As a follow-up to my conversation with David Skok on How Not To Get Fired as an Executive, I felt compelled to reach out to Mike Volpe to see what makes him so successful as an executive of HubSpot, one of Boston's fastest growing companies. Mike was kind enough to share some of his thoughts and offered some practical advice.
Q. As your role has expanded, how did you keep a panoramic view of your customers and not rely on past assumptions or wisdom?
Mike Volpe (MV): Since I joined HubSpot, the company has grown from 5 employees to over 650, and from 10 customers to 10,000. But our mission hasn’t changed. We all identify with one core component of our culture: “Solve For The Customer” (SFTC). Lucky for me, I still have a lot of customer interaction through social media, on phone calls, and at our INBOUND conference. By both looking at aggregate data and hearing 1-1 feedback, I think we all try to maintain a good understanding of our customers. We also use our own platform every day, which helps us live the customer experience.
Q. What advice do you have for executives to stay relevant in a dynamic industry?
MV: Start connecting. Followers, prospects, and customers can find anything on the web, so companies are becoming more transparent than ever. A huge part of that is how accessible your executive team is. I see CEOs and CMOs on social media, but a lot of them aren’t actually engaging on those platforms. I spend a ton of time on Twitter connecting with fellow marketers, answering prospects’ questions, building relationships with influencers, and giving a HubSpot a C-level voice. Take it from a die-hard inbound marketer, being helpful and authentic works.
Q. Has your approach to inspire and share your vision changed as HubSpot has grown?
MV: At HubSpot, we’ve always been guided by the fact that humans have fundamentally changed the way they live, shop, work, and buy. We set out seven years ago to transform the way businesses attract, engage, and delight customers using inbound marketing. On a macro-level, that hasn’t changed. But as we’ve grown, the inbound experience has extended beyond marketing into the world of sales and services. Recently we released Signals, a new product to help sales and service reps. We’re not necessarily thinking differently than we were before, we’re just thinking bigger.
Q. How do you find ways to get your ideas embraced by others? Any suggestions how to successfully interact with insecure or territorial executives?
MV: Use data. Keep in mind that executives are always thinking about moving the needle on the company’s overall goals and mission. If you’re presenting an idea to your CEO, go over how it will help with lead gen or revenue or profitability and explain how you will measure the success of the project. Your boss, manager, and exec team can get behind an idea that is results-driven, so make sure you’re thinking about metrics.
Q. How do you fight the “voices of doubt” and push down insecurity to lead your organization through growth?
MV: I try to be really transparent because if I fake it, my team can tell. I guess this is why my acting career never worked out. But when I do need a little positive reinforcement, I look through old emails from customers and fans - we have an email alias internally where people throughout the company forward those messages. When you read them you realize that HubSpot has transformed the lives of thousands of people. We get emails all the time from people who literally LOVE how we have enabled them to improve their careers, grow their business, make their lives easier, taught them something, or just made them smile. If you don’t want to go out there and keep changing the business world after that then you need to have your heart examined.
Q. How do you maintain work and life balance?
MV: As CMO of a rapidly-growing startup and father of two boys under the age of 3, there’s never a dull moment, and often a lack of sleep. To enhance your work / life fit, you need to start by realizing that an endless amount of opportunities at work is a good thing - it means you have opportunity - and that your job is to focus, focus, focus on the things that will make the biggest difference. I try to have family time each day, without my phone or other distractions, and I try to compartmentalize my work time on weekends to specific blocks and otherwise not be tethered to my phone. I cannot effectively multitask work and family at the same time because I end up doing both poorly, so I try to have an on/off switch for work. The biggest lesson I have learned is that as you scale focus and prioritization becomes critical. Oh, and the nap room we have in the office is very useful for a sleep deprived parent!