been more on the people side. If you hire really, really good technologists who know architecture and know how to build things correctly and you challenge them and you make sure they build it correctly…

Alain Benzaken: The technology is like math. And so, if you do the math and you know this is where we are, this is where we need to be, and this is the scale we’re going to hit, you could usually solve the problem.

Alain Benzaken: But people are not math and so handling the growth of people and managing everything that goes on when your company is doubling in size, at Priceline, we’re doubling every month.

Alain Benzaken: So just handling that growth and hiring people who can manage maybe one person now, maybe ten people within three months, and then becoming a VP in a year. And so, you got to really, really get the right people in the right position and that’s more of a challenge overall, I think.

Alain Benzaken: And it’s the biggest challenge in technology in general where technology managers are hard to find. Really good technology managers are hard to find so that’s probably been more of a challenge on the scaling side than the technology itself.

Alain Benzaken: I think in the West Coast they’re much more open to fail fast and move on. On East Coast, they’re still, even today, is a “Let’s push it through, let’s make it happen.” And I’m like, “Either we’re going to make it or we’re not going to make it, and let’s find out earlier and let’s move on.”

Alain Benzaken: So what I learned was a couple of things from now on, I will say, is one: executive teams matter incredibly. And I’ve been on some very successful ones and it’s just easy. The success comes quickly and if things don’t work, you change into that.

Alain Benzaken: And two, that was also a problem of timing as well. I think there’s recently an article about startups, what’s the biggest indicator of success or failure in startups.

Alain Benzaken: And it turns out timing is important. If you get in too early, even before Priceline I was at Prodigy, which was one of the first online services. This was pre-internet.

Alain Benzaken: We were way too early and then AOL came and had, not necessarily better service but they had better marketing and eventually beat us. So that’s probably a bunch of learnings I’ve had over the years: timing, executive team, and your points of marketing.

Alain Benzaken: I had a really good mentor when I was at Priceline, he was an executive who’s CTO. It’s very hard in technology to sort of stay in touch with the code and stand the code while also managing and understanding the business side of stuff.

Alain Benzaken: Because when you’re in the code and you see the challenge, it’s easy. But when you stop coding, it becomes a little hard and you don’t know exactly what’s going on, you’re really relying on your team to give you the information that you need because you kind of start to lose touch with the technology.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s important to have a sense, and this is what he was really good at and that’s what I learned more than anything else from him, a sense of where to know where the soft spots are in any sort of project or any big endeavor that you’re working on with your team.

Alain Benzaken: It was a skill that, I won’t say it’s black science but it was a skill that he had where he would like, “I bring the big project plan on that, everything is good.” And he’d be like, “How are you going to do this one thing?”

Alain Benzaken: It would always be the one thing that was like, “God damn it, I don’t really know how I’m going to do that.” And that’s a skill that I’ve worked really hard at achieving.

Alain Benzaken: Some of the stuff, you know it’s going to get done, you know it’s going to get done but in any project and any situation, there’s always one thing that they don’t want to tell you is the part they haven’t quite figured out yet.

Alain Benzaken: And so, that’s a skill that you learn over time and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some important mentors. And I’ve seen that in different areas, not just in technology, I saw it in finance. Same thing at Priceline we had a guy that would point at rooms of spreadsheets and would point point at one number and go, “How are you going to get to that number?” And make people squirm every time. It was unbelievable, I never saw anything like it.

Alain Benzaken: And that’s a skill you gain over time, that’s experience. So that’s important to me. I think mentorship in general is important because it helps you achieve faster, basically.

Alain Benzaken: Working with someone who’s already been there, who’s already done that. As you know, we do triathlon training and having mentors in sports, actually growing up, although I was a pretty good athlete but I didn’t train very effectively. And I was okay, I was average.

Alain Benzaken: But I really learned the importance of mentors in terms of getting you to where you need to be faster. And it’s really just like a shortcut and so when you have them, you have to take advantage of them.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s a great importance so I try to be a mentor to my technology leaders as well but I’m still learning from a lot about this.

Alain Benzaken: I’m having this situation now in my current company where every day we have a status report on how things are going. And every day, I hear an excuse about why things didn’t work exactly the way they should have.

Alain Benzaken: And the excuses are all good and it hit me this morning, I don’t actually want to hear an excuse ever again because an excuse is really a reason for not doing something earlier.So at the end of the day, something didn’t work and the next they’ll say is, “Well it didn’t work because X, Y, and Z happened.” And that’s just not valid. You have to be much more proactive, you have to communicate upfront about what the problems are and then we’ll resolve them.

Alain Benzaken: I always tell my team, for example, “I just want to hear the bad news.” That’s my management mantra number one. As long as you tell me the bad news, I won’t get upset, we’ll deal with the problem, and we’ll move on.

Alain Benzaken: That’s just screwing up every day, that’s a whole other story. We’ll deal with that but as long as I hear the bad news, I can do something about it. That’s the reason I’m here.

Alain Benzaken: But don’t come to me three weeks late and say, “Hey, Alain something screwed up last week and I didn’t tell you about it.” And you might have a good excuse about why it happened but I don’t want to hear about it.

Alain Benzaken: So the executive level, it’s really about being open, transparent. Communicating is really number one thing and working well together. And if things don’t go well in your area, I want to hear about it and I can help you, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: There’s just so many, so many unbelievable new technologies that are coming up in all the areas. The internet is one thing and sort of like the groundwork but that’s easy stuff.

Alain Benzaken: I’m currently working actually in the garment industry which is still running in backwoods mode and some of the technologies that we can apply there and some of the things we could do would just be some, which is still unbelievable. Basically to be able to design your own clothes and print them right there, just simple stuff like that.

Alain Benzaken: But there’s just so many new technologies coming up. It’s kind of exponential. The way technology works is it kind of grows but then it grows on top of stuff that’s been invented before and so we’re still reaching the early stages of the exponential current and what can be done.

Alain Benzaken: So I think in biology, there’s some unbelievable stuff going on, obviously in tech. So I’m excited, it’s all fun.

Alain Benzaken: It’s important for me to be an example to my kids, to be successful at that level. I mean, I’m very, very competitive. I like doing it in sports, I like doing it in any situation I’m in. But in the end, I have a very close family. I want to be successful and I want them to be successful.

Alain Benzaken: So I don’t know if it’s a driving cause, I think it’s more that you enjoy life as well and have a good time and laugh. It’s funny. I don’t live life with a super, super important cause sort of hanging out there. I’m a little more day to day and enjoy things.

Thilo Semmelbauer; Board Member, COO & President

Thilo Semmelbauer; Board Member, COO & President

Video Highlights

00:32 -- Success

01:30 -- Knowing Where You're Going

03:34 -- Failures of Timing

05:50 -- The Proudest Moments

07:31 -- "Shutter-stocking it"

08:31 -- Leadership Starts With A Vision

11:42 -- Generational Workforce

13:54 -- What Is Valued Most

14:54 -- Mentors

16:46 -- The Driving Force

19:26 -- The World As Your Oyster

20:15 -- Being Remembered

Tweetables

Creating #global #jobs, #touching #peoples #lives #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#Leadership always #starts with: #vision #plan #clarity #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

@Shutterstock #revenues 50 million to 350 #million #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#How to build the #right #team #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#Breaking #paradigm shifts with the #availability of #information @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: Two experiences worth mentioning when I started Weight Watchers online business, there was no revenue. It grew to a peak of about 400 million in revenue with, probably more importantly, millions of users. Many of them satisfied and some of them having had significant life changes, which was very gratifying.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Shutterstock is probably one of the things I’m most proud of in my career and during my time there, it grew from 50 million to 350 million in revenue over the course of five years.

Dave Carvajal: Yeah, and there was an IPO in there as well.

Thilo Semmelbauer: There was an IPO, which was I think a great confirmation for this sort of staying power in the company and the impact that it has on the industry.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It starts with a plan. You have to know where you’re going. Whether you get there through sheer insight or analysis and strategic thinking, you have to have a plan.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And then secondly, you have to build a team around you who gets bought into the plan and shares that with you. And often, finding those people, selecting them, that’s hard and that’s a lot of fun. It’s a part of what I spend a lot of my time on.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Often, the best people for those jobs aren’t the ones who’ve done it before. It’s sometimes the people who really want that as a next step in their career and they have a lot to learn. So that process of building the team is super exciting and it’s, at the end of the day, the most important thing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think finally, when you have a plan and a team, it’s about being nimble on your feet. It’s about testing, learning, evolving, pivoting, and solving problems every day.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, failure is a long topic. I’ve had my fair share of those. I think one category of failures is such interesting to talk about, it happened a couple of times in my career.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Once at Motorola in the 90’s when I launched a product that worked technically but nobody bought it. There’s no market for it, pre-cursor of what came later as smartphones but way too early for its time.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Sometimes you could have a great plan and you can have great people and great execution and you still don’t get any sales.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened to me also in ’99 when I was working with Sotheby’s to launch their online auction business. Now, many years later, the stuff is largely working.  But at the time, again, the site, the capabilities were there, the dealers were lined up and the business just wasn’t there, It was timing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think failures of timing are interesting failures. I think that they’re just to be expected. It’s something that I really look out for now and in my recent jobs.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think we try to be more careful about selecting to be part of things that were the time is right because that’s an important element of success and hard to control, except to select or deselect.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think other failures have come from external events. I mean, one of the best things that ever happened to Shutterstock was when hurricane Sandy hit. And we were at a downtown office, right by the stock exchange. The office was flooded as what’s most of downtown, everybody knows what happened. And we had to scramble and find other space in midtown and people had makeshift offices in Brooklyn, in New Jersey.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And it was a failure of lack of preparedness at the end of the day because we didn’t anticipate something like that and the tech team was scrambling to put services in the Cloud.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It all worked, we never missed a beat in terms of serving customers and having the website running and even moving our projects forward, but during something like that, you really learn about the people on the team and who gets creative and figures out a way through that hardship and who kind of checks out and doesn’t show up for work.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s a very interesting learning experience so I think crisis can actually be very helpful for a company.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think another failure, kind of on a personal level, I think earlier in my career, I probably was too afraid of failure. I think what was drilled into me in school as an engineering-oriented person and analyst.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve viewed my success as getting to the right answer and not making mistakes. And I think it took me a while in my career to get comfortable with, failures as a necessary part, hopefully, small failures as a necessary part of the creative and building process.

Dave Carvajal: Thilo, what is the impact of some of your greatest achievements? What are you most proud of?

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, well I mean, I think at Weight Watchers, the whole brand is around helping people so that’s something I really connected with. I mean, helping people lead healthier lives, lose weight, make personal transformations.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Weight Watchers had been doing that for 40 years but we were trying to bring that into the online experience as well and I think one of the most exciting things that happened after we built and launched the product was seeing people purchase it online. I mean, watching the ticker that people were actually buying what we built.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But, I think that paled in comparison to hearing stories of people months later and over the years that had success with it, with either right in or…

Thilo Semmelbauer: I would meet users, after having millions of users, it was not so hard to people who would just come up to me and say, “Wow, you were involved with Weight Watchers online. It really helped me, I lost 30 pounds. I became healthier. This happened, that happened.” And to hear those stories that people’s lives changed in some way, that made me feel great.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened at Shutterstock as well, although in different ways. I mean, even before I got there, the concept behind the Shutterstock subscription offering was very appealing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But once we blew it out and got a lot more users on the platform and made the product better and improved the content, one woman came up to me who’s a customer who said, “We used Shutterstock so much we’ve turned it into a verb. In office, when we have a creative problem we say, ‘Hey, let’s Shutterstock it.’

Thilo Semmelbauer: And they go on the site and they got lots of ideas. And I had never thought about Shutterstock that way but the fact that it was getting such heavy use and had such appeal for creative people. That was very powerful.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I think Shutterstock, being a marketplace business, equally powerful where some of the stories on the contributor side. I mean, photographers, videographers all over the world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: One woman, I remember we invited her into the office, who worked from her home in a small town in Siberia halfway around the world selling her images and her illustrations to customers all over the world and she was making a living doing that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And there’s probably no way she would be able to pursue that passion without Shutterstock, so again, maybe small ways but important ways of touching people’s lives. I mean, that’s exciting.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, I think leadership always starts with a vision, a plan, I think. It can come from great inspiration or it can come from hard analytical and strategic work but it always starts with clarity of vision.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I think the second part is getting other people on board. And that ultimately, I think, great leaders have a way of getting to know the people around them and motivating them.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You can’t motivate people who are all motivated by different things unless you get to know them, which requires listening, learning, observing, communicating–all those things to really connect so you can’t do it by yourself.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think it’s that combination of knowing where you want to go and being able to, at the end of the day, get others to follow. I think that’s what leadership is all about.

Thilo Semmelbauer: There’s a deeper thing perhaps underlying leadership that I didn’t mention and you’re making me think about it now. I think it’s kind of at the basic level of caring. So what does that mean?

Thilo Semmelbauer: I mean, caring about people. The people are going to help you. The people, together, are going to make it happen. And if you don’t care about them, it’s not going to work as well. It’s only going to work for a short time period.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So there’s something I don’t know quite to how to put words around it. But the teams that I have built and the people I’ve worked with, it’s like a relationship. I care about them, I want them to succeed, they want me to succeed, and there’s a bond there, I think, that makes it special and sometimes makes it work and you can build magic together.

Dave Carvajal: And it’s amazing how that leadership, Thilo, has inspired so many people in their own leadership growth and how they choose to lead and the active decision that they make in understanding how to be a better leader, creating value in the world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I hope so. There’s a lot of people that I’ve worked with over the years that I’m still in touch with that are in leadership positions and they call me and ask for advice and I give them what I can.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Most of it is within them and they maybe need some help bringing it out. And that’s very gratifying, to see people move on and do amazing things. That’s part of the fun for me.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, it’s building great products and having impact on people’s lives but it’s also the relationships with the people you work with that is very gratifying.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You know, there are stylistic differences and cultural differences across the generation but I think what makes good people in a workplace is largely, I think, has not changed significantly. I would argue, I will argue.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think simple problems are easy problems in a company can be solved by one person. Hard problems require people to work together.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, if they’re going to work with each other successfully, they need to have an ability to respect each other, they need to communicate well and they have to have some shared goals.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think that is evidently possible and I’ve seen it over and over again across generations. So I put the commonality across generations of people who are effective in a workplace. To me, that is the most important thing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And yeah, of course, then you’re getting to some of the stylistic differences and it’s common today that you go into a meeting and everybody has some sort of a screen or device in front of them.

Thilo Semmelbauer: 15 years ago, that was considered bad behavior because you could be doing something else instead of paying attention. But today, it’s a way of paying attention. Maybe people are taking notes on their laptops, who knows.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So those things, I think, are more superficial. For me, on the precipice of my 50th birthday, I love working with young people. For me, it’s very energizing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I remember there was a moment at Shutterstock, I won’t go into the whole story but suffice it to say that we needed to get a hold of some BitCoin. And all of the 40-year olds were looking around the table like, “Uh, I don’t know how to do this.” And of course, the 25-year old at the company wound up producing the account and knew exactly how to navigate that world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: That’s one plus one equals three when you have that diversity around you and you can tap into different generations.

Thilo Semmelbauer: At its core, I think value most the ability to get stuff done, the ability to have impact, sort of “talk is cheap so let’s see what you can do.” And I think that is the way I judge myself. I think ultimately, what’s most important in others is that impact potential.

Thilo Semmelbauer: In order to have impact, you have to work out with other people. So a lot of other things follow that, including an ability to listen, which I think is rare.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But when I find it in people, I tend to think it’s a good sign because it shows that somebody doesn’t know everything, if they’re going to interact well with others to figure out the problem and perhaps even evolve their thinking because wherever their starting point was, it may not be necessarily right.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So to me, the ability to listen is critical to thinking and doing in a group but it’s not very common. So I do look for that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve sought out mentors, I think, over the years. I think many of them were my bosses and for some strange reasons, early on my career, I had lots of bosses who were yellers so there were lots of screaming.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It started in Motorola, in a production environment, it was a lot of yelling and screaming. And my boss was often very vocal.

Thilo Semmelbauer: In a production environment, it’s one of these no-win jobs where you either didn’t produce enough or there were too many people working on the shift so it’s too expensive or quality wasn’t high. You never get everything right, so there’s always something to yell at.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I don’t think that my boss would say that he mentored me at the time but in a strange way, I think it toughened me up. So that was an early on experience.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think later, I always try to learn different things from the people that I work with. Whether they were board members or my bosses, I sought that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I don’t know if it was ever really formalized, I wouldn’t say that I had this kind of regular monthly meeting with a mentor but I definitely thought about picking out learnings from other people around me and trying to get better at being a leader myself.

Dave Carvajal: What has been your driving purpose, your noble cause maybe?

Thilo Semmelbauer: That’s interesting. I think I like solving hard problems that can be solved. I think at my core, I am a problem solver.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve been involved in an organization called Action Against Hunger, for almost ten years now, that is dedicated to ending world hunger. You will say, “Okay, is that a problem we can solve?”

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yes, it’s a problem we can solve. It turns out that if you go back 25 years, in 1990, there were roughly a billion undernourished people on the planet out of five billion, so one in five. Just in the last couple of years when the stats were taken again, it was 800 million out of seven billion people, so one out of nine.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So actually making a progress now, it’s a tragedy that 800 million people around the world are undernourished but we know how to solve this. It’s about money, will, distribution, education, and politics.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s not about food production. The world has the capacity to fulfil these basic needs.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I’ve been involved in that organization in part because I think it’s a problem that we can solve. It’s going to take a lot of time, maybe beyond my lifetime but that is worth doing. It’s a basic need and everything follows from that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You can’t have a career without basic nourishment. So I mean, it is one of those things that I believe in. I think in a way, every business that I’ve been part of, there is some fundamental big problem to solve and maybe it’s not as big as world hunger but I get fascinated by the problem and trying to solve it in some way.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I do believe and maybe I’m not an optimist in this, like Diamandis that there is a lot of exciting possibilities around the corner. I think maybe more near in, if I think about the entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with and the ones I hope to work with over the coming years, I think there’s never been as an exciting time as now to start a business.

Thilo Semmelbauer: If I look back in my own life, when I was going to school that’s called the 80’s, the goal was get a job at a great big company and have security in that career.

Thilo Semmelbauer: With the internet, with software, with technology, with the availability of capital, the availability of information at everyone’s fingertips, I think the world is your oyster if you’re an entrepreneur today.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I only wish I had gotten the bug earlier in my career. It came a little bit later but I think that’s one of the things that makes me excited. Also, about changing the world’s problems is the fact that if you have a great idea, you can basically go and make it happen today.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’m very confident that with all of the smart brains and driven people that are out there, we’re going to make lots of great things happen. So that’s exciting.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I would like to be remembered as somebody who helped the world, who helped people and helped in some small way, maybe in some big way to come, was a positive force.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Maybe my father was sort of in my head on this question because he passed away a number of years ago that he would never let us complain at home, one of the things that we weren’t allowed to do was complain.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, maybe had they told me about it but then, it was always about “Well, what are you going to do that will turn it around, being a positive force and not a negative force?”

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s like long-winded answer but I hope to be remembered as somebody who was a positive force in the world.

Impact & Results Matter, Listening Is Critical, Solving World Hunger & Being A Positive Force For Good, with Thilo Semmelbauer

Impact & Results Matter, Listening Is Critical, Solving World Hunger & Being A Positive Force For Good, with Thilo Semmelbauer

Video Highlights

00:32 -- What is valued most

01:41 -- Mentor's

03:24 -- The Driving Force

06:04 -- The world as your oyster

06:53 -- Being remembered

Tweetables

How to be #impactful #listening #interactions #evolution of thinking #Insight @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

How to pick out the #best #traits from every #leader #mentorship @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#Problem #solving the world’s #biggest issues @actionagainsthunger @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#Breaking #paradigm shifts with the #availability of #information @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: At its core, I think value most the ability to get stuff done, the ability to have impact, sort of “talk is cheap so let’s see what you can do.” And I think that is the way I judge myself. I think ultimately, what’s most important in others is that impact potential.

Thilo Semmelbauer: In order to have impact, you have to work out with other people. So a lot of other things follow that, including an ability to listen, which I think is rare.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But when I find it in people, I tend to think it’s a good sign because it shows that somebody doesn’t know everything, if they’re going to interact well with others to figure out the problem and perhaps even evolve their thinking because wherever their starting point was, it may not be necessarily right.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So to me, the ability to listen is critical to thinking and doing in a group but it’s not very common. So I do look for that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve sought out mentors, I think, over the years. I think many of them were my bosses and for some strange reasons, early on my career, I had lots of bosses who were yellers so there were lots of screaming.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It started in Motorola, in a production environment, it was a lot of yelling and screaming. And my boss was often very vocal.

Thilo Semmelbauer: In a production environment, it’s one of these no-win jobs where you either didn’t produce enough or there were too many people working on the shift so it’s too expensive or quality wasn’t high. You never get everything right, so there’s always something to yell at.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I don’t think that my boss would say that he mentored me at the time but in a strange way, I think it toughened me up. So that was an early on experience.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think later, I always try to learn different things from the people that I work with. Whether they were board members or my bosses, I sought that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I don’t know if it was ever really formalized, I wouldn’t say that I had this kind of regular monthly meeting with a mentor but I definitely thought about picking out learnings from other people around me and trying to get better at being a leader myself.

Dave Carvajal: What has been your driving purpose, your noble cause maybe?

Thilo Semmelbauer: That’s interesting. I think I like solving hard problems that can be solved. I think at my core, I am a problem solver.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve been involved in an organization called Action Against Hunger, for almost ten years now, that is dedicated to ending world hunger. You will say, “Okay, is that a problem we can solve?”

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yes, it’s a problem we can solve. It turns out that if you go back 25 years, in 1990, there were roughly a billion undernourished people on the planet out of five billion, so one in five. Just in the last couple of years when the stats were taken again, it was 800 million out of seven billion people, so one out of nine.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So actually making a progress now, it’s a tragedy that 800 million people around the world are undernourished but we know how to solve this. It’s about money, will, distribution, education, and politics.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s not about food production. The world has the capacity to fulfil these basic needs.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I’ve been involved in that organization in part because I think it’s a problem that we can solve. It’s going to take a lot of time, maybe beyond my lifetime but that is worth doing. It’s a basic need and everything follows from that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You can’t have a career without basic nourishment. So I mean, it is one of those things that I believe in. I think in a way, every business that I’ve been part of, there is some fundamental big problem to solve and maybe it’s not as big as world hunger but I get fascinated by the problem and trying to solve it in some way.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I do believe and maybe I’m not an optimist in this, like Diamandis that there is a lot of exciting possibilities around the corner. I think maybe more near in, if I think about the entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with and the ones I hope to work with over the coming years, I think there’s never been as an exciting time as now to start a business.

Thilo Semmelbauer: If I look back in my own life, when I was going to school that’s called the 80’s, the goal was get a job at a great big company and have security in that career.

Thilo Semmelbauer: With the internet, with software, with technology, with the availability of capital, the availability of information at everyone’s fingertips, I think the world is your oyster if you’re an entrepreneur today.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I only wish I had gotten the bug earlier in my career. It came a little bit later but I think that’s one of the things that makes me excited. Also, about changing the world’s problems is the fact that if you have a great idea, you can basically go and make it happen today.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’m very confident that with all of the smart brains and driven people that are out there, we’re going to make lots of great things happen. So that’s exciting.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I would like to be remembered as somebody who helped the world, who helped people and helped in some small way, maybe in some big way to come, was a positive force.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Maybe my father was sort of in my head on this question because he passed away a number of years ago that he would never let us complain at home, one of the things that we weren’t allowed to do was complain.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, maybe had they told me about it but then, it was always about “Well, what are you going to do that will turn it around, being a positive force and not a negative force?”

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s like long-winded answer but I hope to be remembered as somebody who was a positive force in the world.

Chris Mahl; COO, President, Revenue & Operations

Chris Mahl; COO, President, Revenue & Operations

Video Highlights

00:29 -- What Chris Is Most Proud Of

01:46 -- Early Milestones

04:02 -- Building A Vibrant Muscle

05:44 -- The Skill Of Developing People

06:26 -- Rolling Back to the Beginning

10:10 -- Marc Benioff

12:22 -- Meaning in the Mission

13:49 -- Hearing Each Voice

14:35 -- The Driving Force

16:15 -- The Future

19:16 -- Being Remembered

Tweetables

The #paradigm #shift from the #HDD to the #cloud @chrismahlny #Insights [Click To Tweet]

The #first #startup @informatica @chrismahlny #Insights [Click To Tweet]

How to #bridge #customer relations w/ behavior analysis @EMCcorp #JoeTucci w/ @chrismahlny [Click To Tweet]

How to be an attractive leader #culture of #attraction #leadership #development #mentor#Insights [Click To Tweet]

Is it a #meaningful problem, #asking the #right #questions #insights @chrismahlny [Click To Tweet]

Chris Mahl: I have to say that Informatica, for those of you who know, they were just acquired for about five billion dollars in private, which I joined in 1995 as one of 20 people. So there was minus nine customers, there was zero revenue and I have to say I’m going to share two perspectives on what I was most proud of.  


Chris Mahl: One is we grew that, we took that public profitably over the next five and a half years, built it from the ground up with great people, great passion, define the market, own that market. And so I’m certainly proud of all those achievements from a sales/marketing perspective, but what I’m really proud of is when the bubble bursts we were one of the only companies to actually truly grow during that nuclear time we grew the company 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} with no revenue.


Chris Mahl: If you take the whole software category and you look at real returns in that particular year which is roughest in the tech industry, that was a pretty amazing achievements. So it’s actually that, I love the IPO don’t get me wrong, but building it from a garage of 20 with Groap, Diaz and Mark Burton who’s now on the board of Mongodb and tremendous executives but it was actually sailing the ship through the tough storm that I’m most proud of. So I’d say that. 


Chris Mahl: I have to say that after that I went to Salesforce and I was there for just about four years leading a bulk of sales and strategic sales. I have to say the early milestones I’m most proud of was the teams who I worked with who closed the first 400 seed deal. At the time when I joined it was 50 and 40 and Kevin was there and the board was curious so that would have been AOL with a fellow named Greg Brown and his team in the southeast.  Wow we can do 400 and shortly thereafter there was the Sungard deal which was 1,000 seeds. 


Chris Mahl: Common at the Sales Force at that time, an on demand model trusting 1,000 people to put all my customer data in the cloud, not happening. And that was actually Eric Poley who actually works for me now, it runs outside sales now through JW Player so Eric they do a tremendous job and great work with Mark on that.  


Chris Mahl: The following year, the first 2,000 seed deal so these were 6 million dollar plus deals- unheard of. Nobody does this with on demand and SunGard was the big bag in the Southeast and the ADP. Teams are all part of my organization so these major milestones really made the industry say this is real.  Everything up until then wasn’t real so I have to say those.


Chris Mahl: Up to where I am now, certainly Right Media don’t get me wrong Right Media was a remarkable run, really brilliant. Guys like Mike Walrath had an amazing model going I just helped scale it before Yahoo purchased it. Seven months to a year there, did I play role definitely. Was the course set, clearly- these guys innovated on the exchange model and really understood how to create that and I loved being a part of that.  

Chris Mahl: But I have to say right now which is JWPlayer and the present folks on the commercialisation and scaling of the business. When I joined with some great founders, you know the company had done well, huge footprint but relatively small commercial presence. We doubled that business year over year with phenomenal innovation, recreating the market, recreating the value there.  If I look Informatica sort of the first you know I was at Oracle for over five and a half years, informatica was the first true start up.


Chris Mahl: The founders Gaurav and Diaz Nesamoney had really studied the problem they were solving and they had a unique answer, and it was a problem that the market wrestled with in weird ways.  This was the enterprise, analytics, data warehousing which was really nascent at that time. They solved a unique problem which gave us a lot of differentiation. 


Chris Mahl: That’s different than sort of the quarter to quarter building the business. There was actually a lesson I learned there that was handed to me and this was really from a guy named Dave Pidwell which he’s retired now, I think he owns half of Hawaii. Guys who used to work for him founded Ariba he’s a tremendous man but he taught us a way to organize ourselves as executives committed to each other and be real time about it, sort of week to week, month to month.


Chris Mahl: It was really simply, at the end of each week we’d share a brief communication to each other around key metrics and needs and asks of each other. So this executive dialogue that went from sales to marketing, product engineering, to finance, to CEO was a very vibrant muscle from the beginning and it’s the lasting lesson I still use.


Chris Mahl: The idea was we got something week to week, month to month so that was actually a lesson that I was taught and got the benefit from in Informatica. I will say that we all have personality types, well lesson learned is what’s your personality type. Ultimately folks have heard the sales background conflicts and everybody’s type but when you’re inside the walls of a company you can be the driver and it should be, you are the number. In a sense to the board, to the public market you’re a number so you want to organize people, and concepts and execution to achieve that number and ultimately making that happen.


Chris Mahl: At Informatica I got a nickname which was brought to me by the sales teams which was The Edge. It’s not because of my remarkable guitar skills, it’s because of the amount of pressure I would bring to people objectively with support. It was a joke they could make to me so that I was approachable but I learned from that a little bit.  


Chris Mahl: I used to think about it am I pushing them to the edge to be productive or over the edge where they become unproductive. There’s a real good lesson for everybody, I’d actually say in today’s world a lot of CEOs who have an idea and maybe not a lot of management background to be honest, developing people is a skill. It’s not natural maybe 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the time and acquired maybe 90{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the time in my experience.


Chris Mahl: I can encourage new CEOs, younger CEOs to think about that dynamic and get a mentor. I know we’ll talk about that who might be very good at that sort of really be able to reflect on that for you. We need people to hire to increase productivity, nirvana leading them there where they’re exciting and doing it themselves- brilliance. That’s not that easy at this scale. Being The Edge, have a driver personality, backing them up a little bit and bringing people up the productivity curve, definite valuable lesson.

Chris Mahl: I appreciate where we’re coming from in this video, my great career but it really is the function of the places I’ve been and the people I learned from, and the market opportunities those companies have had. But if I roll all the way back to a company no one knows about, there’s these two guys no one knows about, it’s my first job out of college. I went to work for a guy named Joe Tucci who happens to be CEO of EMC. I’m sure Joe might kind of remember my name now but at the time I used to really study him and learn from him.


Chris Mahl: There were two things that I could see day to day being on the eastern sales team of his which he ran then at Sperry, a company nobody knows. If you’re new to technology even in your computer courses about history, you may not know that company. But chat me I’ll tell you all about it. 


Chris Mahl: But he taught me about relationships, customer relationships and how to really be meaningful and how to be very intelligent about those relationships.  He was excellent at that and what was great about that was it wasn’t a lecture, it was a behaviour. You can see it and so as we worked in team meetings and he’d do a lot of reviews of deals you got those kind of senses and it became important. I really got that.


Chris Mahl: Shortly thereafter there’s another JoeJoe Walton, who has now been running worldwide consulting at EMC for the last umpteen years and really is a key member of the folks that integrate EMC’s acquisitions. He taught me how to out organize anybody. Same things about relationships and intelligence but how to be very organized, not just in the internal meetings but with your clients, with your partners, with your prospects. 


Chris Mahl: Not off the cuff only creative brainstorming brilliant, but how to bring a really structured, thought out process which was phenomenal. So how to out organize and out execute, they kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not organized then execution is no point.


Chris Mahl: What I have to say is when I think of Right Media you know there were two folks that I really got to watch and  learn from there, younger than me which is fine. Michael Walrath the fellow who started it and Brian O’Kelly the fellow who built it hand in hand. Michael really understands the strategy of markets, at that time it was very clear he had a vision for what could be built and he was passionate about it. He also understood the mechanics of it and business model of it, and it was very easy when I first met him before I joined to realize this guy has got an amazing grasp of this market. Which the world of online advertising at that time shifted, but he had a vision for scaling it which was phenomenal.

Chris Mahl: Brian O’Kelly, unbelievable technologist. Frankly of all the companies I’ve been at one of the most gifted for sure.  I’ve said that to him many times, I say that to everybody. He had sort of two monstrous skills, many, many more, one was the ability to really see which clients will give him the meaningful exercises to build something remarkable. So I’ve never seen a leader so, really when I say understand the times I’m not saying the business but process, technology, down to the details.  The second was this applied innovation, how can he see and sense something. 


Chris Mahl: He’s got a big vision, he’s got a real sense of the climate but I’m going to build it. At a speed that dumbfounded all of us. Innovation came out across Right Media around the clock so I could really see those two hand in hand. Then also today Dave OttenJeroen Wijering these two guys demonstrate what culture is about phenomenally. how do you build a culture of excellence, how do you care for people which is just an affirmation of something I’ve known but it’s phenomenal and a big part of why I’m at the company.


Chris Mahl: Big lesson learned is people matter the most- technology is brilliant, the idea is brilliant but it’s people that make it work in the market over time and enhance it. Around about 2002 I just finished about five and a half years of Informatica, at home here in New York but on the road a ton. I was helping my wife decorate an apartment, young child so it was really a time to focus on family. Sometimes these things can be crazy.


Chris Mahl: Somewhere around a month and a half into that brief sabbatical I get a brief email from somebody I had known in Oracle that he was building this great big company and he was looking for Oracle talented folks and that happened to be Marc Benioff and he was talking about the end of the first year of Salesforce and now it’s gone to the second year and he wants to build out the execution team. So I get that email.


Chris Mahl: Fast forward I ended up visiting Marc and joined to run the Eastern U.S. and Canada strategic sales and really build this next phase and development inside Sales Force at the time. So my experience in the next few years learning from Marc was phenomenal. The first thing that I got to see in Marc was vision, and how to articulate vision and bring the statement of vision down to customers and to partners, and to specific people in their lives.


Chris Mahl: I’ve never seen someone being able to take vision and personalize it to where they empower people. It was just an amazing gift he has, I think it’s the long history he has with technology, it’s also his persona. Vision was a huge part of what he taught.


Chris Mahl: Passion, and when I say passion my experience having been on the operating committee for a couple of years, the presence that he was. The company could go through reorganization overnight, the passion he had for the business down to the detail, left, right, up, down was remarkable and he lived it if you were within a near distance of him you knew what that meant.  So this whole idea of passion.


Chris Mahl: Then excellence, I want to turn out whether it’s an experience for the brand, an experience with the customers, an excellent experience for the customer and that sort of drives home the biggest thing he talked about and was dedicated to and that remains to this day so, it’s the customer. To him if the customer isn’t experiencing success, the rest of it is just talk. So how do you take an organization at that time a few hundred people, now tens of thousands and continue to have that relentless focus on that customer. A huge, blazing message I got from him.


Chris Mahl: I think the first both for the organization, and the customer, and the individuals is meaning. Do I have a meaning here in terms of this company’s mission, the products it delivers. Does it have a meaning, it has a broad definition it can be pure charitable so create a company that has meaning on that level. Sales Force taught us that for sure.


Chris Mahl: But also is what we’re doing in the world something that I can connect with as an employee or a board member that impacts the world. There are smaller solutions that are sort of specific to business and so as a leader having a sense of meaning and purpose and that being viable, and visceral to the people around you and the people you lead. But also in part to employees, folks that join a company want to know here’s our vision and this has meaning. This has purpose whether it’s changing an industry, changing a technology like we are doing something bigger than just being at a desk all day and be connected to that. So I have to say meaning is first.


Chris Mahl: I have to say the second thing is attraction. We really could be an attractive leader i.e. people want to learn from you, people want to work with you. I mean we’ve seen all kinds of leaders you know autocrats, drivers, people that are sort of short-term focused.  How is it that you create a culture of attraction, that people are really energized by it. Hear good things about it, people’s careers develop there, the company has impact.


Chris Mahl: The last thing that I would have to say that leaders have to be cognizant of is development. The ones that I’m most attracted to, to me the people that join me I’m interested in their career development. Regardless of where they are in the company, whats the pathing,  how does their voice get heard regardless of where they sit. How do I create a meritocracy which means that while I might have several hundred people or 1,000, or 5,000 someone with a smart idea can get to me.


Chris Mahl: I’m creating an environment with that brilliance because it can be anywhere in the company, it isn’t stifled five layers down. It’s a very old concept level five leadership which is how do I get behind you. I mean leading from the front which is important in terms of experience, but also standing behind people. Lifting up the folks who are working for you to success. They know that you’re behind them but really you’re empowering them, those would be the big success factors I’ve seen in leaders and have been able to experience myself.

 


Dave Carvajal: What would you say is your driving force behind the passion and fire in your belly?


Chris Mahl: Well family, my daughter number one. Really her, and her development and success in her life it got to be number one. You check with her, unlike a lot of dads she characterizes me as her best friend and that’s how we experience it all the time. Family is first, always will be. The health, the ambitions, the joy that people experience I’m there.

Chris Mahl: I have to say over the years I’ve been involved with multiple sclerosis through family members that have been really profoundly impacted by that and some research around that. And recently for those of you who are New Yorkers I’ve spent more time with the Wild Bird Fund which is here in New York so I’m going to share a little love their way. Which is the only fund and the only organization in New York City that deals with Wild Birds that are injured in New York City.  


Chris Mahl: Just last year there was over 4,000 of these birds of prey and significant birds we have the Hudson River over here and there’s cliffs and they do phenomenal work. Really the passion of the founder who just cared and kind of did it in their home and now it’s grown and it’s only three years old. The wildbirdfund.org check it out, it’s here in New York and you can not only volunteer there and obviously give of your money but your time as well. It’s really an amazing group of people.


Chris Mahl: We’ve got peregrines, and wild hawks, and eagles they are kind of close to extinction and very local to the New York region area, so super meaningful stuff they do and I’ve been enjoying a lot.


Dave Carvajal: What about the future for Chris that gets you most excited?


Chris Mahl: It’s the same, it’s been the same in technology since I started. It recreates itself so it recreates itself and I can mention companies that are tens of billions of dollars and people 20 years ago that are long gone. So the innovation speed with the advent of the SaaS model and the cloud development model, and cloud model kind of everybody is a tech innovator now. As we know there’s a big brain drain on the banking recruiting into tech because pretty much everyday can get into tech.


Chris Mahl: The chip remains the reason that everything changes because the power of the chip continues to double, it is then and it is right now. The speed of the networks that we have on the planet is opening up. The Wi-Fi access is opening up so an entire digital ecosystem exists like every 18 months. The brilliant developers, and innovators, I mean Uber eight years ago couldn’t do it. How much is that company worth now?


Chris Mahl: The networks weren’t there, it wasn’t available and the idea everybody would have loved to have had that eight years ago but the last couple of years- boom. Brilliant. The opportunity for innovation will not slow down and the models that have created big companies now will create new big companies a few years from now. So for me the future in terms of the industry I’m in keeps recreating itself.


Chris Mahl: Really if you draw a line through my good fortune it’s because I kind of pay attention to that and think about those innovations. When I find somebody who’s really at the nexus of those things, where they find me- I’m pretty fired up. So this industry never stops.


Chris Mahl: There are people that need to innovate as fast as the industry and if you’re passionate about it, it’s the most exciting thing on the planet.  One’s belief in the problem you’re solving, the vision that what I’m doing is meaningful and different.  I think back to presentations I saw from Bill Gates 15, 18 years ago, Larry Olsen and in both cases they talked about is it a meaningful problem?  Can we find people that care?


Chris Mahl: One is be brutally honest with yourself. Not enthusiastic, not idealistic but realistic. One is that problem. Two is you got to have passion about it. I mean it’s got through your toes, your ears, your nose- you’ve got to care because there are things that will constantly change about that problem market and you need to know about it. Three is put your big person pants on.


Chris Mahl: I’ll be politically incorrect, these are tough cycles. Building companies is not easy, they’re like having babies. I’ve had both, it truly needs that kind of attention, and care at the right time when it needs it. It’s not a 9 to 5 thing ever, it’s part of what I’m addicted to which is why I keep doing this. The whole idea that there’s this whole opportunity to grow something and because meaningful. I think those will be three things.Then I do this for the entrepreneurs, good for you.


Dave Carvajal: How would you like to be remembered?


Chris Mahl: Well I think I’ll give you two aspects. One is my philosophy of building organizations is really upside down. What I mean by that is if you look at plastic structure somebody is at the top and really it doesn’t matter who is at the top. It’s the people at the point of contact with building the product, partners, clients are not successful the top is irrelevant. That has a lot to do with my philosophy in building people up and empowering them.


Chris Mahl: The stronger they are, the most successful I am. In fact over the years I’ve been able to say pretty succinctly certainly around sales leaders and folks on the revenue side is they’ve always made more money working for me than they had prior. Pretty much that’s always true. That helps them.


Chris Mahl: I think the other one is just in the eyes of my daughter, pretty simple. being her best friend. Time stops when I hang out with her, it doesn’t matter. The other thing which is still true when she was little we laughed all the time. So much so that she became a chronic hiccuper and in fact we’d have to stop and do the eye thing and help her stop hiccupping. We’d be laughing two seconds later and the hiccups were back. It’s still true today, it’s bizarre.


Chris Mahl: We laugh non-stop and probably that’s the number one joy, that is and will be the number one joy of my life really.

The Importance Of Timing, The Right People & The Building Process with Thilo Semmelbauer

The Importance Of Timing, The Right People & The Building Process with Thilo Semmelbauer

Video Highlights

00:32 -- Success

01:30 -- Knowing Where You're Going

03:34 -- Failures of Timing

Tweetables

@Shutterstock #revenues 50 million to 350 #million #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#How to build the #right #team #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

#Technology that’s ahead of its time, the #learning’s of #failure #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

@Sotheby’s #auction services, how the some #businesses are ahead of their #time #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

Finding out the #true players on your #team with #crisis #management #hurricanesandy #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click To Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: Two experiences worth mentioning when I started Weight Watchers online business, there was no revenue. It grew to a peak of about 400 million in revenue with, probably more importantly, millions of users. Many of them satisfied and some of them having had significant life changes, which was very gratifying.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Shutterstock is probably one of the things I’m most proud of in my career and during my time there, it grew from 50 million to 350 million in revenue over the course of five years.

Dave Carvajal: Yeah, and there was an IPO in there as well.

Thilo Semmelbauer: There was an IPO, which was I think a great confirmation for this sort of staying power in the company and the impact that it has on the industry.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It starts with a plan. You have to know where you’re going. Whether you get there through sheer insight or analysis and strategic thinking, you have to have a plan.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And then secondly, you have to build a team around you who gets bought into the plan and shares that with you. And often, finding those people, selecting them, that’s hard and that’s a lot of fun. It’s a part of what I spend a lot of my time on.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Often, the best people for those jobs aren’t the ones who’ve done it before. It’s sometimes the people who really want that as a next step in their career and they have a lot to learn. So that process of building the team is super exciting and it’s, at the end of the day, the most important thing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think finally, when you have a plan and a team, it’s about being nimble on your feet. It’s about testing, learning, evolving, pivoting, and solving problems every day.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, failure is a long topic. I’ve had my fair share of those. I think one category of failures is such interesting to talk about, it happened a couple of times in my career.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Once at Motorola in the 90’s when I launched a product that worked technically but nobody bought it. There’s no market for it, pre-cursor of what came later as smartphones but way too early for its time.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Sometimes you could have a great plan and you can have great people and great execution and you still don’t get any sales.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened to me also in ’99 when I was working with Sotheby’s to launch their online auction business. Now, many years later, the stuff is largely working.  But at the time, again, the site, the capabilities were there, the dealers were lined up and the business just wasn’t there, It was timing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think failures of timing are interesting failures. I think that they’re just to be expected. It’s something that I really look out for now and in my recent jobs.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think we try to be more careful about selecting to be part of things that were the time is right because that’s an important element of success and hard to control, except to select or deselect.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think other failures have come from external events. I mean, one of the best things that ever happened to Shutterstock was when hurricane Sandy hit. And we were at a downtown office, right by the stock exchange. The office was flooded as what’s most of downtown, everybody knows what happened. And we had to scramble and find other space in midtown and people had makeshift offices in Brooklyn, in New Jersey.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And it was a failure of lack of preparedness at the end of the day because we didn’t anticipate something like that and the tech team was scrambling to put services in the Cloud.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It all worked, we never missed a beat in terms of serving customers and having the website running and even moving our projects forward, but during something like that, you really learn about the people on the team and who gets creative and figures out a way through that hardship and who kind of checks out and doesn’t show up for work.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s a very interesting learning experience so I think crisis can actually be very helpful for a company.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think another failure, kind of on a personal level, I think earlier in my career, I probably was too afraid of failure. I think what was drilled into me in school as an engineering-oriented person and analyst.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve viewed my success as getting to the right answer and not making mistakes. And I think it took me a while in my career to get comfortable with, failures as a necessary part, hopefully, small failures as a necessary part of the creative and building process.

Leadership Vision, Meaning & Purpose, Attraction & Development with Chris Mahl

Leadership Vision, Meaning & Purpose, Attraction & Development with Chris Mahl

Video Highlights

00:29 -- Rolling Back to the Beginning

04:19 -- Marc Benioff; Salesforce

06:29 -- Meaning in the Mission

Tweetables

How to #bridge #customer relations w/ behavior analysis @EMCcorp #JoeTucci w/ @chrismahlny [Click To Tweet]

The #vision of #scaling #online #advertising with @mwalrath & @chrismahlny #Insights [Click To Tweet]

The# building blocks that started #salesforce @Benioff @chrismahlny#Insights [Click To Tweet]

#Learning the #art of #vision and #passion from the best @Benioff @chrismahlNY @salesforce#Insights [Click To Tweet]

How to be an attractive leader #culture of #attraction #leadership #development #mentor#Insights [Click To Tweet]

Chris Mahl: I appreciate where we’re coming from in this video, my great career but it really is the function of the places I’ve been and the people I learned from, and the market opportunities those companies have had. But if I roll all the way back to a company no one knows about, there’s these two guys no one knows about, it’s my first job out of college. I went to work for a guy named Joe Tucci who happens to be CEO of EMC. I’m sure Joe might kind of remember my name now but at the time I used to really study him and learn from him.


Chris Mahl: There were two things that I could see day to day being on the eastern sales team of his which he ran then at Sperry, a company nobody knows. If you’re new to technology even in your computer courses about history, you may not know that company. But chat me I’ll tell you all about it.


Chris Mahl: But he taught me about relationships, customer relationships and how to really be meaningful and how to be very intelligent about those relationships.  He was excellent at that and what was great about that was it wasn’t a lecture, it was a behaviour. You can see it and so as we worked in team meetings and he’d do a lot of reviews of deals you got those kind of senses and it became important. I really got that.


Chris Mahl: Shortly thereafter there’s another Joe, Joe Walton, who has now been running worldwide consulting at EMC for the last umpteen years and really is a key member of the folks that integrate EMC’s acquisitions. He taught me how to out organize anybody. Same things about relationships and intelligence but how to be very organized, not just in the internal meetings but with your clients, with your partners, with your prospects.


Chris Mahl: Not off the cuff only creative brainstorming brilliant, but how to bring a really structured, thought out process which was phenomenal. So how to out organize and out execute, they kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not organized then execution is no point.


Chris Mahl: What I have to say is when I think of Right Media you know there were two folks that I really got to watch and  learn from there, younger than me which is fine. Michael Walrath the fellow who started it and Brian O’Kelly the fellow who built it hand in hand. Michael really understands the strategy of markets, at that time it was very clear he had a vision for what could be built and he was passionate about it. He also understood the mechanics of it and business model of it, and it was very easy when I first met him before I joined to realize this guy has got an amazing grasp of this market. Which the world of online advertising at that time shifted, but he had a vision for scaling it which was phenomenal.


Chris Mahl: Brian O’Kelly, unbelievable technologist. Frankly of all the companies I’ve been at one of the most gifted for sure.  I’ve said that to him many times, I say that to everybody. He had sort of two monstrous skills, many, many more, one was the ability to really see which clients will give him the meaningful exercises to build something remarkable. So I’ve never seen a leader so, really when I say understand the times I’m not saying the business but process, technology, down to the details.  The second was this applied innovation, how can he see and sense something.


Chris Mahl: He’s got a big vision, he’s got a real sense of the climate but I’m going to build it. At a speed that dumbfounded all of us. Innovation came out across Right Media around the clock so I could really see those two hand in hand. Then also today Dave Otten, Jeroen Wijering these two guys demonstrate what culture is about phenomenally. how do you build a culture of excellence, how do you care for people which is just an affirmation of something I’ve known but it’s phenomenal and a big part of why I’m at the company.


Chris Mahl: Big lesson learned is people matter the most- technology is brilliant, the idea is brilliant but it’s people that make it work in the market over time and enhance it. Around about 2002 I just finished about five and a half years of Informatica, at home here in New York but on the road a ton. I was helping my wife decorate an apartment, young child so it was really a time to focus on family. Sometimes these things can be crazy.


Chris Mahl: Somewhere around a month and a half into that brief sabbatical I get a brief email from somebody I had known in Oracle that he was building this great big company and he was looking for Oracle talented folks and that happened to be Marc Benioff and he was talking about the end of the first year of Salesforce and now it’s gone to the second year and he wants to build out the execution team. So I get that email.


Chris Mahl: Fast forward I ended up visiting Marc and joined to run the Eastern U.S. and Canada strategic sales and really build this next phase and development inside Sales Force at the time. So my experience in the next few years learning from Marc was phenomenal. The first thing that I got to see in Marc was vision, and how to articulate vision and bring the statement of vision down to customers and to partners, and to specific people in their lives.


Chris Mahl: I’ve never seen someone being able to take vision and personalize it to where they empower people. It was just an amazing gift he has, I think it’s the long history he has with technology, it’s also his persona. Vision was a huge part of what he taught.


Chris Mahl: Passion, and when I say passion my experience having been on the operating committee for a couple of years, the presence that he was. The company could go through reorganization overnight, the passion he had for the business down to the detail, left, right, up, down was remarkable and he lived it if you were within a near distance of him you knew what that meant.  So this whole idea of passion.


Chris Mahl: Then excellence, I want to turn out whether it’s an experience for the brand, an experience with the customers, an excellent experience for the customer and that sort of drives home the biggest thing he talked about and was dedicated to and that remains to this day so, it’s the customer. To him if the customer isn’t experiencing success, the rest of it is just talk. So how do you take an organization at that time a few hundred people, now tens of thousands and continue to have that relentless focus on that customer. A huge, blazing message I got from him.


Chris Mahl: I think the first both for the organization, and the customer, and the individuals is meaning. Do I have a meaning here in terms of this company’s mission, the products it delivers. Does it have a meaning, it has a broad definition it can be pure charitable so create a company that has meaning on that level. Sales Force taught us that for sure.


Chris Mahl: But also is what we’re doing in the world something that I can connect with as an employee or a board member that impacts the world. There are smaller solutions that are sort of specific to business and so as a leader having a sense of meaning and purpose and that being viable, and visceral to the people around you and the people you lead. But also in part to employees, folks that join a company want to know here’s our vision and this has meaning. This has purpose whether it’s changing an industry, changing a technology like we are doing something bigger than just being at a desk all day and be connected to that. So I have to say meaning is first.


Chris Mahl: I have to say the second thing is attraction. We really could be an attractive leader i.e. people want to learn from you, people want to work with you. I mean we’ve seen all kinds of leaders you know autocrats, drivers, people that are sort of short-term focused.  How is it that you create a culture of attraction, that people are really energized by it. Hear good things about it, people’s careers develop there, the company has impact.


Chris Mahl: The last thing that I would have to say that leaders have to be cognizant of is development. The ones that I’m most attracted to, to me the people that join me I’m interested in their career development. Regardless of where they are in the company, whats the pathing, how does their voice get heard regardless of where they sit. How do I create a meritocracy which means that while I might have several hundred people or 1,000, or 5,000 someone with a smart idea can get to me.


Chris Mahl: I’m creating an environment with that brilliance because it can be anywhere in the company, it isn’t stifled five layers down.

Alex Douzet; Serial Entrepreneur & CEO

Alex Douzet; Serial Entrepreneur & CEO

Video Highlights

00:30 -- My Leadership Background

01:13 -- Building The Ladders

02:46 -- Direct Marketing

06:11 -- There's No Other Job Like Being A CEO

07:38 -- Working Across Nation & Culture

10:07 -- Learning From Your Team

Tweetables

How to #growth #hack your #socialmedia and #revenue @adouzet #DavePartners #Insights [Click To Tweet]

Before the #incubators what #CEOs did @adouzet #DavePartners #Insights [Click To Tweet]

The #Keys to a capital #efficient #business #Insights [Click To Tweet]

#Scaling and #growth #hacking your #startup #revenues [Click To Tweet]

The #importance of #mentorship at every level of your #career #leadership #Insight [Click To Tweet]

Alex Douzet: I was born and raised in France as you can tell from my accent, I’ve been in New York for the past 20 years. I worked at a few very successful tech companies in New York. The first one was Hot Jobs back in 2000 – 2001, the company was sold to Yahoo in 2001. Then I went on to cofound company called The Ladders, build the company from 0 to 82 million in revenue. I left out a year ago took some time off and now I’m working on my next company.

Alex Douzet: As I mentioned I worked at Hot Jobs between 2000 and 2002 so that’s where I really got to learn the online recruiting industry and this is where we got the inside for a company like The Ladders. So went on 2003, came up with the ID built an MVP basic product just the proof of concept, then went on and talk to friends and family to raise money and then we raised a series A in 2004.

Alex Douzet: What’s interesting is back then the New York City tech ecosystem was very different than what it is today. I think today you have lots of potential money, you have company like TechStars with incubation projects. There was none of that back then when I was starting The Ladders. We actually had to go to either Boston or Silicon Valley to talk to a handful of early stage funds to be able to raise capital.

Alex Douzet: So that was the beginning, then from kind of growing to idea to growing the company at the top did 82 million revenue. And in a very — as I mention, in a very capital efficient way because we only raised a total of like 8 – 9 million in equity funding, that was it, a couple of rounds, that’s it.

Alex Douzet: You really have to be focused on execution and in watching the numbers and it’s really about what people today called “growth hacking” looking at where are the different real way you can find the right customers who understand the value of property product. Trials and errors a lot of A/B testing, modified testing or the social media, online marketing. And then just blow the brand from it would it be a product, put a great experience, try to foster word of mouth and viral and just go from there.

Alex Douzet: When I moved here in 1996, my first real job I worked with an early stage that was catalog. Setting high end European tabletop items talking catalog direct to consumer. And so I was really born from the professional standpoint on direct mail. I learned the in and out of direct mail in that job. And when I was in that job I went to NYU and get a masters in direct marketing.

Alex Douzet: And so through my experiences in NYU I really got to learn how to do direct mail marketing properly. And then I was recruited by a few classmate of mine to go and work for BMG direct. BMG was a phenomenal platform for me to grow and acquire the right skillsets. It was a billion dollar company selling music. So we’re at access to everybody in US, we knew everyone. Everybody tried to the club us some point. Who would spend about a 100 million every year on acquiring 10 thousand minimum? I’m sorry — yeah we spend a 100 million marketing to acquire 10 thousand active music buyers.

Alex Douzet: Get them to spend a 100 to 120 dollars on music every year, would you know it would it billion dollar revenue? And so I got to work there and get to one every acquisition and retention channel, so really got a good insights from what works, what does not work. And the tools and technique that I’ve learned there is what I grabbed and apply to online when I switch over to Hot Jobs.

Alex Douzet: Because back in 2000 – 2001, the web is still pretty basic in terms of like ecosystem and infrastructure. Today, you have great tools like Facebook, social media, SEM, retargeting you can do very complicated and very specific on the top of targeting online which didn’t really exist back in 2000-2001. But applying the principle and the mythologies is what it got us to be successful.

Alex Douzet: If you’re looking at the business like you’re direct to consumer of business or if you are going to be a SaaS business but a SaaS customers is a mid -sized to early stage company. Its not as applicable if you’re like looking at big enterprise place where you have to go get clients which trying to get contract like 10,000 you know 10 million dollars a year is not as extensive. But you think it’s going to be a marketplace direct to consumer business, the role of the growth that you can pull under the term of the Chief Marketing Officer is extremely essential.

Alex Douzet: And unfortunately every company is going to be looking for that unicorn that can say, “I can do it all.” I can do the quantitative very, very well. So that sort of very analytical approach and discipline towards growth. I can do the brand and understand, build a great brand, create the emotion, figure what the pillars are behind the wall of a brand of voice. And then I can do the public relation and figure out how do we build the story in the media so that it much more powerful than just really you buying pay advertising.

Alex Douzet: And kind of looking all aspects of that is hard because very few executive up there are trained and have the skillset to do all of it very well. And so a lot of companies in our world are looking for an advise and help always tell me you know, “I need this kind of Chief Marketing Officer where do I find it?” Unfortunately you’re like the other one, you’re chasing that unicorn that exist but it’s hard to find.

Alex Douzet: I think to be great at the CEO Job, it’s not an easy job and what I’ve learned when I became CEO, there’s no real job that prepares you to be CEO. There’s really no other job like it that’s really prepare you to be. There’s one other job, you learn on the job and as a result, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes the first time around. And I think I wish more people probably try a couple of time. What I’m really excited about is, is this going to be my second venture as I mentioned I’m going to be a CEO again of this company?

Alex Douzet: And so I’m excited to be able to build upon the things I’ve learned, I can look back now where I step back and say, “Yeah, that I did not do as well as I should have all.” That decision I could have done a better job in making the decision because it’s all about great decision making, great judgement and leadership. And you just don’t learn that overnight, it takes a lot of trials and error. And you do have to make mistake, hopefully the mistake you make aren’t so bad that it’s really like devastating for the company.

Alex Douzet: But you do all — you all going to make mistake and also, what I want to want people is like you should make mistake. You know mistake and failures are a past to learning where you have to be cautious and discipline about this is not to make the same mistake over and over. You know it’s okay to fail once in a certain way because you have got a lot of learning. And then next time is at if that opportunity came itself I won’t make the same mistake. And you’ve learned from that, you grow from that, you’ve built from that but you don’t want the same mistake over and over, that’s where you become very efficient as a leader.

Alex Douzet: New York City is an international city, everybody in the world wants to be here and work here. And so as a result, we get people from different background, nation, culture, religion I mean just like me for example, I was born in France and raised in France, I wanted to come here, I wanted to work here and I was fortunate in my past jobs to work with people like, they came from China, they came out India, they came out Germany you know came out of Latin America.

Alex Douzet: As a result, after being able to work across the spectrum of nation and culture and I think the key recipe there is for people they have to trust you, they have to believe in you, they have to follow you. And you have to find something in common with people first before you can connect. And it can be as simple as well you know we went to the same college or we are following and we’re fan of the same football team or the same baseball team. Or we read the same book or whatever it is.

Alex Douzet: I think as a leader you have to take the time to get to know the people that going to be working with you. And just find what is that common ground, what do I have in common with that person. And it could be as little as we both love ice cream, we went to grad school together.  It does not matter what it is but to find the common grounds you can connect. Then when there is a connection, you start building foundation for trust, then trust you can really create leadership inspiration.

Alex Douzet: But the first time it can be daunting it to you looking at that mountain and say I want to climb that mountain but it’s going to be hard. I think that part of it you have to be focused on the tasks at hand, you have to be focused on the mission and the goal. You almost have to make yourself the servant of that mission and the vision and goal and say this is bigger than me and I’m here to serve this mission. I’m not here just to serve myself, I’m here to serve the mission.

Alex Douzet: I think it’s a quick little piece I would look for in a — sometime in leaders. How much the trust they believe in the mission and they’re here to serve the mission. And then it’s just focus you don’t just set your eyes in the prize and you don’t let go and you’d figure out in case it’s not working why do I need to tweak and change to get there. The past to zero to whatever a 100 million or 200 million it’s not linear right?

Alex Douzet: And the first route then you thought it’s going to be the route to get you there, turn that half point you had to shift gear and go on the different direction. But that’s okay as long as you keep that mindset and that open mind would say, “I need a date it does not matter — it’s not about the route I’m taking it’s about getting into the goal.”

Alex Douzet: I am a little bit maybe a typical when it comes to mentorship and I truly believe in mentorship I have a slightly different approach to it I can’t really point to you and say this one person was a great mentor to me, I look for mentors in every opportunity and I’m really disciple of learning and just believing that the next time around I can do better. I can achieve a greater success, I’m always looking for learning.

Alex Douzet: And so learning come in multiple forms, it could be reading a book, to researching something, talking to somebody, talking to people above me that work above me, people who  are on my board or an advisor that I’ve had. But actually the most surprisingly, I have learned so much with the years from people that works for me. Why? When I was building teams I was looking at how do I compliment myself, this is who I am, this is what I’m good at, this is what I’m not so great at. What skillsets do I need to bring to compliment me to achieve this mission?

Alex Douzet: And then from those people I always try to learn from them and see what they could teach me. They want to look at my teams, the ones are the best, all the teams they are phenomenal people they are much better than me in anything that we were trying to achieve and I could learn from them and they could learn from me hopefully. And it was this not only we all doing something great together but we’re growing together because we both learning from each other.

Alex Douzet: I can maybe teach them about leadership and mentoring and coaching. They teach me something about it could be finance, it could be product, and it could be engineering. It does not matter what the topic is, but I think that to me that’s what mentoring is all about. There’s no just this one person “Oh I’m looking up to this great CEO entrepreneur that have been very successful, hopefully if you can find one like this it’s fantastic. But anybody has a chance to contribute and teach you something.

Connecting On Common Ground, Serving The Mission & Learning From The Great Teams You Build with Alex Douzet

Connecting On Common Ground, Serving The Mission & Learning From The Great Teams You Build with Alex Douzet

Video Highlights

00:33 -- Working Across Nations & Cultures

03:44 -- Learning From Your Team

Tweetables

Connecting on #common ground and #building #great #teams #Insights @adouzet [Click To Tweet]

#Overcoming #obstacles, focusing on your #mission #Insights @adouzet [Click To Tweet]

The #importance of #mentorship at every level of your #career #leadership #Insight [Click To Tweet]

Alex Douzet: New York City is an international city, everybody in the world wants to be here and work here. And so as a result, we get people from different background, nation, culture, religion I mean just like me for example, I was born in France and raised in France, I wanted to come here, I wanted to work here and I was fortunate in my past jobs to work with people like, they came from China, they came out India, they came out Germany you know came out of Latin America.

Alex Douzet: As a result, after being able to work across the spectrum of nation and culture and I think the key recipe there is for people they have to trust you, they have to believe in you, they have to follow you. And you have to find something in common with people first before you can connect. And it can be as simple as well you know we went to the same college or we are following and we’re fan of the same football team or the same baseball team. Or we read the same book or whatever it is.

Alex Douzet: I think as a leader you have to take the time to get to know the people that going to be working with you. And just find what is that common ground, what do I have in common with that person. And it could be as little as we both love ice cream, we went to grad school together.  It does not matter what it is but to find the common grounds you can connect. Then when there is a connection, you start building foundation for trust, then trust you can really create leadership inspiration.

Alex Douzet: But the first time it can be daunting it to you looking at that mountain and say I want to climb that mountain but it’s going to be hard. I think that part of it you have to be focused on the tasks at hand, you have to be focused on the mission and the goal. You almost have to make yourself the servant of that mission and the vision and goal and say this is bigger than me and I’m here to serve this mission. I’m not here just to serve myself, I’m here to serve the mission.

Alex Douzet: I think it’s a quick little piece I would look for in a — sometime in leaders. How much the trust they believe in the mission and they’re here to serve the mission. And then it’s just focus you don’t just set your eyes in the prize and you don’t let go and you’d figure out in case it’s not working why do I need to tweak and change to get there. The past to zero to whatever a 100 million or 200 million it’s not linear right?

Alex Douzet: And the first route then you thought it’s going to be the route to get you there, turn that half point you had to shift gear and go on the different direction. But that’s okay as long as you keep that mindset and that open mind would say, “I need a date it does not matter — it’s not about the route I’m taking it’s about getting into the goal.”

Alex Douzet: I am a little bit maybe a typical when it comes to mentorship and I truly believe in mentorship I have a slightly different approach to it I can’t really point to you and say this one person was a great mentor to me, I look for mentors in every opportunity and I’m really disciple of learning and just believing that the next time around I can do better. I can achieve a greater success, I’m always looking for learning.

Alex Douzet: And so learning come in multiple forms, it could be reading a book, to researching something, talking to somebody, talking to people above me that work above me, people who  are on my board or an advisor that I’ve had. But actually the most surprisingly, I have learned so much with the years from people that works for me. Why? When I was building teams I was looking at how do I compliment myself, this is who I am, this is what I’m good at, this is what I’m not so great at. What skillsets do I need to bring to compliment me to achieve this mission?

Alex Douzet: And then from those people I always try to learn from them and see what they could teach me. They want to look at my teams, the ones are the best, all the teams they are phenomenal people they are much better than me in anything that we were trying to achieve and I could learn from them and they could learn from me hopefully. And it was this not only we all doing something great together but we’re growing together because we both learning from each other.

Alex Douzet: I can maybe teach them about leadership and mentoring and coaching. They teach me something about it could be finance, it could be product, and it could be engineering. It does not matter what the topic is, but I think that to me that’s what mentoring is all about. There’s no just this one person “Oh I’m looking up to this great CEO entrepreneur that have been very successful, hopefully if you can find one like this it’s fantastic. But anybody has a chance to contribute and teach you something.