Alex Bard,
Alex has been part of the founding team of four different internet software start ups including eShare Technologies, eAssist Global Solutions, Goowy Media, and is currently serving as CEO for Assistly, a customer service software. He is a very passionate entrepreneur who also serves as an adviser for several start-up companies.

1.     What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful leader to possess?

Well, I totally agree with Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. He talks about the 3 most important roles of a CEO:  
  • Setting the overall company vision and communicating it with the organization
  • Hiring the best possible people to execute on that vision
  • Making sure the company is properly financed
I also see my job as being the Guardian of our culture. Great companies are built on the foundation of a great culture and it’s essential to protect and nurture what is special about your organization. As an organization grows quickly, you run the risk of diluting the company culture if you don’t make this a conscious part of your leadership. Finally, I am a big believer in the CEO’s role as “water carrier” for the organization. I see myself as an enabler. There’s a great article in the Harvard Business Review titled The Most Important Question a Manager can Ask and I try to ask it of all my employees on a regular basis:  What can I do to help you be more effective?

2.     Can you describe your typical day as a CEO?

I run a startup, which means I rarely have a typical day! But here’s what often happens. I jump start my day with a protein shake and visit the gym where I catch up on email, follow internal projects and review any pressing concerns with customers or partners. Once I come into the office I generally meet with my key officers to get an update on the top priority projects and see if there are opportunities for me to help (again, asking they key question: What can I do to help you be more effective?).  I then have external meetings with partners, customers, investors, and other people that can help me advance the business. My schedule is usually packed, but I try to leave blocks of time open to work on items that come up unexpectedly. And I’m always able to move things around to make room for the people that work for me.

3.     How do you foster innovation in your company?

We first look to our customers for innovation. We are very close to our customers and get their feedback regularly through their experience with our products.  We pay close attention to their challenges and successes and see if we can improve on their experience through new features or improvements to existing features.  Additionally we have our own road map—an iterative one—to help us build a product that delivers value to our customers and also helps us differentiate from our competitors. We pride ourselves on hiring the best, most creative talent, and we reward them with exciting projects and encourage them to help us innovate. In fact, we have monthly “hack days” where everyone has an opportunity to work on any project they dream up, and many of these ideas make it into our product.  

4.     How do you manage your work-life balance?

Hopefully, you will have an understanding family, and I am very lucky in that regard. At a startup it’s hard to have a perfect balance.  Being a CEO is a kind of marriage, and in order to be successful you have to commit fully. What few people realize about startup companies is that it’s often not the idea that is special but rather the execution, which only comes from commitment and passion for the business. You can’t run a startup and expect a 9-5 experience.  It’s going to be a significant part of your life.  

5.     What changes do you see in the next 5-10 years for business owners and entrepreneurs?

You can count on it becoming easier to start web businesses with a good idea and little capital. Two college students in a dorm can build an app that reaches millions of customers and they can use a cloud-based tool like Assistly to support all of those users. But as it becomes easier to start a business, you will see dramatically more competition and companies will need to find new ways to differentiate. In our view, customer service is becoming the new competitive battleground. No longer can you depend on a nifty new feature to set you apart; you have to build service in as a key part of your product in order to survive.



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