Editor’s Note: Sam Bayer is the founder and recently retired CEO of Corevist, a Durham-based bootstrapped software company launched in 2008. Bayer launched his career in 1980 working for IBM, which he left when he founded his first entrepreneurial endeavor Axiom Systems in 1987. Axiom would eventually be taken public through an initial public offering. Bayer notes that his entire 42-year professional career was guided by his determination to negotiate win-win value with his customers and fueled by his thirst for knowledge and scientific approach to problem solving. He recounted his entrepreneurial leadership experiences in the “Stories at Work” series for WRAL TechWire. You can also follow Bayer on instagram @sam.bayer and at email@example.com any feedback about this series.
This blog post is the final addition to the Stories at Work series authored by Bayer. Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DURHAM – Most days in life are ordinary. A few change you forever.
There was a lot going on in my head as I pulled into the office building parking lot where I was about to host our Q1 2017 Quarterly Business Review (fondly known as a QBR).
A few months earlier I had negotiated the departure of the second of my two co-founders. Both left the business for health reasons and I was the last man standing. I was sad they wouldn’t be continuing the entrepreneurial journey with me but proud of how we handled their exits.
I was also thinking about the anniversaries coming up in 2017. Corevist was entering its 10th year of business and I would celebrate my 60th birthday. While my mind and body were in good health, my partners’ situations reminded me that we’re not in charge.
I challenged myself to navigate Corevist to a place where I could safely retire at 65, leaving the company in a good place to continue without me. I didn’t yet know how I was going to make that happen, but like so many other challenges I had on the entrepreneurial journey, I had faith I’d figure it out.
But right now, I had a QBR to facilitate.
Going from ‘good’ to ‘great’
We started with each functional head reviewing their team’s performance against the plan. True to our history: our revenue was growing, clients were happy and deriving value, our implementations were under-staffed, our product investments were struggling, and our deal pipeline was modest at best.
All in all we were good but not great. We wanted to be great.
That was the next item on our agenda. How do we define great and how do we get there?
It didn’t take us long to agree that a great company is one where an alchemic mix of people, process and culture consistantly produce predictable and significant growth, quarter after quarter.
Now for the how. How do we transform ourselves from good to great?
We weren’t lacking opinions.
Every functional head pitched their point of view and presented their departmental budget requests. While all requests had merit, there certainly wasn’t enough money to fund them all. Even if we did, they couldn’t all be implemented simultaneously. We had to create a spending game plan.
A redirect, and a lesson learned
I then asked the question which would redirect our future: “How do we decide what our next best move should be?”
Everyone started to scan the room. People were looking for answers on the ceiling, the floor and out the window. No one made eye contact. Then, after a long pause, our Director of Sales stepped forward to become the de facto spokesperson for the group.
With the certainty of 1+1=2, he offered, “We’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll use Corevist’s GTS methodology”.
“GTS?” I asked.
“G-T-S”, he said, “Go-To-Sam”.
At that moment, I knew he was right. I had – yet again – disingenuously asked the “what do we do next” question hoping the team would come up with what I had already decided.
Things (read: I) had to change if Corevist was ever going to have a chance at surviving without me. And until Corevist could survive without me, I couldn’t retire. On that day we decided to change our corporate operating system from “GTS” to what came to be known as “EOS,” our Entrepreneurial Operating System. EOS would help us clarify our vision and mission, give us the tools to gain traction on our vision and do so in a healthy way.
With the guidance of our EOS sherpa, Paul Levering, we began our transformation journey in the winter of 2017. We developed an Accountability Chart ensuring that we had the right people in the right seats and doing the right things. We instituted weekly departmental meetings with fixed agendas and most importantly, distinguished between working “in” the business versus “on” the business. We knew where we wanted to go, everyone knew how to contribute and we were monitoring our progress along the way.
We were gaining traction and most importantly, putting GTS behind us.
Just over 5 years later, I was able to retire 2 months shy of my 65th birthday. It was no coincidence my last quarter at the helm at Corevist was the best in the company’s history. The Corevist team had evolved from good to great and was ready for the next stage of growth to be led by the team at Jurassic Capital.