In a rare interview, Hexigo, a cloud-based collaborative decision management platform, founder and CEO James Cattermole shares his leadership mantra with CEOWORLD Magazine.
Can you briefly describe about your company and the offerings?
James Cattermole: Getting decisions made within large companies is a very slow and painful process. It usually involves endless meetings and reams of emails, most of which add confusion and miscommunication rather than clarity.
Most people have been in the scenario where they sit through a meeting and then only two weeks later they have no idea what that meeting achieved. This is what Hexigo is for.
Hexigo is a decision-management system that’s specifically designed to get decisions made faster and more efficiently, and to ensure that everyone knows what was agreed so there is no ambiguity.
Hexigo centralizes the decision making process so all of the collaboration; all of the documents and supporting material which go into a decision is centralized into the one place. This way, everyone is working from the same information and knows how and why the decision was made, and what the decision is intended to achieve.
Knowledge retention is becoming a key issue because people changes jobs so frequently these days. Whenever someone leaves they take the knowledge with them. Because of this companies are often left in a situation where everyone is asking “why did we do that?” Hexigo records the decision making process so, even if everyone involved in the decision has left, you know exactly how the decision was reached, who was involved and why.
Please summarize how your role has taken different dimensions as the company evolved?
James Cattermole: The CEOs role is constantly evolving as the company grows, and a founder’s role even more so. It’s vital for any rapidly growing organization to be adaptive and this starts from the top.
Initially, I was focused on validating the concept of decision management because, as far as I’m aware, no one has ever done this before. However, once we proved the problem was real and we started generating revenues my focused shifted to be more growth oriented from both a sales and technical perspective.
My primary focus at the moment is about bringing the right people into the team. The earliest hires are the most important so it is definitely worthwhile taking the time to get those right. The early hires will play a fundamental role in the culture of the company so I want to make sure we get the right mix people.
How has been your experience of reaching out to potential investors?
James Cattermole: External investment is not a high priority for us at the moment so this has not been much of an issue. We will probably explore these options in the not too distant future but for the moment we are very focused on growing the business and the team.
Tell us about the culture of your company. What insights have you had about culture as the company has grown?
James Cattermole: Having had a few companies now I can definitely say that the culture of any organization is essential to its success. Most problems can be overcome if everyone commits to finding a solution, however you only get that commitment by having the right culture.
Culture is at its most critical at the very early stages of a company for two reasons. Firstly, when you are starting out everyone lives out of each other’s pockets and everyone is expected to do multiple jobs. Therefore the culture needs to be very supportive or people can be at each other’s throats. Secondly, its very difficult to change a culture once it is engrained and especially once a company gets big. As such you want to get it right early because it will be very tough to change it later.
At Hexigo we’re looking for people who worked really hard when they need to, without the need for prodding or cajoling, but who can then let their hair down and have a bloody good time when we come to celebrate.
What are some of the difficulties you faced while building your product/ solution?
James Cattermole: Like any truly disruptive technology, user adoption and education is the biggest challenge. The very nature of disruptive technology is exactly that; disruptive. So it takes time to demonstrate the value of using a new system when “we’ve done it this way for years”.
In the case of Hexigo, everyone acknowledges that there is a problem and as soon as they see the system they recognize the benefit of the system. Which is awesome for us. The bigger challenge is finding the manager or team leader who is brave enough to try something new.
What is your advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
James Cattermole: Surround yourself with positive people. There is no shortage of people who will cut down your idea, tell you it won’t work or that it is all too hard. Get away from those people; they just sap your energy. If you surround yourself with positive, creative people you’ll find yourself being more positive and more creative.
Also, determine quickly if something is an opportunity or a distraction. Entrepreneurs see exciting opportunities everywhere; it is part of our DNA. However, really successful entrepreneurs stay focused on their primary goal and don’t get distracted by shining new things.
Who do you admire the most and why?
James Cattermole: I find inspiration from anyone who overcomes adversity and rises above a challenge. These don’t necessarily have to be world-changing challenges, just personal obstacles that people are determined to overcome. For example, I love hearing stories about someone who has lost 100 pounds through hard work and perseverance, or someone who has elevated themselves beyond what everyone else thought they could achieve. Those kind of “everyday” stories inspire me.
From a professional perspective, I think the charitable work that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are doing is pretty amazing. Both of them have realized unbelievable success and wealth, and now they are giving back to society on a scale which is hard to even comprehend. It is a great story.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
James Cattermole: So many it would be Christmas before I finished listing them.
One thing I’ve learned is that removing of bad people is the best thing you can do for a team. Bad employees are like a cancer and they bring everyone else down. Over my career there have been a few people I should have dealt with earlier rather than giving them a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. Letting people go is one of the most unpleasant parts of being a manager, but it is short term pain for longer term gain.
What defines your way of doing business?
James Cattermole: Relationships count for everything, not networks.
“Networking” is the catch-phrase of business these days but no real business is done through networking. Just because you go to events and give out a hundred business cards does not mean anything will come from this. Real, meaningful, repeat business is achieved through real relationships. And the only way you form a lasting relationship with someone is through mutual benefit. Both parties must walk away from the transaction happy with the result otherwise they will never do business again.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
James Cattermole: The best piece of advice I can give is to jump in the deep end and have a go. The world is full of people who have a great idea and never do anything about it. No one knows which ideas are going to be successful and which aren’t, so the only way to know is to actually do it.
Test your theories and validate the concept as much as you can. But once this is done; go for it. Don’t die wondering.
Any other things you would like to share with other entrepreneurs/ VCs, please do feel free to key in your thoughts.
James Cattermole: I just hope the industry as a whole keeps pushing the boundaries, and that both entrepreneurs and VCs continue to back outrageous ideas. It’s the most unusual and disruptive ideas that have the biggest impact.