The CEOs of two of the area’s fastest growing companies traded strategies for success during Tampa Bay Tech’s poweredUP virtual summit.
Scott Price, CEO of A-LIGN, and Greg Ross-Munro, CEO of Sourcetoad, also talked candidly about life outside the office and the advantages of being headquartered in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area in their wide-ranging discussion.
The CEO2CEO panel was a highlight of the interactive tech conference, held online Thursday and Friday. Tech giants with a national presence such as Zoom, Salesforce, Microsoft and Accenture participated, as did local companies including Tech Data, Jabil, Moffitt Cancer Center, AgileThought and Vology, among others.
Price and Ross-Munro are both proponents of OKR, or objectives and key results, a goal-setting tool developed by John Doerr.
Before Ross-Munro started implementing OKRs, he knew what his objectives were for Sourcetoad, a software development firm in Tampa, but those objectives weren’t transparent to the entire company.
“Now, I only manage five objectives for the entire company,” Ross-Munro said. “I own five things and each one of those has various key results that are owned by other people in the organization. Every single meeting I have is just about those five things and everyone else’s objectives trickles down from those few things.”
Price uses OKR methods to measure what makes A-LIGN, a cybersecurity advisory firm, a great place to work.
“Everyone says they want to be a great place to work. What does that mean? For us, it meant where our attrition was or where our retention was or that we implemented certain programs, such as a diversity and inclusion network or a women’s network or how we interact with the community. I think those are the things that measure if we’re a great place to work. So for some things that are ‘soft’ measurable items, it puts them into key results,” Price said.
OKR also provides transparency, Ross-Munro said.
“You can see what you are working on, how it trickles up and how it relates back to a value or key objective of the company,” Ross-Munro said. “It also gives people the power to say no, that’s not my job. It’s a good way of staying focused and staying honest.”
The CEOs talked about the challenges of running a business in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic when most office employees have been working from home.
“In the CEO chair, all we do is solve problems all day,” Price said. “No one opens the door and says we found a half million dollars. They open the door and say we lost a half million dollars somewhere and we have to fix it. It’s hard to check that at the door with your family when you solve problems all day long, but you have to be able check it at the door a lot.”
Ross-Munro agreed that it’s hard to disengage from a CEO mindset at home.
“The commute time is a way for me to shift my mindset. That 20 or 30 minutes in the car is enough to get out of the mindset that I’m responsible and the buck stops here, to go home and be a husband and father again,” Ross-Munro said. “To be honest, it’s been so difficult that I’m now back in the office. I’m in 10,000 square feet by myself. I need my commute to stay sane.”
Price also has returned to the A-LIGN office, in Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa.
He said the Tampa base of operations gives the company a growing pipeline of talent.
“When we used to talk about Tampa, it seemed like a liability. But now, starting a business here, it can be an asset,” Price said. “People aren’t pushing you out of the way. There are a lot of people pushing you forward.”
Ross-Munro said other business leaders here are accessible.
“There’s almost no one in the city that you can’t call or send an email to and they won’t have coffee with you … It’s a welcoming, warm community that is inclusive,” he said. “As we bring people in from out of town, it seems like you have more opportunity. If you come to work for a Sourcetoad and it doesn’t work out there, you can go work for an A-LIGN or another tech company. We have the systems and the companies in place to support talented people moving here.”
Sourcetoad has far fewer employees than A-LIGN, and Ross-Munro asked Price what he does to build talent at A-LIGN. Price said he focuses on four ‘C’s — collaboration between employees, communication with clients, competition as the company grows, and the competencies clients will want in the future.
“One of our new hires came up with a solution to that. They said, let’s not get the technical competency. Let’s have people here with our DNA and our culture and then give them the training,” Price said.
That requires purpose, he said.
“You have to build a system with values tied to the OKR’s and that attracts people,” Price said. “I wish I would have focused on that sooner.”
Self-improvement is key for both CEOs.
Price is a big fan of motivational speaker Simon Sinek, and he quoted Sinek as saying a leader needs to feel comfortable enough to admit their mistakes.
“That’s hard and we have to be sure that as leaders we make people feel comfortable about admitting a mistake, learning from it and moving forward. Every day we should focus on that. That’s how we know we’re growing and stretching,” Price said.
Ross-Munro reads as much as he can on leadership and other topics, and also turns to other business leaders he’s met through Tampa Bay Tech and Tampa Bay Wave.
“Trying to learn not to want to be the smartest person in the room, and to listen to everyone else — that really helps a lot,” Ross-Munro said.