For even the strongest tech CEOs, challenges and difficulties are unavoidable when scaling a business. In the third of a four-part video mini-series, Roger Lee, general partner at Battery Ventures, and Nick Mehta, CEO of customer-success management platform Gainsight*, explain how they work together to overcome the pitfalls and missteps that plague many startups.
Characterizing the journey of a startup’s path as a “drunken walk” – when you never know where you’re going to be from one day to the next – Lee says that unpredictable challenges in a growing business are inevitable. He mentions how, as CEO of Gainsight, Mehta is excellent at flagging potentially difficult issues in advance and “seeing around the corner to the next challenge,” thus ensuring they can manage and mitigate things as early as possible.
As an example, Lee points to Gainsight’s migration from serving smaller business customers to larger enterprises. Mehta spent significant time plotting that shift, including transitioning members of his team, changing key performance metrics and evolving company culture. Such shifts inevitably entail false starts and dead ends, particularly when undertaken with an iterative and experimental approach. But Mehta’s early work getting ready for the challenges helped Gainsight successfully transition.
Frequent and consistent dialogue between the CEO and the board is crucial to heading off miscommunication and calamity, Mehta says. Calls to the board shouldn’t only occur during a crisis, but should be a regular feature of startup management. Regular chats ensure that the board has the full context and knowledge of a situation when larger concerns or questions flare up. A well-informed board has seen the history and evolution of an issue or concern, making crisis management and troubleshooting much more effective.
The next video in the series analyzes Mehta’s management style, which Lee describes as exhibiting “radical transparency.” The first video, providing lessons on how to make a CEO/VC relationship thrive, is available here, and the second video, which considers board dynamics 101, is available here.