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Creating a Culture of Customer Success

Establishing a culture where customers come first and customer success is truly empowered to deliver meaningful results is critical to early success

Establishing a culture where customers come first and customer success is truly empowered to deliver meaningful results is critical to early success

Greetings from Seat 21F, and a quick shout-out to my new friend in 21E who keeps catching my elbow occasionally as we fight over their rightful domain – the middle armrest.  This week I am spending a good bit of time focusing on key customer conversations to finalize our message and product and make sure we have all the right capabilities in place —  we’ve started with a solid engineering team, added in product management, systems engineering, sales, finance/operations, and marketing as we have closed the gap with our intended launch timeframe.  Recently we started adding to our customer success function.

What is customer success? 

I guess that is actually the first question we asked ourselves – ‘How do you introduce a new product and new product category in a way that can reduce all the associated risks for a new customer?’  How do we ensure that people who choose to use our products are gloriously happy with that decision, have no buyers remorse, and truly know that ‘we have their back’ when they need support or better yet, that we have anticipated their needs?  If you are going to challenge product or market norms, you have to be willing to also challenge the norms relating to how to enable successful outcomes for your customers.

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Systems Architecture for Enterprise Startups: an exercise in bargaining, patience, and running fast — all at once

Sometimes we use too many tools when just having the right one is probably the most important

A few months ago our CEO and board gave me an interesting challenge: build a go-to-market team and launch a company into a new market within a year.  I was wondering what they specifically meant by ‘go-to-market team’ as that has a pretty varied set of definitions depending who you talk to and engage with, our vice president of engineering, Will Eatherton, described go-to-market at Skyport pretty succinctly as ‘everything except engineering’ or as he actually states it ‘everything else’.   (Let’s be blunt — there is a significant gravity to development engineering in any enterprise start-up.  If the product doesn’t work it really does not matter how good of a sales, marketing, or customer support team we build.  Engineering is highly relevant to our success.) At some point I’ll write about the people we are hiring and the organization we are assembling.  Today is about tools…

What we are finding is that there is an entire world of information systems we have to integrate into a functional set of capabilities and data repositories that enable us to be effective in our business.  I’ve had some experience with a few of these tools in my last company, but the sheer number of companies we are getting approached by to use their tool, system, or capability is daunting — I can easily see this causing paralysis in someone as they decide what tools they should implement.

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Startup Hiring Principles: Assholes Finish Last

The ‘Great Blue Hole’ in Belize, a popular dive spot.

Dan Jacobs from Apple was famously quoted once: “I’d rather have a hole in my team than an asshole in my team.”

When our founders thought about how to build out the different parts of Skyport they spent a lot of time first talking about the culture they wanted, the organization values that they wanted to in the end pervade the group so that people would default to ‘doing the right thing’.  We often talk about some of the great organizations we have seen where fifteen to twenty years after organizational genesis people were still talking, almost reverently, about the founding team members who set the cultural tone.

One that always stood out in my mind was cisco Systems’s New York sales organization.  People like Bill Nuti, Nick Adamo, Chuck Pease, and Carlos Dominguez were but a few of the early team there that built a great and lasting culture.  Was there any one thing, no.  There were hundreds of little things that conspired to create a lasting and pervasive culture that was stronger than the individual – thus employees in order to thrive and survive must apart to the culture rather than try to change it.

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The Allure of ‘Software Defined’

Bits and bytes fly all over the world, every day, on well-architected and highly reliable networks.

Bits and bytes fly all over the world, every day, on well-architected and highly reliable networks.

We’re at an interesting point in the Enterprise IT world – the term ‘Software Defined’ is getting applied to about everything — Software Defined Networking, Storage, Radio, Data Centers, Infrastructure, etc.

I was unabashedly not a fan of the initial models described by the pundits lauding praise and hype on Software Defined Networks.  This was mainly because I felt the model was fundamentally broken- the concept of centralizing control for everything from packet/flow forwarding, to topology construction, to policy application seemed to be just plain over-reaching.  Certainly there is tremendous room for improvement in the way network systems architectures work, but there is also incredible amounts of technology that fundamentally works, works well, and is deemed highly reliable.

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Hello World

An early example of 'trust' - inside the wall is good, outside are the Mongol Hordes lining up...

An early example of ‘trust’ – inside the wall is good, outside are the Mongol Hordes lining up…

Hello, World!

Shouldn’t all new blogs from people with any networking background start this way?  I always thought so.  I suppose we could use other languages as well – përshëndetje, sveiki, ciao, or здравствуйте.  I’ve had about a six year hiatus from corporate blogging, so I figured it was high time to get back in the game and start sharing a little bit about what we are building here at Skyport Systems. 

First, we’re really focused on building the right team and culture.  Because when you look back ten or twenty years that is what lasts and pervades an organization.  We want to build and be a part of a company where all roles are respected for the value they bring to the whole, where making our customers incredibly happy is the default in every decision, where we are not afraid to make the hard decisions but make the right up front decisions to avoid many pitfalls.  More than anything we want to work with really smart people who inspire us to work harder, challenge our assumptions, and in the end make an indelible mark on our industry.

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