Episode Recap

Nick Mehta is the most organized networker I know. We’re talking spreadsheets with hundreds of names on them and days full of meetings at Starbucks. I met Nick 10 years ago when we were entrepreneurs-in-residence at Trinity Ventures. Nick went on to be the CEO of LiveOffice until it was acquired by Symantec in 2012. Shortly afterwards, he was approached to be the CEO of a then-small company called Gainsight. Here’s how Nick’s love of meeting and listening to people made Gainsight the top customer success management software company out there.

 

Getting to know you
Everyone has a story — VCs, employees, customers. You’ll sell and build better things if you listen to them.

Tip:
Approach people with curiosity and really try to understand who they are.

 

Listen to your customers
Nick realized from past experience that SaaS companies spend money and effort to acquire customers, but don’t have systems in place to retain customers and maximize their spending. That’s where customer success software like Gainsight comes in.

Tip:

  • Listen to other company’s customers, too. An early customer at another SaaS might be more likely to take a chance and invest in your company in its early stages.
  • Don’t burn bridges. If a customer, investor, or employee chooses to go somewhere else, stay in touch with them. Maybe they’ll come back.

 

Listen to yourself
As CEO, Nick is responsible for determining the company’s culture and ensuring it’s carried out even as the company grows. That means shifting to bigger picture things: processes, systems, and strategy.

Tip:
Come up with and stick to a system to set up your strategy and goals. Gainsight’s is a “one-page strategic plan” that sets the course for the next year.

 

Creating a culture
A values-based, customer-centric company culture was important to Nick from the start. Here’s his three chapter guide to creating and implementing a company’s values:

  • Chapter 1: Define your company’s values as early as possible. For Gainsight, these were the Golden Rule: childlike joy, and success for all.
  • Chapter 2: As the business starts to scale, take another look at those values to see if they need to be changed or added to. At this stage, Gainsight added shoshin (a beginner’s mind) and “stay thirsty.”
  • Chapter 3: Keep it going. Gainsight does values training sessions to make sure they’re being adhered to at every level.

 

Tip:
Don’t do this if you don’t believe in it. Your credibility with your employees is everything. They won’t follow you if you aren’t genuine.

 

Find another listener
Not everyone is a people person. Not every CEO is, either. If you aren’t, find someone else in your company who is: the COO, the president, the head of marketing. Your company has to have someone who loves connecting with people to be its voice.

Tip:

  • Hire someone responsible for making your company culture institutional, like a head of HR. At a certain point, it can’t all come from you.
  • Wasting money and time is inevitable in a company’s early stages. You’ll reduce that waste if you hire a CFO or a similar role to carry out a disciplined financial plan as early as possible.

 

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LINKS

Nick Mehta’s site

Gainsight

The one page strategic plan

Shoshin

Gainsight was one of the best small companies to work for in 2018