Interview with David Cummings

I recently met with entrepreneur David Cummings, recent founder and CEO of Pardot.  He is a local Atlanta guy that just sold his company for $100M to ExactTarget.  He’s a fairly young guy, but seasoned beyond his year’s in business. He is a very calculated, disciplined, and focused guy, but highly open and engaging. He definitely is inviting in conversation. I wanted to share some of the things that stuck with me with our recent meet up

Focus

David Cummings formed his new idea (marketing automation) while he was with his first company Hannon Hill.  He saw an opportunity to better track online ads. He found a good co-founder, Adam Blitzer, and created Pardot.  Each of them focused on 1. Creating a MVP (minimum viable product) and 2. Creating a sales culture which would aggressively sell their solution.   They would set small milestones and work together to remove any obstacles. (first 5 sales, reaching $1M in revenue, etc.).  They meticulously worked every day, all day.  50hrs+ a week for 7+ years dedicated to growth and success.  The book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ talks about this attitude of having a single purpose and visualizing the result.  David is a master at this.   I recently watched a show the other night called Brain Games.  It showed the degradation of ability and aptitude as you start to multi-task.  When you are texting and driving you are on the same level as being drunk.  Even if someone thinks they are great at juggling a ton of stuff they are usually wrong.  The brain is best suited for linear single functions.

Culture

David put a lot of effort into controlling the culture of his company.  They have a pretty rigorous interview process and the end result was that in over 7 years with 103 employees only 5 ever left.  They identified and hired the right people around 3 tenents

  1. Positive – Are they positive people.  How do they speak about other people, past jobs, opportunities, etc?   What does their body language say about their attitude and demeanor?  What is their outlook on life and people?
  2. Supportive – Are these the kind of people who help others because they want to help, not because they are supposed to help.  Do they perform tasks that are outside of their areas of expertise?  Are they OK in being a worker bee vs. a leader in certain situation.  Will they pick up the ball?
  3. Directional – Do these people live life with purpose?  Do they have goals and aspirations not just with work, but in all aspects of their life?  He asks them why they went to a certain college.  He listens to see if they went because their parents went there or if it was for a purpose.

He gets everyone beating to the same drum and really exemplifies the ‘Why’ you are doing something vs. the ‘What’.  He does this as a leader and by example.

Sales Oriented

Even though he is a self-taught developer, he is really a sales, marketing and ops kind of guy.  No doubt he is smart as he went to Duke, but he started with a sales first mentality first.  He said he never got hung up on the small technology issues like did the Outlook plug-in didn’t work or how they were going to beat spam filters.  He was more focused in how they were going to beat Marketo (a sales automation competitor) in sales.

Performance

He is very performance driven and very process oriented.  The program he moves his sales guys through is pretty cool.  It’s almost like a 5 year program.  He is constantly looking at the numbers and measuring where they are winning and losing.  He has a weekly check-in in with his team and asks– What have you done?  What are you doing next? and What are things that you are doing which embodies the company’s values?  He really presses the company’s values…in a very cultish mentality that works.  It’s probably some inherent psychological trait we are all susceptible too.

Passion

David is a guy that likes idea creation.  He is not one for being stuck in the grind of the day to day operations.  I think the main thing he understood about himself is that he needed to get  a win to continue to live out his passions.  Now he is afforded the opportunity to give back to the Atlanta technology community by building the ATV which is important to him.  He has already created and funded 5 new companies in which he has placed management teams to run the day to day operations   He likes building and creation.  He is able to achieve this by scoring  his big win.

These are just a few things I took away from the interview.  He just really impressed me by his leadership and establishing the clear path to success for his company.  He has all his people read ReWork and Drive.  ReWork allows him to say NO and determine what is good for the whole and Drive allows him to understand what inspires people.