Adaptive’s Paul Caffrey speaks with Scott Jennings, Managing Director of BOARD Americas – a global leader in the Business Intelligence and Performance Management space.
Paul: Hi Scott, can you give me a quick background about yourself, your role, and BOARD?
Scott: Sure. BOARD America is the US based sales and operations office of BOARD International Business Intelligence and Performance Management Software Company. And I’m the Managing Director for the Americas. I’ve been here for 11 years and report directly to the CEO.
We’ve recently changed the named from BOARD USA to BOARD America to better reflect the fact that although our team is primarily located in the US, we oversee everything from Canada to Argentina and everything in South America. I’m responsible for everything from marketing and sales all the way through to implementation and support of our company in North and South America.
So what initially attracted you to your role there?
Scott: I think the most interesting thing for me was a combination of a really interesting product and a great management team. Also at the same time the idea of working with a very small team in the US and being responsible for the initial strategic development of the US as a sales territory was very attractive. And now having gone on from sort of an initial intro to this region to this year being the number one revenue contributing region to the whole company is great.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the Business Intelligence space in general?
Scott: The market has gone through a couple of different changes since I’ve been here. Right now it feels a lot like it did when I first started. There are several large players that dominate the scene and some mid-level players who have just a single product focus.
Overall it’s a mature, developed market with over a 100 vendors in this space which are mostly based in the states. From an employer perspective there’s a greater understanding of what we do and from a competitive perspective you have people who have experience with these solutions in schools and universities that they are presented as part of their in the curriculum. When I started there weren’t many people that had these skills or experience for this space.
There are competitors who are smaller. There are competitors who are bigger or better funded. There is a lot of venture capital money is coming back into this space. You got equity backed companies. And you have privately held companies like us. You have huge companies like IBM, SAP, and Oracle.
It’s grown up with all of the pros and cons with that and as we grow it presents a different competitive environment both from a sales perspective as well as a hiring perspective.
Building off of that how do you guys position yourselves when competing with the other players in the space?
Scott: BOARD’s positioning in the marketplace is a little bit unique in that as a platform we provide the business intelligence capabilities coupled with performance management capabilities. Not only do we try to use that as a differentiator when we are presenting BOARD to perspective customers but also to perspective employees. Because I think they end up with their eyes a mile wide and an inch deep.
In some ways if you’re at a company that focuses on visualization or budget and planning you’re doing one thing and that’s it. Meanwhile BOARD offers you the opportunity to expand and sell on the other side of the coin.
And many times when you start to engage with customers and move beyond their initial requirements those single focus products cease to complete the puzzle. The other capabilities they don’t have is something a lot of people are interested in learning more about because it’s a natural evolution of where businesses ultimately need to go.
Another differentiator is that with much bigger companies I think you lack some of the freedom and flexibility that BOARD can offer with our small company attitude. You take what the product has to offer regardless of the role. It allows people to do what they’re currently not able to do either from a price perspective or company perspective.
In your experience what do you see as the biggest need your clients have that BOARD is able to meet?
Scott: A complete oversight analytical package are the ones we tend to solve most uniquely. Organizations that have a top down approach in how they address their analytics tend to identify multiple projects and initiatives they need to address.
And I think at that point when they recognize these needs a tool like BOARD can uniquely address those problems where another product with only one solution might not be able to. We can certainly address and be competitive when it comes down to organizations that one single issue or initiative but it’s not our full strength.
What would you say has been the biggest change from a managerial standpoint? Any methodologies or processes you’ve implemented in your time as sales manager over there that you’ve seen been really beneficial?
Scott: First and foremost we’re a sales organization. That’s a key driver.
As the team grows and your organization evolves from a small handful of people to having 30 or 40 employees you’re not going to be able to manage those people by yourself. So putting that second level between myself and those individual contributors has been key. Now I have a marketing manager, a pre-sales manager, a sales manager, panel manager, and a consulting manager. Those 5 people I manage can go out and be more hands on with those other individuals. Three years ago I was overseeing all that with some direct contributors. Not everybody’s going to able to manage that many people and be an expert in all aspects.
By bringing in people that have the direct management relationship is the one thing that I think has been very helpful to the company getting to the size when all those roles not only become helpful but mandatory.
Where do you see yourselves within the next five years?
Scott: That’s a good question. BOARD is still maintaining that unified business intelligence and performance management platform approach. Individually those two industries are evolving in different ways. BOARD is a privately held company and the founders are still active in the organization. We’re looking to grow to a $100 million dollars and half of that comes to the US.
There’s still room for growth in store. But I don’t see anything like acquisitions, external investment, or moving headquarters to the US. I mean those are all possibilities. But I think what we’re looking to do is just growing really strong sales and support teams in the US. That will certainly help us to get to where we want to go. We have some really strong people here in Houston and continuing our plans can help us get to that number. Once we get there we can see what other opportunities are out there.
And finally if you were to build the ideal candidate for your company from a sales side what would that person look like? What kind of skill set or background would they possess?
Scott: BOARD is a well-regarded mid-sized player in this space but even in the US, where we have a smaller team, it’s a very intimate environment for the right candidate where it fits what they’re looking for.
In the time I’ve been here we’ve hired from all kinds of companies. It seems that the candidates we’ve always gotten the most benefit from have been those who have done this job in our peer group. First of all they know their space. Secondly hiring from somebody who we compete with quite a bit could position BOARD to a great place in the market.
I think things like cultural resources and expectations are another thing that’s truly hard to quantify. For example, coming from a big company to an organization with a small organization mindset in the BI & PTM field, the candidate might have different expectations of hierarchy.
Also there’s a certain spark there if the candidate is coming from a business development background or if it’s their first sales role. As we move forward I think what we would like to do is mix and match those two profiles and have some seasoned folks who have industry experience along with people who aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and find new business.
Paul Caffrey is Recruitment Director at Adaptive Content & Analytic. He recruits for sales professionals at all levels, from junior inside associates up to VPs, as well as sales engineers. Feel free to reach out to Paul on LinkedIn to connect.
Tel: 646) 535-7963
E-mail: paul.caffrey (@) adaptive-ca.com
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