Marcus Turner - President and CTO of Enola Labs

I want to foster an attitude where we are really just a sales and marketing organization that happens to produce world-class software.

Marcus Turner is an accomplished analytical and technical architect with a successful track record in the planning and delivery of large scale enterprise solutions. His background includes the development of critical systems architectures and transformation strategies resulting in increased operational efficiency and dramatic cost reduction. After nearly a decade of service as a senior member of Hewlett Packard’s Technical Team, Marcus has worked as the Chief Solutions Architect for HP Consulting, Atomic Axis and now Enola Labs, serving clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Educated at MIT and Oregon State, where he serves on the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Board, Marcus is a thought leader often invited to speak at technology conferences such as Techweek, Innotech, and The Google Developer’s Conference.

Where did the idea for Enola Labs come from?

Early in my career, I had an opportunity to work for an innovation company within their labs. The idea was simple; bring together the some of the brightest minds to provide innovative solutions to truly challenging customer problems. Prior to Enola Labs, we had another mobile company which we spent a few years building called Atomic Axis. We used Atomic Axis as the basis of starting Enola Labs (YouTube video) to not only get a massive kick-start with established customers, but also be able to provide a true labs environment to not only foster, but actually drive innovative solutions and thought patterns.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Within an innovation center like Enola Labs, there really isn’t such a thing as a typical day. I might be sitting with a team on ideation of customer challenges; reviewing new technology and services or simply facilitating a conversation with a customer on how to best leverage technology as an asset within their business or channel.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am a big believer in research. It’s not all cases where innovation is actually invention, but rather a lot of the time it’s a unique combination of technologies put together in ways that were previously not conceived. We leverage our discovery processes to take a customer idea and add substantial value in extending the idea into a more complete end user experience.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Enterprise mobility that not only streamlines existing processes, but also actually opens new capabilities and business lines. For years within enterprise solutions, we didn’t think about the end user (customer, employee, etc) as the solution stakeholder, but rather just someone who used the system. I truly get excited that now we focus much of the overall acceptance criteria for projects around engagement and ease of use for the end user.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am not sure that it’s something that makes me more productive, but I have been able to have tremendous success throughout my career simply by “stepping up” and accepting any task and simply working harder than anyone else.

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

At a very young age, my father thought it was important for me to have a full time summer job. So when I was 12, I started working on a large farm and ranch. Life on the ranch taught me great lessons in hard work, but the worst part of it was during the winter when we had to do the calving … I was the only one with small enough, yet long enough arms to reach in and pull out the calves. Not a horrible job if you could ever get used to the smell.

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

I am actually getting the opportunity to do this within Enola Labs; which is something that I did not have the flexibility to do within my previous company, Atomic Axis. Foster a culture where we get the most out of the team, by getting more out of each of our individuals. Really, a lot of this comes from the simple fact that one focused “A player” can outperform a number of “B players”. Take the “B players” out of the mix and allow everyone to challenge each other to continue to bring out their very best.

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

Drive the business with excellence in business development – really focus on sales and marketing. I want to foster an attitude where we are really just a sales and marketing organization that happens to produce world-class software.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’d say a focus on the overall reduction of risk. Within software, there is often a focus on price- and sure, that is an important factor. However, within enterprise software, the focus of the smart buyer is often actually a focus on quality and on schedule delivery; which actually reduces their overall exposure and risk.

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

Not understanding that paying taxes is a GREAT thing for a business. Really, how much tax is being paid is a very good indicator as to how well the business is actually doing. We had a very large project where the customer asked to defer payments until the next fiscal year. We thought that would be great until we found out that in January of the following year, they filed for Chapter 11.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Super Regional Airports. Okay, so every airport has issues with flight delays and the people that live in the flight path of the planes. (Side note: most of the people that complain moved there AFTER the airport was built.) However, we have the technology via high-speed trains to centralize many of our airports to become “super regional airports” that are effectively in the middle of nowhere. Such a super regional airport in Southern California could service LA, Orange County, Las Vegas and San Diego; all connected by high speed trains. Come on Elon (MUSK) … make this your next venture!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)

A day with the family is by far the best $100 that I have recently spent. As an entrepreneur, I tend to spend a lot of time on and in the business, however, it’s important to keep the correct perspective of what should be the priorities of life.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Probably one of the software tools that mean the most to the productivity of our business would be the Atlassian suite of tools. Our model within these tools give us and our customers a very high level of transparency and the ability to facilitate rapid engineering patterns within each of our teams.

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

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. This book was a very quick read but provided some additional stories and people that were behind the digital revolution.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

These may be a bit unoriginal, but Bill Gates is an individual everyone can admire. Obviously his work in the business world was incredible and affects the way we all live today, but his work with the foundation is what makes him special. Focusing on the less sexy investments in this world, but the ones that really make all the difference- mosquito nets, roads and infrastructure to get critical items to people’s doorsteps, vaccines, education. You can tell he looks at the numbers and makes decisions based on what is best for the collective, not what looks good in a headline. Beyond philanthropy, I always enjoy reading and listening to what Peter Thiel is up to. We need more forward thinking individuals that question the manner in which innovation truly moves our society forward.

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