Advice for leaders: 4 tips from 2 c-suite executives

A Scrabble game board shows these connecting words: Team - Lead - Succeed, answering the question: What advice would you give to a leader?

What advice would you give to a leader?

Recently, Nick Mehta, the CEO of customer success powerhouse Gainsight, and Hyland Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Ed McQuiston, connected via Zoom to talk about what brought them to their roles at their respective technology companies.

Their discussion around leadership spanned from personal journeys to career paths, and how their personalities, business priorities and leadership skills have evolved over time.

Here are four tips for success you don’t want to miss.

What advice would you give to a leader?

#1: Don’t limit yourself

The number one thing Mehta wishes he’d known before starting his career?

“Don’t limit yourself by thinking you could never do ‘x,’” Mehta said. “Don’t ever think that whatever you are now is what you always will be. I’m sure when I was a kid I thought, ‘I could never be that person in front of the conference speaking on stage, I could never be that person who buys fancy clothes and dresses up — I’m never going to be that guy.’ But I actually think that we change so much in our life. Don’t hold yourself back by thinking that you can’t change.”

Both Mehta and McQuiston shared personal stories of growth and confidence. Mehta was a self-described shy, lonely kid in high school, a poor communicator who didn’t know how to fit in. But when he showed up at college, he met his wife and found a group of friends that ‘got’ him.` That helped him gain confidence and create some of his best friends, still, all these years later.

“For a lot of people, there are those moments that give you confidence in your life and allow you to grow into the person you want to be. You weren’t born a certain way — we can all grow,” Mehta said.

McQuiston had a similar transition in college, making a choice to transform himself socially.

“I was in band in high school, and ‘band kid’ is a label,” McQuiston said. “When I went away to school, I said, ‘Nobody knows me,’ and I can be whoever the hell I want to be.”

McQuiston called the experience transformative and pointed to those college years as influencing his career, but not just because of classwork.

“It was getting to know people, getting to understand people, understanding relationships — all that,” McQuiston said.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking you could never do ‘x.’

$Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight$

#2: Find roles that energize you

“There’s probably only one question I ask in every single interview,” McQuiston said. “What energizes you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?”

“I ask that to our team all the time,” Mehta said. “Because I want to get people into things that energize them.”

Mehta noted a favorite Venn diagram that aligned this very idea to a business and personal growth mindset.

The diagram has three circles:

  1. What energizes you
  2. What you like to do
  3. What your company needs

McQuiston goes on to encourage leaders to broaden their view of their roles and the opportunities available to them.

“The conversation we should be having is — what is it that charges you up? Because when you combine that with your skillset, now you’re a weapon,” McQuiston said.

“I love that,” Mehta said. “What percent of your day are you living in that Venn diagram?”

A Venn diagram that promotes a professional and personal growth mindset, which is a tip for success.

#3: The best thing you can do in sales is get your clients promoted

The biggest sign of customer success?

According to Mehta, it’s when your clients get promoted.

“What’s cool about this new model is that customers and vendors aren’t in as much of an adversarial relationship,” Mehta said. “It’s this new world where we actually all win together. And what that means is Hyland’s customers and Hyland win together; Gainsight’s customers and Gainsight win together. But what I think is the best part is that the people at our customers’ and the people at our company win big.”

A focus on people was a recurring theme for both leaders.

“At Gainsight, we call this whole idea human-first business,” Mehta said. “Amidst all the EBITDA, SaaS, usage data and NPS — there are human beings on the other side of that data that are just trying to get through their day — get promoted, keep their jobs, be happy, make their kids proud of them, make their parents proud of them. We’re all on the same journey.”

There are human beings on the other side of that data that are just trying to get through their day — get promoted, keep their jobs, be happy, make their kids proud of them, make their parents proud of them. We’re all on the same journey.


#4: Customers have all the power

With Gainsight and Hyland working together to drive customer success, of course the topic of customer success came up — and not just on a micro-level.

McQuiston and Mehta analyzed the industry, the approach and the evolution of focusing on your customer.

As Mehta settled in at Gainsight, he said he started analyzing the economic model from a new perspective, watching customers staying or going, and seeing the churn and the retention.

He realized something big.

“Our customers had all the power,” he said. “They could leave if they wanted to, they could grow or shrink. I sat there looking at our system, and we had Salesforce for sales, we had marketing automation technology, we had a support system — but we had nothing for managing our customers proactively except good ol’ Excel.”

McQuiston commiserated with the need for more focus on helping customers succeed.

For today’s technology organizations, there’s a need to deliver a great experience for customers, and it reverberates down the line of users.

“What’s evolved in our business is that so many of the people who touch our business are external to the customer we’re supporting,” McQuiston said. “It’s sort of this multitiered relationship. Gainsight can’t just make us happy here at Hyland. Us being happy here at Hyland doesn’t solve the problem for my customers that are happy or unhappy with us. The experience we’re trying to drive is our customers’ customers.”

Gainsight is a customer success company and five-time Forbes Cloud 100 recipient. It created the customer success category that’s currently taking over the SaaS business model worldwide, and Hyland is excited to be a partner.

Nick Mehta has been named one of the Top SaaS CEOs by Software Report three years in a row, one of the Top CEOs of 2018 by Comparably, and was named an Entrepreneur of The Year 2020 Northern California Award winner. He has co-authored two books on the customer success field, Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue, and The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift.

Ed McQuiston is a big fan of customer success. Read more about how he infuses that focus into Hyland’s product and solution roadmap:  It’s about the customer — it always has been.

Morgan Kent Molden

Morgan Kent Molden

Morgan Kent Molden is a writer and editor specializing in SaaS trends and news. She manages the Hyland blog and helps Hyland’s team of experts unleash their knowledge about all... read more about: Morgan Kent Molden