Q&A with Frank Roe, CEO of SmartBear
6+ million software professionals and 20,000+ companies in 194 countries use SmartBear products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications.
We connected with Frank Roe, CEO of SmartBear, for a Q&A on his new role in the company and to see how SmartBear is transitioning and learning to adapt in these challenging times.
You joined SmartBear nearly two years ago as Chief Revenue Officer running the sales organization worldwide. What about the company interested you in the first place?
A few things really; as CRO, you want a strong market for your products, and I’ve learned over the years those products must be reliable and have the utmost in quality. Additionally, it was evident SmartBear had a really strong executive team and its PE owner, Francisco Partners, was extremely supportive. After the first few months, it became obvious that we had a world class sales team as well. With a little structure and drive, we would do some great things…and that we did, including beating 2019 revenue goals!
SmartBear named you as CEO two weeks before the pandemic shut-downs, disrupting all of our lives. Can you describe a few of the top challenges you’ve faced while transitioning into leading the company?
Yes, it was sort of a crazy time to start, but it was obvious from the start we needed to make timely decisions and act quickly. One area of concern was maintaining communications within the company as every office worldwide shut down over the course of a week, as we transitioned to “work from home.” My goal was to make sure people not only knew they were still part of a strong, cohesive organization, but that we would survive this and come out stronger for it. So, we opened up a lot of lines of communication; initiating weekly all-company virtual standups, and other new forums on Slack for sharing between teams in addition to virtual social gatherings like happy hours.
What are the top two or three most important leadership attributes you are practicing that are helping during this time?
At SmartBear, we pride ourselves on our core values of smart, open, driven, accountable, and curious; so it was fairly seamless to double down on a few of these for the first few weeks.
For me, it felt fairly obvious at the time that smart and driven was something that was going to easily transfer into a WFH environment without further reinforcement. I made a clear decision to push openness and what I like to call the other side of accountable, and that is authority. Early on, I, with the support of our entire leadership team, reinforced that though we never planned for this scenario, we were built for it. Through frequent and open communications, we wouldn’t skip a beat.
A lot of our workforce is under 35, which means many have never worked through something like this before, such as 9/11 or the 07/08 financial recession. In these times, it’s critical more than ever that people know they have the authority to make decisions; so that’s been another important theme to reinforce.
Being in the fast-moving software development industry, is there a silver lining to all of this?
Yes, at the macro level, I predict that software development will reap many benefits from this rapid, nearly overnight move to a distributed workforce. Those companies fortunate enough to have built their business around omnichannels, particularly ecommerce, will flourish, and they in turn will consume much more software. Those that aren’t so lucky and were a bit caught by surprise in all of this will desperately try and build those channels before it’s too late. All of this will result in rapid development of a lot of new software, and fortunately, SmartBear is right in the middle of it all.
Our mission as a company is focused around quality – ensuring anyone developing software can deliver better quality applications and tools, faster for their customers. We are all about testing, test automation, collaboration, documentation, and management at all stages of software and API development.
It’s not just about entrepreneurs and companies launching software faster than ever; it has to work and handle the loads.
How have the people at SmartBear stepped up during this time?
That’s a trick question, right? I would say that within 24 hours, we were 95% up and running and in 48 hours we were at 99%. That’s especially significant since we have people in countries all over the world. We also found out that one or two didn’t have great home internet, so we quickly helped them find a solution. Our people, process, and technology were all built for such a transition.
Something that everyone may not know is that SmartBear has been fortunate to not just have acquired some outstanding companies over the years, but to have created a culture where the founders of those companies have remained on board within the SmartBear family. And, they are flourishing here. That entrepreneurial spirit really helped inspire all of us during this transition, and we will be showcasing their stories in our Founders’ Series throughout the remainder of 2020.
Is there anything you’d like to say to customers of SmartBear?
Proudly, we just finished our first virtual user conference with great success. It surpassed all of our expectations with over 66 countries being represented!
SmartBear isn’t just committed to meeting each of our customers’ unique needs; we’re prepared to meet those needs, even as they change amidst everything else that’s changed in the world. Our products are designed to help our customers meet their customers’ demands while weathering the challenges of an evolving world.
Our message: first, thank you for your continued faith in us and your business over the years. Second, we are here for you. Quality software isn’t the goal. It’s the whole point. ☺
Is there any advice you have for new CEOs out there, after you’ve been through an onboarding period like no other?
Sort of early to be handing out advice I think, but since you asked, I guess it would be “go with what got you to the position.” Don’t try to transform yourself into something different out of the gate. Take time to pause and reflect, and my best advice for any executive position, don’t go it alone – lean hard on your team and then act decisively.
Want to learn more about SmartBear? Check out their Company Page