This group meets once a month and discusses how we can better align strategies and tactics across all functional areas to drive successful outcomes to goals. This is a habit every successful entrepreneur must have.
Dean Stoecker is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and a founding partner of Alteryx. Dean’s leadership and motivational skills, along with his ability to create, communicate and realize a vision, are a driving force behind Alteryx’s focus on empowering analysts. He is an accomplished and respected industry professional with a strong knowledge of industry dynamics, technology trends, and application requirements related to market analysis and spatial technologies.
Prior to co-founding Alteryx, Dean led business development efforts for Integration Technologies, a systems integrator, where he helped develop technology that automated the selection of cellular tower locations for several of the company’s telecommunications customers, including AT&T Wireless Services. He also helped to develop the first geocoding engine tied to Experian’s real estate mainframe system and built a sophisticated flood certificate engine for a leading insurer. Dean also served as Vice President of Sales at Strategic Mapping and held various sales and strategic roles at Donnelly Marketing Information Services.
Dean is a frequent presenter at industry events, such as the Direct Marketing Association conference and various ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) regional events. He was also a contributing author for a book on geographic information systems, “Profiting from a Geographic Information System”, which was collected by Gilbert H. Castle and published by John Wiley and Sons.
Dean earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, plus a Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine University.
Where did the idea for Alteryx come from?
There isn’t a business out there that couldn’t benefit from better access to and analysis of their data – not sometime next week or next month, but today when the business needs it. I’ve worked for either software, data or analytics companies all my professional life, and none of them did all three very well. That’s why my co-founders, Olivia Duane Adams, Ned Harding and I, set out to create a company that excels at each but retains a core competency in software. Today, we are seeing our hard work come to fruition as Alteryx is now the leading platform for self-service data analytics.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
What I love about my days is that they are varied. My usual day starts around 4:30 am, where I sort through my inbox and email with people from around the world. I try to clear my inbox by the time I get to the office, to allow me to spend my time at the office mentoring and collaborating with others.
I have several meetings throughout the day with everyone from C-level executives to the analysts and users of our product. This allows me to stay connected with our customers and provide meaningful feedback to the product and management teams. I then work out during the lunch hour and try to get home at a reasonable hour to enjoy some time with my wife and dogs. I’ll check emails as I watch the news. I am never fully disconnected.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As the CEO of an analytics software company, I encourage my team to come with ideas that are substantiated with facts and analytics that led them to their ideas and/or back up their ideas. And, in the absence of facts, I recommend that they come with complete passion for their ideas.
In the end, it’s hard to bring ideas to life. You have to allow people to experiment, but also have to let them be aware when an idea is bad. That is why I encourage others to try to back their ideas with knowledge or facts. Don’t fall in love with an idea for too long – that is a nail in the coffin. Be willing to pivot midstream if the idea isn’t working.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One trend we are seeing in the tech world is the modernization of IT. The renaissance and reformation of IT moving from legacy products deep in IT to modern platforms in the line of business. Nowadays, most people have grown up with a phone, a game controller or some kind of electronic device in-hand. And, the same experience these people are having with their devices in their personal world, they are having with their professional world. Younger generations are getting excited about work again and want to love their jobs. There is a blurring of the lines between our personal and professional worlds and this is very exciting to see.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
There is not one single habit that makes me more productive. I think that the thing we’ve done at Alteryx specifically, is we’ve created a group called Bing Fa, influenced by Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. This group meets once a month and discusses how we can better align strategies and tactics across all functional areas to drive successful outcomes to goals. This is a habit every successful entrepreneur must have.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never had a ‘worst’ job. I’ve always looked at each job as an opportunity to learn, teach and grow. Of course, some jobs I’ve liked more than others, but there isn’t one that I can specifically call out.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I could start again, I would change the order in which we hired people. I would have hired business operations and sales operations personnel sooner. Analytics matter when running on your own cash, and even more important when running on other people’s money.
For the first 14 years of business at Alteryx, we did not raise any capital, however, we have raised $163 million in the past 5 years. We were a boot strapped business for a long time, but we built an amazing analytics platform and business. Overall, what we are doing today we set out to do 19 years ago. Getting to 400 employees is the easy part. Doing so efficiently and effectively is much harder.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Set personal KPIs (key performance indicators). When we onboard new employees, I participate in the onboarding process and advise each new employee to set KPIs for themselves to ensure they measure their own growth and prove to others that they are making a difference in the business. Average can never be allowed to win and if you cannot measure it, you should not do it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
This is really more of a tactic, but I never waver too far from my vision. A lot of entrepreneurs raise money, then panic when things don’t go according to plan. They then begin pivoting and changing their vision in significant ways. This is exactly the time when you shouldn’t rush or change your vision. Be the tortoise and not the hare.
Silicon Valley is classic for being the hare. Having patience is a tactic that allows entrepreneurs to avoid getting sidetracked by other opportunities that look more promising. Remember that you went into your business with a good idea, and if it is fact based you shouldn’t waver. Although, it’s also good to know when to throw in the towel.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Success level aside, every entrepreneur has lots of failures before getting success. As I mentioned before, I would have changed the way in which I hired our staff. We overcame this by being patient. Many times, hiring too quickly gets entrepreneurs into hot water and they run out of cash or their idea is not complete or the market is not ready. We were patient in that regard, but if we had hired differently we could have grown faster. I don’t see that as a regret, though.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe it was Nikola Tesla who said that he is not worried that others steal his ideas but worried that no one else had ideas of their own. I agree with that. I don’t have one specific idea to share. I only recommend that you take a look at ways you can improve upon simple things.
When I was a young boy, I had a little startup with no business experience or funding, but with the simple idea that people are always running out of one sock in a pair of socks. My grandfather would buy expensive argyle socks and lose one sock. If you offered people socks in packages of three you would never run into this issue, you’d always have a spare. This is just one example of a simple, but useful idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
One part of me would like to say a nice bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet, and the other would say a trilogy of books by Daniel J. Boorstin.
In the trilogy, Boorstin teaches you about history through the eyes of the people who shaped it, going back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The books offer a good way to think about historians, discovers and seekers who shaped our current world. I used it as a framework for my keynote address at our annual customer conference, Alteryx Inspire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9f6tkWgkNI
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Salesforce. It allows me to stay connected to all of the sales people and their current pipelines. It’s also very intuitive. Plus, our software platform integrates beautifully with Salesforce, so I receive better analytics on customer records thereby letting us leverage Salesforce better.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis.
Anyone who wants to get into the tech world should read this book. Everything we use and love today was inspired by Licklider. He was all about reducing friction between the machine and the human. He came up with new and inventive ideas such as online banking, the computer mouse and even the graphical user interface itself. All entrepreneurs and developers should read his works.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
The person who influenced me the most was my father. He was an entrepreneur himself and I worked for him for many years. While working for him I learned work ethics, how you should treat people and how you can build a positive work environment where people can thrive.
I’m also influenced by people like Buckminster Fuller. He thought about the world differently. He said that we are building all of the right tech for all of the wrong reasons.
Donald Trump has also been influential to me, as bombastic as he can be. I read his book years back and Trump’s advice on never giving up and never taking crap from anyone stuck with me. He’s right. You have to suck it up and keep going. There will be people who will say you won’t make it, but you can’t listen to them.