It was only in the last 18 months that I finally figured out what I’m supposed to do as Dyn CEO (took long enough!). I’m completely drafting off other people but here’s the description I adopted: set and communicate the strategic direction of the company, hire and retain the best talent and make sure there is money in the bank.
Each year, my job has evolved and certain aspects of these three roles has become more important. In previous years, I was more admin/financial (making sure there was money in the bank), some years I was more technology/product (setting the direction), and some years sales/marketing/hiring (talent).
Perhaps the most exciting part of the job is that you are always measured on a moving and growing target. In this first post, I’ll talk about what they mean to me.
Set and Communicate the Strategic Direction
This is about defining what is the company is and what the company is not. It’s important to think of them as two different functions since you need to know what the plan is and then talk about it. Those are different skills.
For me, I’m better at setting the direction. One of my strengths (a la Strengthsfinder) is an Arranger. It’s about putting all of the pieces together from sales, product, engineering, marketing, client services and operations. Saying no, rather than saying yes, is better at describing what the company is. It’s everything from whether you build a service and sell it, build it internally and what you double down on versus what you skimp on.
I don’t have an epiphany when it comes to our game plan; it’s an organic and iterative piece of work. One month, I might be cold to an idea, warm to the concept over a few months and then be on top of it a couple months later. While the yearly planning cycle is an arbitrary checkpoint, it does serve as a nice way to coherently review and put together a plan.
To make up for that, we try to talk about plans in a variety of monthly meetings, quarterly company performance meetings and in small gatherings. Sometimes it’s in the break room, bathroom or through random emails with different ideas or questions. We also constantly talk and test our theories with friends and colleagues outside of Dyn. They are all data points that go into a game plan.
Plans are guidelines and not rules. At the same time, strategic plans are more frequently eroded through 1000 decisions rather than a single call. It’s important that the plan evolves in a way that supports the overall goals of the plan.
So We Are An Email Company
How we became an email company is an interesting story. An earlier theme that we’ve had with DynDNS.com is to do things your ISP should just do. Back in 2003, we wanted to add some email processing services, not email hosting. At the time, we were pretty small so we just wrote them and put it live.
Since then, we’ve had some email services that work well, have a decent following and are well received by our customers. When we started providing enterprise services, our customers asked if our email services were going to be available for them in an enterprise world. It was added to the short list of things to offer.
Fast forward to the near present and we’re thinking about what new thing makes sense in the enterprise portfolio. While performance through DNS and analytics or reporting seemed like logical additions, we wanted to do something that would fit a wider audience and was a bit different. Any of those things seemed so predictable and the players in those spaces are pretty established.
At the same time, we have had the email services on DynDNS.com (our ecommerce site) and wanted to make sure that it continues to get love and care. For our newsletters, we had been using SendLabs for sending our messages to our audience of users. We thought this is an issue for other organizations. They start off sending a few hundred messages which is fine but then it gets to thousands and tens of thousands and they have to deal with deliverability. We started talking with the people at SendLabs and the rest is history.
People who head up strategy (whatever that is) spend a lot of time trying to predict what is next. I don’t think Dyn is a trendsetter but more of a legitimizer. We carefully watch what people are doing and where people are running into problems. What we excel at is identifying common infrastructure problems, automating them and running them super efficiently. Our next trick is going to be solving problems that people are starting to face and talk about. Who knows what it is?
Are you a CEO or head of an organization that faces similar challenges and questions? What has worked and what hasn’t?