Anthony Foy – CEO of Workshare

[quote style=”boxed”]Every year, I take one week in which I track every single minute of the day. It helps me figure out where my time is going, and allows me to ask myself whether my time is going into productive projects. [/quote]

Anthony is CEO of Workshare. Previously, he held the parallel position at SkyDox, where he focused on executing the company’s vision for delivering secure, cloud-enabled collaboration to the enterprise. Anthony brings more than 20 years of experience to Workshare and has built profitable technology ventures in Europe, North America, Asia, Latin America, and Australia.

Prior to joining SkyDox, Anthony was Group Managing Director at Interxion (NYSE: INXN) and was responsible for the development of the company in terms of strategic growth, business development, and executive hires. He was instrumental in driving the company’s operational performance and building its revenue to more than $350 million, culminating in an IPO in early 2011.

Before joining Interxion, he was Senior Vice President and General Manager International with Broadbase Software [now Kana Software (NASDAQ: KANA)], where he built the company’s international operations, growing the company from a start-up to an IPO with revenues of more than $100 million. Prior to this, he was Director, International Sales & Business Development with Red Brick Systems [now part of IBM (NYSE:IBM)].

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I’m predominantly focused on our collaboration application, which significantly enhancing to further improve the efficiency of the collaborative process amongst groups of people working together within and outside of organizational and geographic boundaries.

People’s working styles today are being driven more and more by the need to work with multiple teams, better serve clients, and the need to be productive while working on-the-move, so giving users a way to work efficiently with multiple people and if need be, from anywhere and any device, continues to be our focus – it’s re-inventing the way people work.

Where did the idea for Workshare come from?

The idea comes from a continuous need to evolve the way we work. “Creating useful software people love” is our mission and what we strive for, by developing technology that lets users get ahead and reinvent the way they work.

If you think back on how people used to create and collaborate on documents, for example when reviewing a legal contract , a lawyer would read a document aloud while an intern would read along on a second version, marking up instances where there were differences between each. It was all a manual process. Workshare‘s patented DeltaView software automated that process over 10 years ago.

Or, in the same way that someone would have historically packaged up a document and sent it via express postal service, and more recently via FTP sites, mobile devices, and email we are now offering technology that provides a secure means of sharing documents simply , whether on a PC, laptop or mobile device.

How do you make money?

We have a range of applications that cover online, desktop, and mobile channels delivered through traditional and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models. We have a large user base of more than 1.8 million so that’s how we fundamentally make our money. But what’s really helped us maintain our success is our ability to understand and deliver value to our customers, giving them products they love to use. We have a 98+ percent retention rate of customers renewing their product licenses, which has been consistent across more than a decade of Workshare’s history.

What does your typical day look like?

I spend a lot of time traveling, getting out in front of customers and partners – which takes up more than a third of my time. When I am in the office, I’m mostly involved in product development work and making sure the solutions we’re creating are truly meeting our customers’ needs, while pushing the boundaries in terms of innovation.

I think having a good balance between internal and external work helps to bring all aspects of the company together. While my days are filled with quite a few internal meetings and quite a bit of email, I do it in a disciplined fashion to free up the majority of my time to talk to customers and partners outside of the company. I also spend a good amount of time speaking to employees across the board. No matter what size company you are, as a CEO I believe it’s really important to spend time engaging with employees at all levels. Some of the best insight can surface from doing this. At Workshare we hold regular ‘All Hands’ meetings to keep everyone updated. We also involve every single member of staff in developing our company values and key decisions, getting feedback from everyone from the receptionist to senior management.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The way I bring ideas to life materializes effectively through working with a group of people. The software we create is all about collaboration, and we practice what we preach. When dealing with complex business problems in a rapidly evolving marketplace, you need to cultivate an engaging environment and bring together a lot of different people with diverse backgrounds and capabilities. When they come together, there is a creative process of generating ideas, debating those ideas and then nailing them down into a set of operating priorities to execute against.

What is one trend that really excites you?

Email is the largest collaboration tool in the world, but it was defined for a narrow set of applications and has been broadly abused and overused. I’m excited by the evolutions we’re seeing in communication and collaborative environments, and how they will augment email to offer better ways of working with people.

Email is effective when you’re collaborating with two to three people. Facebook, on the other end of the spectrum, connects you to hundreds of friends. But that piece in the middle is where business is conducted, in groups of 20 to 25. This is where the evolution needs to happen, so people can come together for purpose-driven conversation and collaboration around documents.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a dishwasher at Red Lobster in San Francisco. At the end of the evening, you were covered in melted butter and lobster juice – you couldn’t get the stench out of you! But what came out of it was the realization that sometimes, there are no shortcuts and you just have to work hard. It’s helpful to be smart and pleasant with people, but at the end of the day, it boils down to hard work.

I worked my way quickly from the back end of the restaurant to the front, and this is where I first acquired my skills in sales. I learned how to read people, how to identify what they want and how to upsell them from the $10 bottle of wine to the $30 bottle.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I think the most valuable thing you can have, that you always want more of, is customer feedback. But it’s not always the easiest thing to get your hands on and when you do get it, its gold dust. I’d like to find ways to get more customer feedback. Fortunately, we do have a lot of customers who are really eager to participate in feedback programs, especially our early adopters.

Our CTO, Barrie Hadfield, likes using this analogy: working in technology is like producing a film that never ends. In the same way that a movie audience buys into a never ending story, technology companies must not stop evolving and innovating. They need to make sure their buyers are tuned into their technology, in the same way that an audience continues to show up for a movie.

As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Every year, I take one week in which I track every single minute of the day. It helps me figure out where my time is going, and allows me to ask myself whether my time is going into productive projects. It’s easy to get swept away and lose sight of what it is you’re trying to do, and the only way to stay anchored in the right direction is evaluating your time. If I’m managing my time effectively, it will be evident in my calendar. If I’m not, I’ll clearly be able to see where my productivity is falling short.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of the most difficult things you face in any kind of organization is hiring people. I had one particular experience that was personally wrenching, where I hired someone that I had known previously and they turned out to be the wrong person for the job. I initially thought this person was capable, but eventually realized that they were not cut out for the hours, the emotional commitment and hardship. I tried to hold onto this person, but in the end, I had to recognize the skill disparity and make a change.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’m not sure how this would ever be accomplished, but I wish there was some way to reward and publicly recognize people for being kind to one another. That would be a nice place to live.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

There’s a mobile app used in London called YPlan, which offers up spontaneous events that you can get quick and easy access to. Another favorite would be Uber – transportation available on demand! I also enjoy using Evernote.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I read a great book recently called Shanteram, by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a fantastic historical fiction novel about an escaped convict that goes onto become a gang member in Mumbai. It’s an amazing story that really transports you away from what you’re doing.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Considering the people I work with, it happens every day, all the time. To me, the quality of a work environment can be determined by how often you hear people laugh or spontaneous applause. Here in the UK, good humor is common place although they’re often a bit off-color, so I probably shouldn’t share them here!

Who is your hero, and why?

I have several heroes, and while I can’t choose one in particular, there is one quality they all share, which is a high moral standard and willingness to stand up for it. Having the grit and fortitude to do so against all the odds is what I really value in my heroes.


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