I had a chance to sit down with Alex Yoder from his home office in Boulder. His insights as a CEO at Webtrends and Trueffect were interesting, enlightening, and inspiring, but his view on business books and how to use creativity to solve business problems as an executive were eye opening. This interview barely scratches the surface of his background, but hopefully provides some insight from one of the leading analytics thought leaders in the industry.
Why did you want to work in marketing?
To be candid, a role in marketing wasn’t my motivation. I’ve always had three core areas of interest; analytics, communications, and business transformations. I happened to start out working for an analytics software company that applied its product to marketing. From there, I started to learn and become more curious about marketing. I found those three themes to be a perfect fit within marketing. However, I found that those functions weren’t being leveraged as much as they could be. Communications certainly was playing a big role, but analytics and business transformation, at the time, played a minimal role, and I found myself more intrigued about how to better utilize these functions within a marketing setting.
Describe your journey to an executive role.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be the CEO of a company, let alone a few of them. When I first became a CEO, people asked me how I achieved that. I never really engineered a plan. I didn’t have a desire or focus for the position but rather a set of principles that helped to guide me. The core elements I believe that led me to leadership are my drive and an intense curiosity to (1) make things better, including the customer experience and my own self-improvement, (2) solving difficult and complex problems others avoided, and (3) understanding people. I want to make the places I work better to serve customer challenges and a better place for my peers to work. I feel strongly that clear and honest communication is critical. For me, prior to becoming a CEO, I would often tackle and solve problems, so in time, people would come to me to help solve other problems.
What do you see coming that will disrupt the market?
I’ll suggest a few things that won’t be revolutionary or unique but are certainly going to disrupt the market. I believe the direct, brand-to-consumer business model is highly disruptive right now, think about Uber, Amazon, and the Dollar Shave club. In every compacity, we can begin to purchase the things we like, direct from the brand or manufacturer. What will be interesting to observe is regulated industries and the shift from heavy investments in brick and mortar.
I believe the most disruptive thing you will see is people and their willingness to change quickly. The organizations that don’t do this will fail. I was working with a company a while back that was an established retail company, similar to Amazon, with online ordering and home delivery. The only thing the retailer could focus on was beating its top competitor in search. This brand was willing to do anything to beat the competition in this one channel but failing to focus on its core assets and understand how they needed to adjust with the changing market around them. The human capacity to embrace change and move quickly with it will be the challenge or limitation of the future.
What good books would you recommend?
Business: I don’t read many business books, it’s a personal philosophy I suppose. Business books are a characterization of how someone else solved a problem. I’m interested in understanding the specifics of a problem, the art of finding creative ways to approach it, analyze it, and then solve it.
Non-business: I read a lot, and the majority is fiction. I believe it exercises creativity and imagination. It’s something that is undervalued and potentially lost in our society. We’re told how to look at things, what concepts to follow, and how the world should be. I don’t think we exercise enough of our creativity and imagination to have the problem-solving orientation that’s essential in a business setting.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to fly fish, ski, mountain bike, road bike, golf, hike, and most of all I love spending a ton of time with my family. Also, I’m a big fan of humor and I laugh a lot with my hilarious wife. I love people and appreciate getting to know strong individuals and how they view things. But, I also appreciate some alone time, opportunities to reflect and contemplate.