In episode seven of the Second in Command Podcast Cameron sat down with Shiv Narayanan, Chief Marketing Officer of Wild Apricot – an all in one membership management SAS product for small associations, clubs, and nonprofits.
In 2014, Shiv had recently left his last startup company where he had slowly worked his way up the ladder from an entry-level position to head of marketing and sales. It was a relatively small company, and Shiv felt it was time for a change. Shiv started looking around Toronto at different SAS companies because he thought that was the space for him. Wild Apricot was one of the SAS companies that piqued his interests. He connected and began working with Dimitri, the former CEO, and from there Shiv slowly started taking over the team.
The Wild Apricot COO/CEO Dynamics
Wild Apricot operates a little differently than most larger companies. Technically, they do not have a COO, Shiv operates as the company’s CMO but is generally acknowledged as the second in command. Wild Apricot has different leaders in different areas of the organization. They operate in tandem to create a COO by committee, which includes the head of product, and the CFO. The original structure created by former CEO was more of a hierarchy, where he made all final decisions. As leaders were slowly given more responsibility, the weight was removed from CEO, and he no longer was the linchpin/bottleneck for the organization. Instead, leaders have been able to run the business without him and the traditional hierarchy, which has proven very productive.
Shiv’s Advice to Other COOs
The amount of inward focus is what indeed produces impressive business. Dialoguing with customers as much as possible. Increasing the amount of empathy you have for your customers, even falling in love with them! Understanding what it is that they want and need from your business. Doing the same for your employees, really understanding what it is they want and need. A framework that Wild Apricot uses internally is called non-violent communication. The idea is that nobody in the world is evil, everybody has needs that they are trying to meet. As long as you can help them meet those needs, everybody can get along and be fine. Things like big wars have been solved with that framework. It is something that shows in business results and outcomes from the amount of work put into different areas that involve people.