When it comes to acquisitions, evaluate the long-term value.
Our growth has primarily been organic, but when we look for assets externally, it has always been acquisitions that provide very specific application or data sets we don’t already have. You have to project the growth of the acquired company over the next five years. If you only look at short-term gains, you risk facing issues after years one or two that can reduce the value of the asset and the company’s overall operating margins.
Target where you want to be, and then work as hard as you can to get there.
If you can see your destination five years out, you’ve probably got the right goal. Stay focused on the long term, and be patient while you wait for the right opportunities. Don’t get sidetracked by short-term gains like a new title and increased compensation. They sound good, but at the end of the day, they might not really help you move forward.
Each day presents a new opportunity.
You can’t script everything, so it might not be an opportunity that is scheduled on your calendar. It could be a problem you weren’t expecting, but you can still learn important lessons from how you resolve it. For example, in 2010 we purchased a company called Market Metrics and couldn’t find the right person to lead the new business. I realized that it presented an opportunity for me. Our CEO approved the idea, we had great success in growing the business, and I was able to add very valuable business experience to my financial expertise within the company.
Direct communication is best.
I learned the importance of communication when I was delivering newspapers when I was ten years old. If I wanted to get paid on my paper route, I had to be able to talk to adults who I didn’t really know. Remember there are two sides: you really have to speak clearly and listen well. If I find that something can’t be explained or resolved in a sentence or two, I don’t e-mail or IM. I speak with people directly so I can a get a better feel for what they’re thinking. It also makes them more comfortable talking with me about other issues that might come up later.
Gain the trust and confidence of the people you deal with.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a client proposal, negotiating with a vendor, or an M&A transaction—to get things resolved, you have to be up front and communicate openly. That lets the other parties know that you’re not trying to deceive them. Even if there are a number of issues, I’ll create a written document, but walk them through it. The last thing you want to do is drop a lot of paper on someone and then make them walk through it on their own.
Invest in your people on a daily basis.
I’m a true believer in providing people with the right training to empower them to do their jobs better and to give them opportunities to grow in the organization. It makes them feel appreciated. That’s the environment we’ve created here. More than 90 percent of our hires are right out of college, and many of them stay with us for the long term. If you treat them right, then they want to stay.