“The big failure is not failing to hit ambitious results, it's failing to try”.
Apart from having a competent team, a comprehensive suite of products and services, and a dedication to customer-centricity, one of the key things that propel a company’s growth is having a strong-willed leader. But for a tech company like TIBCO Software Inc., the task requires more than just being strong-willed. It is imperative to have the experience, the industry know-how, and a great passion for innovation and change.
Murray Rode is the Chief Executive Officer of TIBCO Software Inc., bringing nearly 30 years of experience to his role. He is directly responsible for a variety of functions, including finance, corporate development, and IT.
Previously, Murray held the role of Chief Operating Officer at TIBCO, encompassing a range of responsibilities covering finance, marketing, and corporate development. Murray has been with TIBCO (and its predecessor company) since 1995 and has held a number of different roles, including CFO and EVP Strategic Operations. He holds a BA from the University of Alberta, Canada.
At the TIBCO NOW conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, we spoke with Murray to find out more about his business philosophies, his greatest challenges and achievements, as well as his goals for TIBCO moving forward.
You've been with TIBCO for almost two decades. What would you say were the biggest challenges you had to address especially during the early years of the company?
In the early days it was just the notion of expansion - getting customers and making projects successful. Each customer you have was important. For me, there was a big focus at that time on particular projects and having successful outcomes on those projects.
The next challenge as we got a little more mature as a company was how to acquire other companies. how to learn a good acquisition and integration process.
Then as we got to half a billion in revenue, the challenges started to become about, at the one hand, operating at scale - operating at a size where you need more systematic approaches to a lot of things. And then the second half was more about strategy. What were going to be the new markets, new products? How do we keep feeding the growth engine?
As we got to a billion, the challenges had a lot to do with investor relations. Your growth challenges at a billion are harder. It's a dramatic change.
Prior to becoming CEO, you've held several executive roles within the company (COO, CFO, EVP Strategic Operations). How have your experiences holding these positions helped you become a better CEO? How was the transition?
One thing that's important to understand is that I didn't really come out of a finance background. I was in management consulting before I came to TIBCO. Then I did project and business development work which got me into mergers & acquisitions. I did that for a while before I became the CFO. So I was a bit of an unorthodox CFO.
For me, in some ways, the transition to CEO was made a little easier because I had operating roles and I've done other things. And I think a lot of people in the company joke that there's not any title left for me except that one.
I'm very conversant with the operating metrics of the company, the financial measurements of our progress and how we use that to run the business. I've run sales groups, business units, bought companies, integrated companies, and I've been the CFO.
I've done lots of stuff so in many ways I'm a classic example of a CEO who's been brought up from multiple different divisions of the company and it gives me a good perspective of a lot of things. So I'm able to synthesize that, maybe better than CEOs who haven't.
What do you consider as your biggest achievements so far as the CEO of TIBCO?
I haven’t been CEO that long so I'll probably point to some modest things. I think leading the company through the last 18 months is an accomplishment in the sense that we have successfully navigated going from public to private. And with all those changes, we have also been able to keep our innovation engine in tact.
And in fact, more than just keeping it in tact, what we're showing here at the conference is the most innovation we've had to showcase in our history. Now I can't take a lot of credit for that. That's my team, my engineers, and a great executive team.
What are your key business philosophies?
Results matter but the key thing is that you're trying, striving to do something innovative and valuable. The big failure is not failing to hit ambitious results, it's failing to try. That’s the important thing. I don't want people to be afraid of failing at something.
The other thing I'm very big on is a culture of respect for people. I'm also a big believer of the notion that you can't be afraid to cannibalize your own business. You can't be afraid to stand back from your own idea and be as objectively critical of them as possible.
Fourthly, I like to bring a big focus from the top on openness and communications within the company.
How do you effectively deal with communications within the C-suite executives in the company who also have varying backgrounds?
I'm a big believer in the value of understanding the personality profile of the management team, and them understanding that of each other, so it's clearer to communicate.
Secondly, you do have to lead by example if you want your people to be open and treat each other with respect.
Another thing that's really important for high performance teams is that you have to let them reach conclusions with you. There are times when you may have to enforce some decisions, but usually they are the ones that have the least stickiness. People have to come along with you on the journey.
What goals are you focused on in the next year or two?
There are three things: sales, innovation, and awareness.
A big goal this year is driving sales execution in a more multi-dimensional model. By that I mean not just an effective direct sales force but a better set of partner and digital channels or what we refer to as high-velocity selling especially with this core to edge shift in the business.
The second big thing is continuing to build on the success of the last 18 months with the core innovation capacity of the company. I'm very focused on how that continues to develop because it's not an end-goal. It's a continuous process. You've got to keep feeding that machine.
Longer term, the third thing that I’m very focused on is the marketing voice and brand awareness around TIBCO - how we continue to get broader recognition for what TIBCO really is and what it does.
What are some of the acquisitions coming up now that you've gone private?
Mashery was done as a private company. It was a strategic acquisition that helped accelerate our roadmap.
Looking ahead, broad areas that we're interested in are the larger space of data preparation and how you can stage data for easier, more accurate analytics. We're doing stuff there already but more in that space is interesting to us - not essential, but interesting.
One other big area that we're starting to spend more time looking at are machine learning types of technologies that will enhance what we’re already doing in this space.
It’s hard to grow a tech company without acquisitions.
How different is it to manage a public company vs a private company?
It's simpler from a shareholder management perspective. As a public company, you spend a lot more time on shareholder communications. With a private company, you have a more concentrated set of highly knowledgeable insiders which makes it a lot easier to manage.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
I am humbled to lead a company with so much history, a lot of deep, positive culture, and loyalty from employees and customers. It's humbling to be the steward of a company with such great character.
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