The challenges of establishing your own company
As Chetan Dube, CEO and Founder of IPsoft explains, in the early years of establishing your own company, it can be difficult to convince people of the value that an innovation can provide to a business. “It’s much easier to provide a run of the mill product at a slightly better cost, compared to offering a completely disruptive proposition. You need perseverance and conviction if you’re going to launch a true first – and this challenge can’t be underestimated.” Dube explains that today, his business is at the forefront of technological innovation. “However, that doesn’t make the challenge of staying at the forefront of technological innovation any easier – if we rest on our laurels and lose our position as the most advanced solution on the market, then we’ll get left behind.”
Another challenge Dube highlights is the speed of doing business around the world. “The US market is just under 300 years old. With this youth comes a fearlessness for consequences and a hunger to just ‘go for it’. It’s therefore unsurprising that the American banking and insurance industries are leading the charge in digitization.” Compared with the European market’s maturity of 2,000 years, “you can feel that the pace of movement is inherently very different. It is important for American entrepreneurs to remember this difference and not try to push a European bank to act like its daring younger brother across the pond.”
Eugenio Pace, CEO and Co-Founder of Auth0 adds that maintaining a global workforce is a challenge for entrepreneurs. “To tackle this challenge, at Auth0 we have a remote-friendly work policy where we do not require our team to work in an office. Additionally, to bring our global workforce together, we hold regular company-wide video meetings once a year.”
To combat business challenges as a whole, Pace looks to philosophers and mentors for advice and support. “This might seem a little off-beat, but I turn to the lessons of stoic philosophers like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, whose tenets of self-control and fortitude have served great purpose in my life and helped me through the toughest adversities. I also seek out advice and support from mentors who have guided me through the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship by forcing myself - while sometimes uncomfortable - to have brutally honest conversations about concerns I am having. Sometimes, all you need is an outside perspective to show you a clear path forward.”
The best strategy for establishing your own company
When asked about the best strategy for establishing your own company, Dube explains that there are three core elements that underpin a good strategy. “First, you need to find something that you’re really passionate about. Second, identify a real way that you can make a difference, and finally, make sure you are different, “I can do this too” is not enough. Otherwise, you’ll just be another pizza parlor around the corner from the other one.” Alongside Dube, Pace also emphasizes the importance of focusing on the customer. “Since our inception, we have emphasized focusing on customers, thinking about their satisfaction from the outside-in by placing ourselves in their shoes. My co-founder and I work to uphold this everyday, rooting our company in these values.”
Dube believes that alongside the standard model such as resource allocation, structure, leadership and operational model, a good business model needs the ability to continuously evolve. “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change inside the organisation, it’s fair to assume that the end is near.” Agreeing with Dube, Pace acknowledges that, “while passion is certainly necessary when building a business, the business model is what will make or break its longevity. In my opinion, the key element in a successful business model comes down to how well-rounded it is. That’s not to say a business model can’t be rooted by a founder’s ‘one big idea’, but it is important that it has other legs to support it. These include: strong values and a culture that scales; scalability and long-term, sustainable growth strategies; agility in times of market and competitive shifts; continued product disruption and innovation; customer and employee satisfaction and smart partner ecosystem and business alliances.” Ultimately, Dube believes that “you need to understand what your mission is and the values you want to live by in your pursuit of it. There will be sunnier and cloudier days as an entrepreneur, so having these guiding principles will help you navigate those trickier decisions where you ultimately need to decide ‘at what cost?’”
Reflecting on the establishment of their own companies, Dube and Pace agree that embracing mistakes and challenges is important, “this might seem like odd advice to someone wanting to start their own business,” contemplates Pace, “but imagine if we shifted our perception of mistakes and saw them as opportunities to grow. We could learn and better ourselves from every mistake made, viewing them as gifts in disguise. While I do not recommend making mistakes, when they inevitably happen entrepreneurs can use them as opportunities to gather information and push through their own previously conceived boundaries.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.