I recently got to chat with Harry Stebbings on the 20 Minute VC Podcast, covering a range of topics including:

  • How what it takes to be a great CEO has changed over the last 30 years
  • Whether “management upscaling is the most important role a CEO can do
  • How “the old school CEO approach is upside down and backward?”
  • What the fundamentals are to ensure your executive team are aligned and working in tandem
  • Why transparency across the organization is fundamental to both efficiency and culture?
  • Why cloud companies have to be customer-centric like never before

If you’d like to check out the full episode, that can be downloaded here. I also wanted to share a few key highlights from my conversation with Harry in the following Q&A four-part blog series…

Harry Stebbings:  I’m thrilled to welcome Rob Reid, Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Sage Intacct. With over 13,000 employees and over three million customers, Sage’s financial solutions generate over two billion dollars in revenue.

Rob led Intacct over an incredible eight‑year journey, culminating in their $850 million exit to Sage in 2017.

Rob, you’ve been involved with eight startups, seven incredible exits. How has your understanding of what it takes to be a great CEO changed over the last 30 years?

Rob Reid: I think CEOs from 30 years ago thought that if they had a great idea, they had to find the investors, so that they could deploy that great idea, and have the capital to make that idea a reality.

Then they would go and find the initial customers to prove the concepts and perfect what they were trying to do. Finally they went through scaling and adding talent.  I believe that old‑school approach is truly upside down and backwards.

Today’s world is more complicated than it was 30 years ago. All the easy ideas, especially in business, have been done. You really need to surround yourself with great talent and expertise as fast as possible, so you can gain the multidimensional understanding to what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it.

It is rare today that one individual can come up with a vision and fully embrace all the different aspects of it. Drawing in others to help figure out a specific business issue or problem, I think, is one of the most important things you can do.

It’s really interesting too that VCs don’t just look at TAM and your uniqueness from a technology perspective. They invest in teams. Having a good set of partners is really important.

Next, is getting in alignment with a set of customers, very specific customers, of whom you’re trying to get an understanding of their issues and how you can resolve them. 

After you understand how to be the best in the world for a specific customer type, that’s when you try to draw in the VCs.  Having those engaged dedicated colleagues in the initial business, then the customers, and then scaling up with investors.

You can really flourish by having a great culture and high customer satisfaction. Your investors will do really, really well if you build your business from that approach.

Check back next week for the second blog in this series!