Marc Friedman has been working with enterprise software applications for a quarter of a century. After receiving his MBA at the University of Minnesota, he began his career at Accenture designing, developing and deploying enterprise business applications. At subsequent consultancies, he achieved the only perfect Client Satisfaction score in a consultancy’s European operations, and authored best practices for multinational application implementations. He worked at Salesforce running the Professional Services group for their flagship Northwest Region covering parts of the United States and Canada, which managed two of the four largest implementations of Salesforce at that time. In 2008, Friedman founded Cadalys, Inc. and positioned himself as a thought leader and contributor having been interviewed for and published in CXO, InformationWeek and Forbes.
Where did the idea for Cadalys come from?
We worked as a Product Development Outsourcer—building apps for other companies that they would market on Salesforce’s AppExchange. At the same time, as a former Managing Principal at Salesforce, I was keenly in tune with the direction of the various product teams. These two combined to give us the insight for new apps that would be strategic to both Salesforce and its customers and the deep expertise to build these apps rapidly and with world-class quality. We capitalized on this unique position and knowledge to form the enterprise application company that we are today.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I review a day’s schedule the night before so that when I begin work in the morning I already know what I need to be working on and preparing. However, the first thing I do is check emails and our internal messaging platform to see if anything requires my immediate attention. There are some team members up to 15 hours ahead of me. I do not take this particular time to address any non-urgent emails—those can wait until later. My day is generally productive because I block out working time in my calendar. This method allows me dedicated time to focus, produce and create. I also have dedicated time to respond to non-urgent emails rather than always keeping one eye on my inbox.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start by defining the idea either in Word, Quip or PowerPoint, which gets me in the mindset of presenting it to the team. This enables me to think through the idea from every angle—why is it a great idea? If it’s an idea for an internal initiative, what are the benefits and what concerns among the team might need to be overcome? If it’s an idea for a new external initiative, how will it benefit Cadalys, and why should it be prioritized over other initiatives? If it’s an idea for one of our offerings, how will it move the needle on our ARR, what are the barriers to entry and what are the competitive forces? And for any idea, how will it be received by employees, investors and customers? All of this helps me arrive at a bulletproof idea that can be clearly communicated, or if it isn’t bulletproof, then it’s a reality check on whether it truly is an idea worth bringing to life.
Then I fill out the Word/PowerPoint in preparation to present the idea and get everyone on board. I try to tailor the information to the team members who will be involved. Some are auditory and absorb information by listening, others are visual and absorb information by watching or reading, and others are Kinesthetic and like to get their hands on something in which case I may build a quick demo that they can use. One of our team members loves food analogies, so if they’re involved I might add a humorous touch with slides entitled “The Steak”, “The Sides” and “The Garnishes”.
A mistake I see made too often is people explaining ideas and concepts the way they want to explain them, rather than how the recipients prefer to listen and learn. The latter is magnitudes more effective.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that we are passionate about is the use of technology to transform healthcare in America. Healthcare costs in the U.S. are almost twice that of other wealthy countries. While some of this results in superior healthcare to other countries (for example we lead the rest of the OECD in five-year breast cancer survival), much of this high cost is due to inefficiencies. By using technology to weed out these inefficiencies we are helping insurance companies increase profits while lowering insurance premiums, helping hospitals and clinics achieve better outcomes at lower costs, and helping Pharma bring new medicines to life faster.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I try to strike a balance of getting just the right amount of information to make informed decisions. It’s not always easy, especially when the pace of growth puts a lot on our plates. Regardless of whether we’re having internal strategy discussions, evaluating a potential channel partner, or listening to a new idea from a team member, there are these opposing forces where part of me wants to get as much information as I can to make the best decision, but taking too much time gathering information can slow things down. Trying to strike a balance where you’re getting as little information as needed to make a right decision, even if it’s not always the best decision, has improved my productivity tremendously.
I try to instill the same discipline in the team. And an important counterpart is the mantra that once a decision is made, we proceed with it even if there are team members who may disagree. The analogy I have used is a team flying a plane and everyone decides to go to Paris. Then part way there, someone who wanted to go to the Bahamas tries to convince everyone again that The Bahamas is a better destination. Let’s say they’re successful, and the plane changes course. Then on the way to the Bahamas, someone else convinces everyone that Tokyo is a better destination and the plane changes course again. That plane is going to run out of gas and crash. So, we believe it is better to make a right decision and stick with it rather than getting bogged down in analysis paralysis quicksand to figure out which of the viable options are best.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. In retrospect, Cadalys would have grown faster in its early days had I not personally reviewed every line of code before it was deployed, every deck before it was presented, and contract before it was signed. I had a clear vision of the company that I wanted to create, but I didn’t need to be so deep in the weeds to do it. It would have been better overall for me to have reviewed samples of each, and communicate to the team the concepts of what makes great code, great presentations and airtight contracts. Cadalys has assembled a fantastic team of people. They would have accomplished more and accomplished it faster in the early days had my drive towards perfection not become a bottleneck to them.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The customer is not always right, although the customer’s best interest is always paramount. Let me explain:
We are experts in what we do, and there have been times when customers have asked us to build something for them that we know is against industry or business best practices. I have worked for companies in the past that have proceeded with the paid work despite knowing it was a bad idea, simply because “the customer is always right.” The incident that sticks in my memory the most was when a customer’s CIO asked the project lead, “Why did you let us do that?” I also can’t tell you how many “mop-up” projects Cadalys has done where another app company completely botched the implementation. We will never choose to make more money when it is not in the customer’s best interest.
Once you have established your expertise and earned the trust of customers, it’s a lot easier to help steer them away from decisions that you know they’ll later regret.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When I have my weekly one-on-one’s with my direct reports, it’s as much about them filling me in on what I need to know as it is understanding what roadblocks or obstacles they may be facing internally and externally and how I can help get these obstacles out of the way. I don’t view Cadalys as me driving the bus and telling everyone else how to do their jobs. We have a very talented team assembled, and once I’ve painted the vision for them (see above about bringing ideas to life), I see my job as running down the track in front of them getting obstacles out of their way. In many ways I work for them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We have a very high bar and a tight set of criteria for the apps we build, beyond just a large TAM/SAM/SOM. Specifically, we build apps that are mission-critical to our customers, and that help our partners sell more of their offerings. That’s subtly but importantly a very different approach than setting out to build an app based on an interest or an expertise. Here is what I mean by that: You have people with deep expertise in creating and distributing surveys, who therefore created a survey app. Or you have people with deep expertise in Know Your Customer regulations for the Financial Services industry, who therefore create an app that provides this functionality. They created apps based on their expertise. Our strategy was to approach this from the other direction. We started by identifying white space in the market that still had a large and growing TAM/SAM/SOM. That’s a small pool to begin with. From there, we evaluated these potential apps based on whether they would help our partners sell more of their offerings. That excludes a lot of candidate apps as well. Lastly, of the remaining pool we evaluated barriers to entry and then made decisions about which apps to build. We then train and hire world-class experts to support the development, sales and ongoing strategy for each app.
This has put us on a rapid growth trajectory for two reasons. First, we have large addressable markets where we can quickly capture the first-mover advantage. Second, because our apps help our partners increase the value of their offerings, we have partners selling our apps. This enables us to grow much faster and with a lower cost of sales than we otherwise would. We have hired some brilliant and experienced people in the respective domains that have led the charge in developing the apps and training our sales teams. It’s an unconventional strategy that has served us, our partners and our customers very well.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A long time ago, we had a customer that made some significant changes right after they started implementing one of our apps. They increased the scope of the functionality they wanted to implement, shortened the time frame, and swapped out their Project Manager with a contractor from a competitor. This was a recipe for failure and, instead of pushing back, we tried to make the project succeed. Everything bad that you would expect to happen with increased scope, decreased time, and a customer project manager who is trying to torpedo the project did happen, and the initiative failed.
We overcame this in several ways. Our customers have been very successful with our apps, and we learned our lesson about trying to succeed with customers where the deck is stacked against success. We also made changes to our master agreements that address customers deploying team members who have a conflict of interest with the success of our apps.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a lot of room for innovation and reducing inefficiencies in the realm of something so commonplace as scheduling meetings. Of all the tasks that are still completed manually these days, that area is just begging for innovation. I envision a voice-activated app where I just say, “Schedule a meeting with Pat Smith, Sam Brown and Jordan Jones in a room with A/V,” and it takes it from there. One challenge will be accessing calendars across organizations, although apps like Calendly have already cracked that nut.
The 2.0 release of this app could include coordinating real-time changes based on things like traffic and flight delays.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A subscription to Headspace, which was much less than $100. Meditation reduces stress while decreasing levels of cortisol and cytokines, both of which hamper performance due to physical issues. It improves concentration, attention span and focus, each of which improves performance professionally and personally. Meditation increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which improves the ability to learn. It also decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, which thereby decreases fear, anxiety and stress. We’re planning to offer a Headspace subscription to all employees as another perk of being part of the Cadalys team.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Salesforce. Cadalys is continuing to run more and more of its business on Salesforce beyond just the typical CRM use cases. For example, we run the bulk of our strategy planning and execution, recruiting, and ITSM in Salesforce. It offers a single platform where we can run mission-critical components of our business. I use it for real-time updates on key areas of the business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. It’s a practical and proven approach towards successful negotiation by finding win-win scenarios.
What is your favorite quote?
“One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum, in which men steal through existence, like sluggish waters through a marsh, without either honor or observation.”
– Walter Scott
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.