Nada Stirratt – CEO of Verve Mobile

I do not multitask. I am fully present in meetings and focused on driving to a desired outcome. “Discuss, debate, decide” is my mantra for meetings. You simply cannot be on email while listening to a presentation or texting while brainstorming.

Nada Stirratt is chief executive officer of Verve Mobile. A veteran of the advertising technology industry, Nada joins Verve Mobile from Acxiom where she served as the company’s first chief revenue officer. In this role, she led a global team of more than 3,500 associates responsible for the company’s sales, operations, consulting, and analytics practice and delivery.

Prior to Acxiom, Nada served as chief revenue officer of Myspace where she played an integral role in the social network’s sale to Specific Media in 2011. And before Myspace, Nada was executive vice president of digital advertising at Viacom where she oversaw advertising sales, strategy, and operations for MTV Networks.

Nada joined MTV Networks from, where she spent three years as senior vice president. Upon the successful sale of to AOL in 2004, Nada began leading publisher services and network sales. Prior to joining, Nada was senior vice president of advertising for Moviefone. Once the company was sold to AOL in 1999, she became vice president of business development at AOL.

Nada holds a Bachelor of Science in advertising from the University of Illinois and lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with her husband Avery. She works in New York City.

What made you join Verve, and how did you approach the decision-making process?

I first heard about Verve when I was working at Acxiom. I was so impressed with how several of our retailer partners were using Verve to find shoppers in and near their stores. When this opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance to use my data, advertising, digital, and research experience in the hottest space today. The entire marketing landscape is heading to mobile, and being a leader in the most compelling part of mobile — location — was too exciting to pass up.

Before meeting with Verve’s board and management team, I conducted over a dozen interviews with their clients, suppliers, partners, and analysts. I wanted to make sure the product worked, was unique, and could scale. I then created a binder full of notes, articles, and the start of a strategy formulation. I even started lining up my management team about two months before I had the formal job offer to make sure I could bring the best in the business with me, quickly fill in gaps, and accelerate growth. I was very thorough and prepared, and I was certain this would be a match made in heaven.

The biggest influencers on my decision were that the management team was stellar, the founder (Tom Kenney) was going to remain very active, the product was outstanding, and any problems that needed to be fixed were utterly fixable.

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

I’m an early bird and like to use the morning for correspondence (and, yes, I handwrite notes!). I think it’s important to personally reach out to clients and partners and find time to do this thoughtfully. Depending upon which city I’m in, I will do a team meeting or one-on-ones with our associates. I try to have a client meal or meeting every day and interview potential talent at least three times a week. Right now, as a freshman CEO, I am also spending time with mentors, analysts, and industry thought leaders to get an array of opinions to help inform my own view.

How do you bring ideas to life? How do you monitor progress against the big ideas?

I’m a very visual person and a learner by nature. So, I like to craft a narrative of the end result and its impact on customers and then examine it from all possible angles. I like hyperactive collaboration sessions, and I feed off of the energy and smarts of my teammates. Because we are moving so fast, it’s OK to test and learn at early development stages and monitor progress on a continual basis. Having the right business owner or initiative captain makes all the difference in accountability and success.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Single view of the customer. While this has been preached as the holy grail for quite some time, we are finally getting to the point where this is actionable across several platforms and screens with a consistent or continuous message. The customer gets the best experience at the appropriate time, and the marketer wins. The fact that mobile has quickly become the cornerstone to this approach is most exciting and so is accelerating the long process into a holistic customer communication plan.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as a CEO?

Two things:

1. I do not multitask. I am fully present in meetings and focused on driving to a desired outcome. “Discuss, debate, decide” is my mantra for meetings. You simply cannot be on email while listening to a presentation or texting while brainstorming. Besides being rude, it’s counterproductive and wastes everyone’s time.

2. I spend a considerable amount of time having internal one-on-ones. I learn so much from my teammates and road-test many new ideas. Without soliciting this type of feedback on a frequent basis, you risk cultural missteps, repeating sins of the past, and not having important buy-in to new strategies and plans.

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

I was a mall intercept at the Yorktown Mall in Lombard, Illinois. I wore that hideous navy vest and carried a clipboard with a questionnaire. My job was to accost shoppers and get them to stop shopping long enough to answer a dozen questions or watch a TV commercial while I attempted to scribble their responses verbatim. Needing to be bold, getting my point across in three seconds or less, and dealing with an enormous amount of rejection have served me well ever since.

If you were to start your career over again, what would you do differently, if anything?

I’d be an engineer and learn how to code. I have huge respect and appreciation for computer scientists and the almost artistic process they go through to create such extraordinary things. They are our modern-day rock stars, and I wish I had that talent and discipline.

As a CEO, what is the one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?

Obsess over clients. Get in front of them, learn their business, and keep them in your mind as you shape new ideas. If your business is dependent on revenue, you better make sure that all aspects of your company are in sync on what makes the source of that revenue over-the-moon happy. Building in a vacuum has crushed so many companies, and the “if you build it, they will come” strategy never works.

What is one strategy that you are employing in order to grow Verve?

One component of our growth plan is accelerating feature development on our enterprise/programmatic offering so marketers can work with us in a manner that works best for them and their agencies. We will always provide superior managed services for those who prefer to work with us at that level. We have invested in consolidating best-of-breed features within one platform and enabling marketers and agencies to manage their own Verve programs through a self-service interface that is really intuitive.

What is one failure you had in your current career, and how did you overcome it?

My inability to turn around Myspace. We tried creating a big splash around Myspace Music; we had an outstanding team, but we simply lost too many customers to Facebook to get enough scale to be a worthwhile marketing tool. We focused on extracting the greatest value out of a diminishing pool of impressions, and we were forced to be significantly more creative (and efficient) to have happy clients. I am proud of the work we did and the team I built.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

A monthly shooting lesson with Keith Lupton in Dover Plains, New York. I love sporting clays because you must be so focused on the targets that your mind can’t wander back to work or other distractions. This becomes a great relaxation mechanism for me, and to be able to learn from the best is really a luxury.

What software and web services do you use to enhance your personal / professional life? What do you love about them?

Dragon Dictation is a lifesaver, and even when it’s wrong, it’s highly entertaining.

Uber is the greatest service in just about every city I travel.

Mindifi is a guided-meditation app that knocks me out every night. Seriously.

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

Gallup’s “StrengthsFinder” — everyone at Verve has taken the online assessment and/or read the book. The premise is that today’s employee evaluations are based on negativity and fixing a shortcoming. StrengthsFinder identifies your top five strengths and allows you to have the conversation with your manager about how effectively you are working to capitalize on these strengths. It is a huge morale boost to show commitment to getting the most out of your teammates’ strengths.

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

I start every single day reading the paper edition of The New York Times, and I challenge myself to complete the puzzle before I get to Grand Central or the plane takes off (if I don’t, it’s a bad omen).

I read Jason Hirshhorn’s MediaRedef every morning. He covers all aspects of business — not not just media and technology. I go to Mike Shields at The Wall Street Journal and David Kaplan at Geomarketing to learn what’s keeping them up at night. And for a guilty pleasure, it’s DailyMail UK every night before bed.


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