I started work at Digital River this past week. Here’s my thoughts after the first week.
I’m excited. Not only is this a new start for me, which is great, but I’m impressed with the people here. We need to make some changes in the way we develop software, of course, but I’ve never met a group as open to change and as aware of the need as I’m finding here. There’s not the kind of resistance that I encountered at Best Buy. There aren’t people saying “no, we can’t do that.”
It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, of course. There’s hard work to do and significant pressure to do it right. But I’m convinced that we have a great plan, and that our leaders have their heads on straight.
Sadly, I couldn’t say that when I was at Best Buy. I have a lot of respect for Hubert Joly and Sharon McCollam, but I (respectfully) think they’re setting the wrong course for BestBuy.com. They’re thinking in terms of a turnaround, which is appropriate for most of the company. But BestBuy.com isn’t in a turnaround, it’s in the midst of a transformation. That’s not the point when you get tight on expense dollars – that’s the point when you double down on investing, because you have the cash and you need the benefits sooner rather than later. Days are more important than dollars, and they’re losing days and weeks as they try to minimize spend. The emphasis on cost control and inspection is wildly wrong for positioning BestBuy.com and the Platform for success. It’s right for much of IT, because of the bloated management-heavy structure that’s a legacy of the Accenture outsource. But it’s going to kill the Platform, and that makes me sad. I hope I’m wrong, because I am proud of the work we did and I want it to succeed.
But enough about Best Buy, I’m talking about Digital River.
DR is in a different place. Yes, we still care about controlling costs. But our leaders are investing in engineering. That starts with putting Dave Moore in charge, which is a truly awesome thing. He’s not just a visionary leader with a deep knowledge of the business and how to grow it, which is a rare enough thing in a technology executive. He’s also a really great human being.
Let me tell you a story. Some while back, when I was being recruited, I’d told Dave about someone I thought we should bring in in a coaching role – a colleague of mine named Kyle. In my first week, I reached out to Kyle and asked him to stop by for the end of the day on Friday (which is Beer Friday at DR, by the way). Kyle came out, we grabbed a beer and I was giving him a tour and we ran into Dave.
Dave moved another meeting and spent 20 minutes talking non-stop to Kyle about what we’re doing and why he (Dave) believes in this, before he had to run to another appointment. Talking with Kyle afterward, I pointed out something that I’d noticed: Dave didn’t spend any time at all trying to evaluate Kyle. He just pitched him on why DR was a great place to work. This is because I’d told Dave that Kyle was good, and he trusted me.
Let me repeat that: Dave trusted me. If I said Kyle was good and we needed him, Dave wasn’t going to waste any time second-guessing me.
That’s incredibly rare. I’ve had that just three times in the last 25 years.
And it makes me want to share it with other people, in particular my friends and colleagues that I’ve met at Best Buy – spending 13 years in one place means that my network is heavy with BBY folk. But recruiting people out of BBY is not just tacky, it’s wrong – as I noted above, I want the Platform team at BBY to succeed.
So I’m arriving at this…
For my friends and colleagues at BBY: Keep up the good work. I’m rooting for you. When your work there is done, if you’re willing, I’d love a chance to tell you about what I’m doing and what we’re doing here and see if what we’re building is something you’d like to work on in your next phase.