Campaign Monitor chief Alex Bard on the most important asset in your business

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Campaign Monitor

“Never lose sight of the greatest and most important asset you have, which is the people of your company,” says Campaign Monitor chief executive Alex Bard.

After securing $US250 million ($266 million) in one of Australia’s largest startup investment deals back in 2014, Campaign Monitor has been scaling its team and its reach.

The company has grown to a team of 250 that serves over 200,000 businesses worldwide, including Unicef and Airbnb. In 2015, the company reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $US39 million, according to Fairfax.

“It has been a really exciting time for the company for the last two-and-a-half years when I came on board,” Bard tells StartupSmart.

In addition to tripling the team, Campaign Monitor has moved its headquarters into Sydney’s CBD and opened new offices in San Francisco and London.

“It just gives us access to the best people all over the world,” Bard says.

Over the next year, Campaign Monitor also plans to roll out new features to make the world-leading email-marketing platform even smarter.

“The idea is that data is the fuel of the future,” says Bard.

But Campaign Monitor isn’t Bard’s first rodeo when it comes to startups. Over the past two decades, he has founded four internet startups, including Assistly, which was bought by Salesforce for $US50 million in 2011 and rebranded to Desk.com.

Reflecting on his journey and real mistakes he has made, Bard shares four important ingredients for building a successful startup.

1. Know why you’re here 

“As a founder, you have to start with a really compelling reason for existing,” Bard says.

“Why are you here? What’s the greater purpose of what this company will serve?”

The answers to these questions are crucial anchor points for any founder who wants to build an amazing team and venture. Understanding what you’re passionate about and who you want to serve is “incredibly rewarding” but it will also lay the foundation for a strong venture, says Bard.

“You have to identify [the] core values of the company,” he says.

These values will govern how you and your team think, make business decisions, work and operate.

“It enables you to hire amazing people of great diversity,” says Bard.

Bard believes intentionally hiring people with diverse thoughts and backgrounds helps to enrich, evolve and strengthen a company’s culture. And while there may be slight differences between offices and teams, having these core, underpinning values will unify your startup and keep its foundation strong as it grows.

“To me culture is how those values play out,” he says.

2. Culture is your foundation

Once the company’s core purpose and values are established, any person that enters the team should be aligned with that vision, says Bard.

He says it’s also crucial for leaders to create a climate and environment where people feel they belong to something greater than themselves, can hold each other accountable, and grow side by side.

“It starts with this idea that attitude is greater than aptitude,” says Bard.

“There’s this interesting saying that people get hired for what they’ve done, they get fired for who they are.

“The true competitive advantage in a business is how well that team plays together.”

3. A tip from Richard Branson

Bard has learnt from some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs throughout his journey, and recalls the time when he was “super fortune” to receive advice from Virgin founder Richard Branson.

While playing chess, Branson told Bard that companies have three key stakeholder groups—employees, customers and investors—and that you can see how a business behaves based on which group they prioritise.

“The best companies—from what I learned from Richard—really focus on their employees first,” says Bard.

When your employees are aligned with the values of the startup, believe in its vision, are free to challenge each other professionally and grow, and express and embrace diversity, the result is a happier workforce.

“Then they become advocates for the business, which results in happy customers, which results in happy investors,” Bard says.

4. The best startups sit in this intersection 

When creating a new product or service, Bard says it’s important to “get out of the building” early on.

If you want to create a solution that people find so valuable they’re willing to open up their wallet and give you their hard-earned money, you need to create something truly meaningful.

“Get out early and test the idea,” he says.

“With the target market you serve, validate it all along the way.

“A lot of people spend so much time in the lab building something they think is going to be great and then they’ve missed the mark.”

In addition to developing an amazing product or service, Bard says it’s equally important to have a go-to-market strategy, which is how you’ll acquire customers and create a competitive advantage.

Envision a venn diagram where one side is a great product that solves a real problem and the other side is a great go-to-market plan, Bard says, referring to advice he received from Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff.

“The best startups are in that intersection,” Bard says.

“Spend more time on a world-class go-to-market strategy.”

This article was first published by StartupSmart.

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Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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