Frequently Asked Questions

Creating Categories

Q. How do you raise awareness of a new category?

A. One of the most effective ways to raise awareness of a category is to position it as a noble cause. This emphasizes the benefits to society and reinforces the moral high ground. Start by testing the inspirational appeal of your value proposition with customers. Make it a core part of your vision and the theme of the company’s philanthropic work. For example, at Ariba, we highlighted that our software increased trade between nations by creating a globally accessible marketplace and raised the GNP of the world through increased productivity and efficiency in business.

Global Policy

Q. What does going global mean to employees?

A. The key benefit of going global for employees is cross pollination. It presents a wonderful opportunity for career growth and leadership opportunity, whether they receive an overseas assignment or have the opportunity to work with team members in other countries. They don’t need to start from scratch learning a new market because they can lean on the expertise of their colleagues.  An added benefit is exposure to and appreciation of a new culture.  If you learn to appreciate one culture, you will appreciate them all.

Going Public

Q. What is your advice for employees after their company goes public?

A. The day after going public, I would challenge my employees to come in early, and not check the stock price until the day is over. That day should consist of strategy and appreciation. Sales and customer support should call their customers to thank them. Business development should be showing their appreciation to partners. The product team should have a meeting to discuss the two-year roadmap. Marketing needs to insure they have a battle plan for positioning a multi-channeled PR plan finalized and approved by legal. When the quiet period ends, it should be at their disposal with a push of a button. Procurement is on the phones showing gratitude to suppliers. For the CEO’s and other leaders, thank their team, partners, and anyone in the company ecosystem. Make sure their team is executing on the game plan and understands that, although an IPO is cause for celebration, it is also the start of a never ending 90 day shot clock.

High Performance Teams

Q. As a leader, how can I ensure I’m building high performance teams?

A. High performance teams result when you take high-caliber people and put them in a safe environment with a clear, shared mission. However, no team will succeed without a strong set of ethical values to guide their decision-making. As the leader, it’s up to you to model this moral compass, while continuing to motivate and inspire your employees. You should be able to articulate a clear, shared mission for everyone on the team. You should also create a safe environment where employees know they can speak their minds and share off-the-wall ideas. Finally, you should celebrate their differences and make it clear that your team’s strengths lie at the intersection of their various temperaments, talents, and convictions. Lay this foundation, and high-caliber people will flourish under your leadership.

Starting Companies

Q. How do you explain starting a company in simple terms?

A. A simple way to understand the major steps of starting a company is to use a fishing analogy. First, you have the idea to go fishing (the idea to build a company). Your next step is to find a lake (or a market), and generally speaking, the bigger the better. Now you need to make sure there are fish (potential customers), so you toss out some bait (value proposition). Do any fish surface and nibble? No? Maybe you need a different type of bait. Yes? You know there are prospective consumers of what you have to offer. Now you need a pole to deliver the food (product that delivers value), so you construct that. You cast your line out, knowing that you’ll get some nibbles, but the question is, will they stay on long enough for you to reel them in (can you make the sale)? Yes? Then the key question is, are you catching enough fish to feed your family (making a profit). If so, you have yourself a company.

Strategic Partnerships

Q. How do I attract and secure highly strategic partnerships for my business?

A. My approach may be counterintuitive, but it works: make friends first, partners next, and customers eventually, if it makes sense. By connecting with potential partners on a personal level first and building a foundation of trust and camaraderie, you’re giving them a no-risk look into your organization, which may then create interest in a partnership. Smart executives have a way of ferreting out obvious opportunities, so be patient. In the meantime, make sure you’re over-delivering on the relationship by connecting them with other executives and companies that could benefit their business. In this way, you’re proving that a partnership with you would be multiplicative, not just additive.