Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of David Politis chief executive of BetterCloud, a maker of cloud-based software. “Whether it’s a company or a market, go where you can actually have a real impact on the business.” To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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Were you in leadership roles as a boy?
My first real leadership experience was with taekwondo. I got my black belt when I was 12 and started teaching some of the classes, with people of all ages. I enjoyed it.
How have your parents influenced you?
My drive really comes from watching my father as I was growing up. He’s an entrepreneur and had a lot of different businesses, including real estate development in Harlem and the South Bronx, and project finance in emerging markets like West Africa. Because he was working so much and traveling so much, he often would take me with him. From the age of 8, I have memories of going to Harlem and going to building sites. He taught a real estate class at N.Y.U., and he would take me to the class when I was 9 years old, give me a pad of paper and say, “Just take notes.”
When I got to high school, he was doing work in the former Soviet Union. He took me to Lithuania and Ukraine. In college, he was blind-copying me on almost every email he sent for work. I knew about what he was working on, and I would ask him about his different projects.
The thing he would say most often is that you can do anything you put your mind to. Because of some early successes, like getting my black belt at a very young age, I found he was right. I always remind myself that if I have enough discipline and work ethic, I will achieve what I want to achieve.
And tell me about your mother.
She’s a gynecologist and worked most of her career at Planned Parenthood. She would bring me to work, too, if I had a day off from school, and I would sit at the front desk and check people in for appointments. She had a real connection with her patients. With both my parents, they were the same person at work as they were at home.
What did you do after college?
After I graduated, I started working at a small start-up with about 15 people. It didn’t do very well. And so six months into my first job out of school, every person in the company was fired, literally, except for me. The two founders, who had made a lot of money with an earlier company, came to me and said, “Dave, there’s about $600,000 left in the bank. Do you want to be C.E.O.?” And I said, “Uh, sure. Why not?”
We pivoted the company, and over the next six years we actually built up the business to 150 people or so before we sold it. I learned everything — hiring, firing, sales, marketing, customer support, financing.
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To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.