A lot of lip service is paid to the benefits of great business culture, but how can positive leadership be reflected in a team's productivity, success, and sense of satisfaction? What kinds of cultural initiatives best drive the customer outcomes on which a business thrives?
In this interview we speak with TenFour's new Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Dan Nacinovich, about his previous time with an array of leading tech companies—including Salesforce.com, InsideSales.com, CentryLink, Yext and Deloitte—and what he's learned about the ingredients necessary for creating great work culture and an atmosphere of success. This interview was conducted by TenFour content writer Devin McKernan via email.
Devin McKernan: How important is company culture to achieving positive business outcomes, especially in the tech industry, which traditionally has a reputation for stressful, sometimes harmful, work environments?
Dan Nacinovich, CRO, TenFour
Dan Nacinovich: Incredibly important. In fact, I believe it's a foundation for achieving more consistent and positive results over the long term. I also have a strong belief that integrity—how you treat people—is everything. Anyone who really knows me and/or has worked for me will tell you that I firmly believe that "culture eats strategy for breakfast," as they say. Companies can have the most amazing product and strategy, but a weak culture will invariably be the root cause for that company to plateau, or best case, to tread.
DM: It sounds like this subject is very personal for you.
DN: I find the process of building and driving strong company culture and teams incredibly fun and rewarding. At TenFour I'm honored to be working with such great professionals and I'm humbled daily by some of the amazing feats of execution that I'm seeing, from Project Management to Service Delivery, our 24/7 NOC team, Reference Architecture design and implementation, Customer Success… We are transforming IT and it takes a special breed of professional to move the needle. Every day our culture fosters this spirit.
DM: What kinds of techniques do you consider most effective in creating a productive and successful business environment?
DN: I have very fond memories of my days at Salesforce. Each year, Salesforce would reward its Sales Top Performers with a trip to Hawaii and over the years we toured all of the respective islands. We'd typically enjoy this trip with team members, but the memories that I'll never forget include doing team building exercises while on each island. For example, we'd pick a school in an underprivileged area and take an entire day and paint the school and get it looking beautiful. These types of exercises—where you make an impact on a community—are meaningful and memorable for all parties involved. At TenFour we already give back in various ways, but we'll be doing more in our local community as a company!
DM: Have you ever had any bad team-building experiences? How did you address them and learn from them?
DN: Bad team building experiences? No. Bad team members? Yes. I encourage everyone to maintain a beginner's mind and always be flexible. In my experience a good solution has always been to surround the bad with enough good and things usually work out for the better.
DM: How do you find team members best suited to creating a cohesive operational unit?
DN: I strongly value hiring and building a team around folks that have demonstrated success and thrived in a team environment in prior endeavors.
DM: What is your personal philosophy when it comes to leading a team and fostering a sense of comradery? Have there been instances where you saw company culture have an undeniable influence on an achievement?
DN: I prefer to focus on a person's strengths and build around their core competencies. Team success is hard to achieve, but with a foundation of higher confidence we can learn and grow in areas of development faster and built upon a foundation of strength.
DM: You donate a lot of your time outside of work. I'd imagine that leaves you without much to yourself. What does work/life balance look like to you and how do you find the combination that works best?
DN: Balance is critical; it makes you more productive at work and present at home. I was transparent when communicating my values with TenFour's leadership team while going through the interview process: family, health, career, and mentorship as a coach and leader are my four most important. TenFour is a wonderful fit for those values and a place where I feel I can find that balance. I'm in a chapter of my life that I cherish deeply, in that I have the opportunity to build upon an already stellar team and culture at work while having the flexibility to give back in my local community while away from the office.
DM: You're the first to fill the role of "Chief Revenue Officer" at TenFour. How do you see this role fitting into tech company operations in general, and how can CROs help provide customers the exceptional service they need to achieve their business goals?
DN: CROs can help provide their customers the service they need by aligning customer success with an incredible, well-managed customer journey, right from the moment of first intent by the Customer or Prospect. A good CRO understands how to mobilize Marketing, the Customer Success team, and Business Development to attract and grow revenue! CROs today need to be comfortable with data and CRM. In fact, there's still an art to Sales—it's still about loving your customers, building teams, and driving relationships—but I feel that in many cases the CRO should be driven by data.
DM: What is your Sales methodology, your mantra? In the age of digital innovation how do tech companies differentiate themselves with new ideas and convert skeptics into believers?
DN: Customer centricity and empathy are keys to long term success. In order to have a customer-centric organization and culture, however, the company itself must make real investments and care about its employees first. When customers see that the technology vendor cares about their own business problem and that they enjoy working with each other, the sky's the limit. That vendor moves into "partner" territory, which makes for a long and fruitful business relationship.
DM: Is there something you know now that you wish you'd known in the past?
DN: I think I've already mentioned it, but: "culture eats strategy for breakfast." Like I said before, you can have the best idea and the hottest technology, but unless a company has a healthy culture driven by strong leadership it won't scale and succeed in the long run.
DM: Finally, if you could give a tech company CRO one piece of advice for leading their organization to success, what would it be?
DN: First, I'd say that you have to come in with a plan of attack and make sure that the board and executive stakeholders fully understand the plan and support the strategy and tactics associated with it. Every company's different and both parties coming in blind is a red flag in itself, in my humble opinion. Invariably there will be unforeseen challenges that arise no matter the plan, so it's important to maintain a flexible and agile approach, but always check back with your original plan periodically, if for no other reason than to make sure the original objectives are still important to the business and your success as CRO.
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