Ready, Set, Grow: Jim McGeever, executive vice president at Oracle NetSuite, speaks with CXOTalk about how his company helps other businesses and entrepreneurs manage rapid growth through innovation and an eye on tomorrow.

“If you’re growing, you could be making huge mistakes in how you’re operating your business, and you don’t really know it because you’re just looking at this great growth and thinking everything is working out great,” McGeever says.

“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday is going to be good enough for tomorrow. Innovation in a high growth mode is a mindset. If you don’t believe it in your core and all your focus is on the numbers, you’re not going to see the kind of growth you want, or it will stop; it will stall; something will happen. You’ll just never continue to get what you want if you just don’t have that mindset of constant innovation.”

As EVP, McGeever leads all customer, vertical, product and human resource activities at NetSuite, one of the leading cloud computing software companies in the world. He joined the company in 2000 as Chief Financial Officer and was a driving force behind NetSuite's successful IPO in 2007.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: We are live at NetSuite's SuiteWorld 2018 conference. I'm Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk.

We are speaking right now with Jim McGeever, who is the executive vice president at Oracle. Hey, Jim. How are you?

Jim McGeever: I'm doing great. How are you doing?

Michael Krigsman: Good. Jim, as I speak with your customers, rapid growth, that's the theme.

Jim McGeever: Yes, that's the theme of the conference: Ready, Set, Grow. It's what defines a NetSuite customer. They grow faster than non-NetSuite customers.

Michael Krigsman: How can a company that's growing rapidly innovate and, at the same time, maintain the control that they need to actually run a business?

Jim McGeever: Okay. We said we've got eight minutes. This may take a while. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Jim McGeever: Let me start with something. The one thing about growth, growth covers all sins. If you're growing, you could be making huge mistakes in how you're operating your business, and you don't really know it because you're just looking at this great growth and thinking everything is working out great.

But, what happens to all businesses, not every business continues as rapid. There's usually starts and stops. When growth slows, it uncovers all the problems that you did or you didn't do properly when you were going through this rapid growth phase. A lot of it comes down to how you're taking care of your customers, how you've built in processes, how you're servicing them, and so growth covers all sins.

The way to keep innovating during these phases, because if things are going well, the motivation to really change isn't really there, it's just the belief that growth is constant. Growth doesn't stop; growth is evolution; it's focus; it's all the things that you need to keep doing in order to grow your business. You can't let growth be the thing that stops you from doing the right thing.

Michael Krigsman: What about innovation and doing the right thing for the customer? Where do those fit in?

Jim McGeever: Here's the thing with growth. Again, growth covers all sins. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday is going to be good enough for tomorrow. Innovation in a high growth mode is a mindset. If you don't believe it in your core and all your focus is on the numbers, you're not going to see the kind of growth you want, or it will stop; it will stall; something will happen. You'll just never continue to get what you want if you just don't have that mindset of constant innovation.

I tell you one thing for me is, a lot of this is personality-based. I sometimes can drive people crazy, but I'm the kind of person that looks at something and nothing is almost ever good enough. Like when I'm playing golf, I hit a ball onto the green. It's like, "Eh, I could have been two feet closer to the flag." That's kind of the mindset you have to have. It's like you always want to make it better.

Michael Krigsman: As I speak with NetSuite customers, it seems that a challenge that many of them face is this transition from the entrepreneurial led company to scaling.

Jim McGeever: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: You've done that, obviously, very successfully with NetSuite.

Jim McGeever: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are going through that transition?

Jim McGeever: One of the biggest differences between being an entrepreneur and being a company that's scaling is the level of management you have. When you're an entrepreneur, you do everything. You've got 50 jobs. Now you start hiring people to do jobs that you want them to do.

There's an old line, and I actually think it's very true. The worst run department in any company is the one where the boss came from because they're trying to run it for them. They hire someone, but then they try and run it for them.

The key [is], as you start to scale, you've got to hire great

Michael Krigsman: We are live at NetSuite's SuiteWorld 2018 conference. I'm Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk.

We are speaking right now with Jim McGeever, who is the executive vice president at Oracle. Hey, Jim. How are you?

Jim McGeever: I'm doing great. How are you doing?

Michael Krigsman: Good. Jim, as I speak with your customers, rapid growth, that's the theme.

Jim McGeever: Yes, that's the theme of the conference: Ready, Set, Grow. It's what defines a NetSuite customer. They grow faster than non-NetSuite customers.

Michael Krigsman: How can a company that's growing rapidly innovate and, at the same time, maintain the control that they need to actually run a business?

Jim McGeever: Okay. We said we've got eight minutes. This may take a while. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Jim McGeever: Let me start with something. The one thing about growth, growth covers all sins. If you're growing, you could be making huge mistakes in how you're operating your business, and you don't really know it because you're just looking at this great growth and thinking everything is working out great.

But, what happens to all businesses, not every business continues as rapid. There's usually starts and stops. When growth slows, it uncovers all the problems that you did or you didn't do properly when you were going through this rapid growth phase. A lot of it comes down to how you're taking care of your customers, how you've built in processes, how you're servicing them, and so growth covers all sins.

The way to keep innovating during these phases, because if things are going well, the motivation to really change isn't really there, it's just the belief that growth is constant. Growth doesn't stop; growth is evolution; it's focus; it's all the things that you need to keep doing in order to grow your business. You can't let growth be the thing that stops you from doing the right thing.

Michael Krigsman: What about innovation and doing the right thing for the customer? Where do those fit in?

Jim McGeever: Here's the thing with growth. Again, growth covers all sins. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday is going to be good enough for tomorrow. Innovation in a high growth mode is a mindset. If you don't believe it in your core and all your focus is on the numbers, you're not going to see the kind of growth you want, or it will stop; it will stall; something will happen. You'll just never continue to get what you want if you just don't have that mindset of constant innovation.

I tell you one thing for me is, a lot of this is personality-based. I sometimes can drive people crazy, but I'm the kind of person that looks at something and nothing is almost ever good enough. Like when I'm playing golf, I hit a ball onto the green. It's like, "Eh, I could have been two feet closer to the flag." That's kind of the mindset you have to have. It's like you always want to make it better.

Michael Krigsman: As I speak with NetSuite customers, it seems that a challenge that many of them face is this transition from the entrepreneurial led company to scaling.

Jim McGeever: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: You've done that, obviously, very successfully with NetSuite.

Jim McGeever: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are going through that transition?

Jim McGeever: One of the biggest differences between being an entrepreneur and being a company that's scaling is the level of management you have. When you're an entrepreneur, you do everything. You've got 50 jobs. Now you start hiring people to do jobs that you want them to do.

There's an old line, and I actually think it's very true. The worst run department in any company is the one where the boss came from because they're trying to run it for them. They hire someone, but then they try and run it for them.

The key [is], as you start to scale, you've got to hire great people, and you've got to work with them to make sure they're with your vision and they're not just trying to run it in the way they have in the past. Having good people that can actually scale with you is important. The same people are going to be different at different stages of growth.

Actually, one thing that we found was someone who really helped get us off the ground that didn't do a good job of initial scaling was actually great at scaling at a larger scale. It's not just that this person is for small or mid. It's a different skillset.

Michael Krigsman: Now, as you're building software, you're obviously in very close contact with your customers. As you're designing the product and building the product, how do these factors roll into the product design?

Jim McGeever: The hardest part, especially when you do what we do where people are so reliant on our software to run their businesses and for us to make their lives easier, the thing they're always asking for is, "I need this feature." A lot of times what we get from people is, "I need this feature," and that's the wrong question to ask. We probably, over our lives, spent too much time saying, "Yes, we'll build that feature."

What we actually needed to do is we needed to understand their problem and solve their problem. When we first built NetSuite, that's exactly what we did. Evan didn't know anything about accounting. He knew about platforms. And so, when we said, "Well, this is what accounts do, and this is how you need to build it," he's like, "That doesn't make any sense to me. This is a much easier way of solving that problem," and that's what he did. I think the key is, and the way you keep innovating is, you just keep that mindset of, "How do I solve the problem?" not, "How do I build the feature?"

Michael Krigsman: You're looking at the business outcomes that your customers are facing and the metrics and so forth. That becomes your reference point, shall we say.

Jim McGeever: Right. Our goal is to make their lives easier, to spend less time doing work and more time focused on their business. We'll take care of the back office. We'll take care of the system. You go figure out what makes your business unique, special, and differentiated.

Michael Krigsman: Is that your guiding light or your reference point as a company?

Jim McGeever: Absolutely. When we're building products for customers, that's absolutely how we think about it. The original mission statement of NetSuite was to help entrepreneurs grow their business. That's 20 years ago, and it's basically the same thing we're talking about now.

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, you speak with so many different NetSuite customers, what advice do you have for companies that are making this transition, again, from a rapidly growing entrepreneurial company to a larger scaling up business?

Jim McGeever: Okay. One of the things that's actually really important, even though I hate to use the word, is "process." You need the right business processes, not just financial processes, but mostly business processes. Those are really the recipes of what made your company successful.

What the entrepreneur did for those first few customers that they loved, you want to take that, create the process or the recipe, so you can hand it to another person, so they can repeat it and grow with it. A good process is a great thing. A bad process is a terrible thing.

Don't put a process in place because someone wanted something stupid. Put a process in place because it's going to deliver value to a customer.

Michael Krigsman: Be very thorough and careful in the evaluation of the processes.

Jim McGeever: Yes, and you shouldn't just always be adding new processes. It's almost like a government regulation. You should always think, for every process I add, I should remove one as well. I can guarantee some of the processes that worked when you were smaller are not the same ones that will be needed or the right ones when you're larger.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. You're running the NetSuite business unit. Let's finish up. Give us the NetSuite sales pitch.

Jim McGeever: The sales pitch: We will help run your business in the cloud better than any solution available on the planet right now. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: All right. Jim McGeever, thank you so much.

Jim McGeever: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.