In episode ten of the Second in Command Podcast Cameron sat down with Gadi Shamia, COO of Talkdesk – the fastest growing SaaS content centre startup with thousands of customers like Shopify, IBM, Peet’s Coffee, Dropbox and more.
Gadi has over 20 years of experience in software, and 13 years in SaaS. He founded three companies, has also been the CEO at prior companies as well. The largest company that Gadi founded ended up doing a billion dollars a year in global business.
The start of Gadi’s career in technology was somehow of an accident. He was studying accounting and economics in the Tel Aviv University, and a friend of a friend of his introduced him to an entrepreneur. When he first joined this company, it was almost a garage. They actually worked out of the warehouse at the clothing store of the other founder’s wife. The company worked to build an earpiece software for S&B customers to the Israeli market. For Gadi, it was a pretty exciting opportunity. Having never worked with technology before, and having no background in software engineering – there was something new to be learned on a daily basis. The new creations everyday, the new challenge, the new tasks that needed to be overcome were new challenges and helped Gadi’s way of thinking, working and leading.
Talkdesk COO/CEO Dynamics
At talkdesk, Gadi is responsible for product post sales renewals, customer service, professional sales, training, customer support, business development, channels, talent, legal, and people, and also supporting the CEO on all other areas. For Gadi – the CEO/COO relationship is much like the Yin and Yang dynamic. It’s all classically that COOs run the back office, and the CEOs runs the front. In many companies, it’s really just based on what the CEO and COO want to do and where their strengths lie.
Gadi is responsible for running product, a lot of it because of his product background. He runs everything post sales, which is the customer success team, professional services, support, and training. Gadi also runs talent, HR, platform initiative, and several other areas. Where, the CEO runs sales, marketing, engineering and finals.
Communication is the most important aspect for maintaining a strong relationship with your CEO. Gadi and his CEO chat 50 times a day, in all sorts of weird hours of day and night. They meet a lot informally. Actually, they don’t have a lot of organized one-on-ones, but will grab a lunch here, or just take a walk here, or go for a drink. They never really socialize and don’t think about work. This causal dynamic is a great way to build trust and relationships – while still talking about work and the direction of the business. For Gadi, the best advice he can give to help others build strong CEO/COO relationships is: you have to communicate with your CEO the way he/she wants to communicate.
Gadi’s Advice to Other COOs
In order to have a successful business and relationship with a company and CEO, there needs to be respect. Make sure that, “A) there’s something about this person you deeply respect. Because if you come to an organization and you think you’re better than the founder, CEO, in any way you can imagine, just this is a big red flag, don’t join. You have to have this person has to have at least one towering strength that you respect, and you want to learn from, and you want to work with. It’s clear that many of the second in commands are going to be better in many other things than the founder, CEO, but if you don’t have one thing you really respect about this person, it’s not going to work”.
For Gadi, “You’re going to continue fighting, because you think you’re better in everything than this person. I would look at this, this one thing. I would look at this one thing, and ask myself, “Do I respect this person? Is there something special about this person that I want to learn from?” If not, just walk. It’s never going to work”. If you do not have respect for your CEO, your relationship is doomed.
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