Interview Tag: Mentors

Disruption, Impact & Global Scale with Steve Johnson

Disruption, Impact & Global Scale with Steve Johnson

Video Highlights

00:38 -- The 3 Important Aspects Of Leadership

02:03 -- The Importance Of Questions


#Making an #Impact on a #global #scale @steve1johnson [Click to Tweet]

#Giving #purpose with #Impact on a #globalscale @steve1johnson [Click to Tweet]

Being the right #Leader, be #humble and ask the #right #questions from your #team @steve1johnson @davegoldberg [Click to Tweet]

Steve Johnson: Besides the family, obviously I want to take care of my family and also give them an example. I really like three things personally. Am I making an impact? It’s something that I’m doing.

Steve Johnson: Well, I usually ask my team like, “What are you doing with your one beautiful and perfect life? You have a limited time, one run through this. Is it doing something where you are really making an impact? Are you learning? Are you having fun?”

Steve Johnson: The second is, for me personally, I like something that has global scope. I don’t know why but I think it’s just more interesting and makes me feel like I’m doing something with impact. And the third, sometimes it’s overused but I like something that’s disruptive where it’s something that’s really changing and doing something different.

Steve Johnson: Hootsuite, I thought was super fascinating because we were helping organizations all around the world manage social media which was blowing up. An organization simply could not keep up with it. They couldn’t do what they needed to do on social media without a solution like Hootsuite.

Steve Johnson: So that to me was disruptive. It’s changing. You’re moving from one communication media or type to another to do it. It’s driven by the customers. So those are the things that really give me real purpose and I want to make sure that what I’m doing is having an impact, as large of an impact as I possibly can have. Right or wrong, this is what motivates me.

Steve Johnson: I would be much more aware that you don’t have to know it all. And that is completely fine to ask lots and lots of questions and get advice early. I didn’t do that early enough.

Steve Johnson: Going back to the mentor question, I wish I had gotten mentors really earlier and I wish I’ve asked a lot more questions. And I felt that I was expected to know everything. I’m hired for this role. Act like you know it.

Steve Johnson: Well, the reality is most people don’t know exactly everything about that role. If I could go back in time tell my 10-year old self, I’m like, “Just constantly be looking.”

Steve Johnson: One of the things I tell my daughter, “The ABCs of life were ‘always be curious’. Just be curious. Ask questions. Learn and don’t act like you know it all because there’s no need for it.”

Steve Johnson: Some of the best people, I mentioned Dave Goldberg earlier, I mean, he was always asking questions. And some of the best execs that I have worked with and found are similar. They are the most humble of people and are always interested in finding out a different way; learning a different way and understanding how some things are changing; what’s going on. So that would be my advice.

Alain Benzaken; CTO

Alain Benzaken; CTO

Video Highlights

00:31 -- Priceline Early On

02:01 -- Buddy Media Sold to Salesforce For $800M

03:13 -- What Leadership Is All About

05:51 -- The Super Bowl Challenge

08:27 -- Obstacles Of Scale & Growth

11:50 -- No More Excuses


#Scaling a #company, #hiring the #right #people #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

#techcoast what is the #bestcoast for #tech @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

the #first #startups to be #valued at 1 #billion #Insights @priceline @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

the #acquisition of #buddymedia and @salesforce #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

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

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

Alain Benzaken: I think in terms of my career, I’ve been involved in a lot of very successful internet startups. From early in my career, I worked at Priceline. It was really the early days of Priceline.

Alain Benzaken: Priceline was one of three companies that came out of the dot com boom. They were valued over a billion dollars.

Alain Benzaken: I was there very early on, I helped build a lot of core systems and since then, they’ve become, I think, the most successful stock on the New York stock exchange because they just had incredible growth.

Alain Benzaken: We had a lot of challenges early on. It was a crazy dot com boom, we went through craziness. The stock actually went from 160 to 2, so we’re sort of all in a very, very compressed time period. But it was actually, we really built a core product that has stood the stand of time.

Alain Benzaken: So I think that was probably my biggest success early on. Since then, I have also been involved in a bunch of different startups in the New York area, on East Coast.

Alain Benzaken: And the East Coast is a little different than the West Coast. It’s a lot more about the number, it’s not so much about let’s create some cool product and we’ll see if we can eventually monetize it.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s always been a little more challenging to find success stories even in New York area because if you see, it’s much more concerned about actually making money and exiting, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: So in terms of that, I’ve always been very focused on interesting business models. So I’ve also worked at Buddy Media. I helped that company grow and eventually sold to Salesforce for 800 million dollars, one of the bigger New York city exits.

Alain Benzaken: I helped, at a slightly earlier stage, food52 raised their first angel round, so they’re doing great now. A big success story as well.

Alain Benzaken: And I was at TheLadders, we had a huge success story for a while. We’re doubling in size, we’re getting close to a hundred million in revenue.

Alain Benzaken: So on all these I think I’ve had a pattern of, maybe it’s picking the right companies to choose early on, to know when to come in and seek opportunity because I think a lot of that is important as well.

Alain Benzaken: As a technologist, you kind of have a choice a lot of times of what areas to get into so it’s not just a matter of, executing is important but also you can choose them upfront which of the ones you think have a potential opportunity.

Alain Benzaken: And I’ve made my share of mistakes as well but I think overall, I feel like in my my career, I’ve had some pretty good success stories.

Alain Benzaken: So everyone think leadership is about inspiring people and getting them to achieve more and there’s a large part of that. At the base level, to me, leadership is about influence, about using your influence, knowing how to use influence on maybe it’s one person, even in a lot of way it’s yourself as well.

Alain Benzaken: You need to sort of master that first and then you can apply to other people, and then to a larger group. And it’s really about knowing what the levers are and it’s almost different in every situation.

Alain Benzaken: Every company I’ve been at has been slightly different and every time I come in to a new situation, I try to remember, “Don’t fight like the last war.” And it’s very hard because you remember what you did wrong the last time, you’re like, “I’m not going to do that again.” But it’s always slightly different.

Alain Benzaken: And so, in terms of leading people, the basic things about you need to make decisions quickly. I think it’s important. Giving people the freedom to fail is important.

Alain Benzaken: Just giving them an environment where you want them to excel and to achieve as much as possible and I think that, if you can inspire people that way and really play to their strengths, which again is influence, which is really about understanding people and getting them to achieve more than they even think they can achieve.

Alain Benzaken: You know, I really don’t look at people as part of these are millennials or these are baby boomers, whatever. People are people, they all have the same needs and same sort of value systems that they have created in their heads, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: So I think understanding them at a more elemental level than just part of generation, I’ve never really subscribed to a theory that I should treat them differently because they’re a part of a generation.

Alain Benzaken: I really try to look at people individually. Yes, there are some Gen X people that do have certain tendencies but in the end, I think it goes deeper than that. I think more understanding, like I said, what they want to achieve in their career and how to help them succeed.

Alain Benzaken: Some people want to succeed because they’re competitive, some people want to succeed they want to prove it to their parents, who knows. Some people wants to succeed because people most people want to succeed.

Alain Benzaken: So you just have to understand people at a more elemental level than just part of a generation. So I’ve never really had challenges so much on that. I’ve tried to say current.

Alain Benzaken: In this industry, it’s a very young industry so it’s important to stay current with the trends and so forth. So I feel like I need to adapt more to that than anything else and that’s kind of what I work on more than anything.

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.

Alain Benzaken: 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.

On Mentors & Mission with Steve Johnson

On Mentors & Mission with Steve Johnson

Video Highlights

00:30 -- Lessons on Leadership

00:44 -- First lesson: Lessons > Compensation

00:58 -- Second lesson: Experience > Title

01:29 -- Third lesson: Purpose

01:41 -- The value of purpose

02:29 -- The value of mentorship

02:35 -- A tale of three mentors

03:03 -- “Macro” vs “Micro” mentorship

03:39 -- Paying it forward


#Experiential #Learning is More #Important Than #Titles @steve1johnson [Click to Tweet]

#Companies with #purpose #outsell their #peers by 45{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} @LisaEarleMcLeod #LeadingWithAGlobalPurpose [Click to Tweet]

#Purpose #drives #passion, drives #productivity, drives #success @steve1johnson [Click to Tweet]

Steve Johnson: I was chasing comp as lots of people do when you first start. My mentor pulled me back and said, “If you’re doing that, there’s always more money somewhere else. You can’t move for comp. That’s just the craziest thing. You should take a step back and start thinking about what is it that you want to do. What do you want to learn?” That was really a big one.

Steve Johnson: The second one was focus on experience. It’s better than titles. People would ask me, “How did you end up as the CRO of Hootsuite?” And most of it was just simply because I had enterprise sales, partners, business dev, marketing, online revenue, volume sales experience.

Steve Johnson: I’d learned and looked for roles that built up my experience and that I can really credit to my mentors. I would never have thought of them on my own. Those are a couple of really, really big ones.

Steve Johnson: And the third really is just purpose, looking at the mission or purpose, whatever you want to call it. I don’t know if you know Lisa MacLeod but she wrote a book Noble Sales Purpose and there’s I think, another book coming out, Noble Leadership Purpose. Companies that have a noble purpose outsell their peers by 45{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4}. It’s just huge and I find it really makes a difference.

Steve Johnson: And I boiled it down – actually my last talk to Hootsuite, I thought about it and purpose drives passion. Passion drives productivity. Productivity drives success. It almost seems to flow that way. If you have a really big purpose, you’re really helping out this company.

Steve Johnson: It’s not just a sales quote. It’s not just a support ticket. You’re making their life better. There’s a purpose for what you’re doing. So I think those are I can credit to the mentors that I’ve had.

Steve Johnson: I’m a massive fan of mentorship. And over the years I had really three people that were mentors for years. One of them was a CTO and I was a venture capitalist. He mentored me on the tech side so anytime I was looking at a new venture, he would give me some great advice.

Steve Johnson: Another one was a former CEO. He gave me some great advice as I looked at just broad leadership and growing up. And another one is currently an executive at Intuit and it was more scope-scale, how do you do things on a big, broad level? I would ping them all the time.

Steve Johnson: And then broader than that, I would really inform a group of mentors that I would talk to in the tech space from companies like HubSpot, Marketo, SurveyMonkey, Zendesk, go down the list. Any company I thought was super interesting and they were doing something potentially different, I want to know. So those became mentors in a micro way. So those three were my micro mentors, if you will.

Steve Johnson: And then I had bunch of these other people that online revenue, enterprise sales, marketing, those are the ones I would just routinely reach out to but I can’t say enough about it. I’ve also been a mentor for a number of people now that come and ask. I can’t do ton of it but I think it’s huge.