Interview Tag: Mentor

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.

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.