With the launch of SuperCEO: The Leadership Accelerator I often get asked, “What’s it take to be a SuperCEO?”
Against the backdrop of a very successful IPO, I wanted to point to Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and joint CEO of Atlassian, as typifying some of the attributes of a SuperCEO.
He gave a talk at one of my events in 2008 and even then it was abundantly clear he was on a trajectory to achieving great things. He has a huge hustle muscle and took his own path rather than followed the herd.
In 2008, Atlassian was 6.5 years old. They had 12,500 enterprise customers in 105 countries and did about $35.5m in sales in 2007 and were aiming to hit $60m in 2008. In total they had 200 staff spread between Sydney, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and Poland.
Here are a few of the reasons for singling Mike out as having super powers, based on what he said in 2008:
– They didn’t know what product they were going to sell when they started the company. They had in mind the type of business they wanted to run, they knew the sector (sell enterprise software) and they knew a little bit about how they wanted to sell, but they didn’t have any idea what software they were going to sell. They started with about 3 or 4 different unique prototypes that they built. One of these took off a little more than the others, so they focused on that and it became their leading product – Jira, which had 9,500 of their 12,500 customers.
– They knew they wanted to build an enterprise software company, but as encapsulated in their mission statement: a different kind of enterprise software company. This is not a contrarian stance, rather they like to evaluate everything they do and not simply follow what other businesses do unless it makes sense.
“A little commonsense goes a long way as an entrepreneur.”
– All of their products have been built because they fundamentally needed them and because they felt there was a large enough market that wasn’t being addressed. They have yet to build or buy anything they don’t actually use as a company.
– Starting a second product was the smartest thing they did as it stopped them being a single product, single feature company. In 2008 they had seven unique brands/products, developed by 12 different software teams – some of the products were sold in different ways.
“Being a single trick pony as a business is very, very dangerous”.
– As an online business they found that the speed with which they were able to respond to customers made a marked difference in their propensity to buy software. Their goal is to be able to respond within four hours to every single query they get from anywhere in the world — this tied into their strategy of opening a key European office as it give them the ability to respond around the clock.
ABOUT SUPERCEO: THE LEADERSHIP ACCELERATOR
SuperCEO is a high intensity program designed to transform CEOs and give them superpowers: insights and skills that empower them to grow exponentially. The program is run over 10 weeks twice a year and places are strictly limited and by application only. There are limited places available for the February 2016 program. Expressions of interest should be sent to rand at exoscalr dot com — 100 words about you, your business and what you want to get out of participating.