By Irv Shapiro
In my basement, in 2006 I started on a journey that continues today. This journey evolved from a crazy idea to become DialogTech, a company approaching 200 employees and thousands of customers, analyzing over 50 million minutes of voice conversations a month with the latest AI and cloud-based technologies. At DialogTech we deliver customer experience analytics for businesses that value calls from consumers looking to purchase products or services. Along the way, I have committed to surrounding myself with the smartest people I could find and making hiring decisions based on potential instead of experience encapsulated in a traditional resume. As our company has evolved, so too has our management team.
Most technology startups are crafted by founders with either deep product or sales skills. While my first hire at DialogTech was a senior engineer I had worked with in the past, since my skills are strongest in product and engineering, my second management hire was a talented woman with strong sales and customer service skills. With only a handful of teammates, all of our early executives at DialogTech were “renaissance men” with the ability to do a bit of everything, from accounting and customer contact to quality assurance and software design.
Startups evolve along a path similar to education. The very best elementary school teachers leverage exceptional teaching skills with sufficient subject matter knowledge to cover a bit of English, social studies, math, and science. High school teachers are often subject matter experts selected for their ability to balance deep knowledge of a subject with strong teaching skills. The best college professors are leaders in their fields.
A technology company’s management team follows a similar trajectory. Early managers need to know a bit of everything and must be both managers and doers. As your company matures, you hire managers with narrower but stronger skills. When your company grows to over 50 — or maybe 100 — people and you begin to formalize your “C” team, each executive is often highly specialized. For example, you may have a Chief Technology Officer, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Revenue Officer, etc.
Unfortunately, just as it is unlikely that a 1st grade teacher will thrive while teaching high school geometry, it is unlikely that your first bookkeeper will have the skills to become your CFO, or your first combined customer support/sales/help desk manager will have the specialized skills to become your Chief Revenue Officer. This forced change is difficult, and while some of your early teammates will, in fact, settle into new roles, others will find their opportunities at your now growth stage company do not fit their needs.
This dynamic also applies to founders. Some founders will transition out of the company when the business has measurable revenue. Others may stay until an exit. In our case at DialogTech, we have found a path to leverage my startup skills while positioning our company for our next evolution. Over 13 months ago we added a Chief Operating Officer, Doug Kofoid, to our team with a focus on our customers and products. Over time we added leadership of marketing and new logo sales to his portfolio. Now after a very successful 2017, we have promoted him to CEO while I assume an Executive Chairman role focused outside of the day-to-day business needs on our journey forward.
Doug joined DialogTech last year from Publicis/VivaKi where he was their President. As a senior adtech/martech executive, Doug brought his 20+ years of experience at companies such as Performics, DoubleClick, Google, and VivaKi to our team. He spent the last 13 months learning what makes DialogTech unique. With Doug as our CEO focused on day-to-day strategy and execution, I will have the ability as Executive Chairman to focus outside of our walls on strategic relationships that will position DialogTech for its next journey.
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