Growing Successful SaaS Businesses: One CEO’s Journey

December 20, 2018
4 Minutes
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In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.

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I plan to use this blog to share my thoughts and perspective on growing SaaS businesses and on building successful organizations in general. With that in mind, I thought I’d use this inaugural post to offer a bit of background about me, beyond what can be gleaned from LinkedIn and other high-gloss media. I’ll start with just a bit of personal back-story and then fast-forward to some of what I’ve learned over the past 24 months.

Back-Story: I’ve always loved teams: playing on them, cheering them, coaching them, and always learning from them. And more recently: building, leading, and continuing to evolve through them. Over the years, I observed that the best teams consistently combine two seemingly opposing competencies: First, they clearly articulate their goals and relentlessly pursue them with unity and conviction. Great teams operate efficiently and effectively, and often simply “out-execute” their competition. They do so by leveraging shared principles, well-understood operating norms, and deep experiential understanding of the opportunities and challenges they face together. On the other hand, great teams also possess the humility, introspection, and courage to adapt and change however necessary within dynamic environments and in response to inevitable setbacks. These concepts were deeply ingrained in me by a few legendary coaches, by whom I was immensely fortunate to be mentored. These people had a profound impact on my world-view; and their ideas are foundational to Lock 8’s approach to thoughtfully and consistently building successful organizations.

Fast-Forward X Years: When BoardEffect was acquired at the end of 2016, I assumed I would take a few months to transition-out and rest-up, and then do another round somewhere as a “hired software executive.” I’d been a CEO twice and a President / Managing Director / EVP Operations twice; and I loved leading growth-stage SaaS businesses. Eighteen years had flown by, and these experiences had been transformative for me personally, professionally, and developmentally. It seemed to make complete sense just to “hit replay.”

But I didn’t end-up following that familiar path into my next operating role. Instead, I’ve been on a journey since then, exploring new ways to leverage my love of operations and organizations. This exploration has ultimately led to the founding of Lock 8 Partners, a platform for investing in and optimizing the performance of small-scale SaaS businesses. I am completely energized by this next leg of my journey; and this is a brief synopsis of how I arrived at this point.

After ninety days of amicable transition, I left employment with BoardEffect’s acquirer and promptly became immersed in a number of long-deferred pet projects. As expected, I soon missed my true passion of building teams and businesses; and by July 2017, I was itching to get back into the swing of growing companies. Without a full-time role and company for which I had the requisite level of excitement, I took on a number of part-time projects with a few private equity firms. These included strategic consulting engagements, executive coaching stints, board roles, and operating assessments in connection to prospective new investments. Although these projects were stimulating and challenging, I realized by year’s end that I wanted something with more continuity. So, I committed to spending four days a week in an Executive Chair role at one of the companies with which I had been consulting; and it was fun to be fully-engaged again. I loved helping the team think through how best to unlock the significant potential of that business; and I was completely engrossed in that effort throughout the first half of 2018 (full disclosure, I remain on a more limited basis).

It was during this time and through these collective experiences that I was struck by a number of observations; and these eventually evolved into the foundational ideas behind Lock 8 Partners. To dig into those ideas, please check out Part 2 of this post here.

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