Ep. 181 – Anaqua COO, Justin Crotty

Oct 2, 2021

Our guest today is the Chief Operating Officer of Anaqua, Justin Crotty. 

As Chief Operating Officer, Justin handles the execution of Anaqua’s growth strategy and day-to-day operations. He joined Anaqua in 2016 as Chief Financial Officer, where he assumed overall leadership for the Global Finance and Accounting team. 

In 2018 he was appointed to COO which expanded his functional responsibilities to include overseeing Cloud Hosting, Legal, Sales Operations, and Human Resources to support the increasing scale of Anaqua’s global business. Since 2019, Justin has served on Anaqua’s Board of Directors.

Prior to Anaqua, Justin served as a partner for Oliver Wyman where he advised private equity and corporate clients on growth and M&A initiatives involving software, information, and services businesses. Before his leadership roles in strategy consulting, Justin worked in private equity, investment banking, and corporate development and has experience working in the US, Europe and Asia.  

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • Justin’s journey from a CFO to COO role and some key challenges  
  • How and where Justin learned his leadership skills
  • How to set the value of the IP when setting up for an acquisition 
  • How to balance the advice from advisors and knowing what to make actionable 
  • Transparency with the board and the role it takes over governance and oversight

Resources:

Connect with Justin Crotty: LinkedIn 

Anaqua – https://www.anaqua.com

Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

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Our guest is the Chief Operating Officer of Anaqua, Justin Crotty. As Chief Operating Officer, Justin handles the execution of Anaqua’s growth strategy and day-to-day operations. He joined Anaqua in 2016 as Chief Financial Officer, where he assumed overall leadership for the global finance and accounting team. In 2018, he was appointed to COO, which expanded his functional responsibilities to include overseeing cloud hosting, legal, sale operations and human resources to support the increasing scale of Anaqua’s global business.

Since 2019, Justin has served on Anaqua’s Board of Directors. Prior to Anaqua, Justin served as a partner for Oliver Wyman, where he advised private equity and corporate clients on growth and M&A initiatives involving software information and service businesses. Before his leadership roles in strategy consulting, he worked in private equity, investment banking and corporate development, and he has experience working in Europe, Asia, and the US. Justin, welcome to the show.

Thanks much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

You’ve got a lot to dig into here as well. I would love to find out a little bit about what it was before we start the transition from you going from a CFO role into the COO role.

The first transition was into CFO. I have been in working in strategy consulting for 7 or 8 years and mainly advising private equity and some corporate clients, mainly information and software businesses. For me, the CFO transition was leaning on the financial aspect of what I had learned in those roles in investment banking and private equity before that. Also, using some project and general management skills that I had.

I’m putting all of that together to make the transition first into an operating role. The transition from CFO to COO was gradual over time. When I joined as CFO, I primarily focused on finance and accounting but from the beginning, by virtue of my background in strategy consulting advised the CEO on strategy. M&A was under my domain.

Over time we added some responsibilities. We added sales operations, cloud operations, and HR legal as my bandwidth as we accomplished what we needed in finance and accounting, I had more bandwidth. I was able to help with those additional functions and add some leverage. At least for me, the COO has those three parts still. It owns these functional departments related to the operations of the business. It’s advising the CEO. Since 2019, I have been sitting on the board with an eye toward the governance of the company.

Harvard came up with an article called The Misunderstood Role Of The COO, and they identified seven distinct types of chief operating officers. When I look at it, even across our members of our COO Alliance, we’ve got members from seventeen countries. About 30% of them run finance, and 70% of them don’t. Of the 30% that run finance, 50% or 60% of them are true CFO professionals that have taken over ops responsibilities. The other part is operations people that are somehow trying to oversee finance.

You’ve got an interesting skillset that not a lot of operations people have. It’s almost like a sales and marketing person. They suck at much of the business but they are great at sales. Whereas to be great in finance requires some of the detail orientation. How did you end up getting good at being able to oversee sales, marketing, and operations as well?

To be clear, I don’t oversee sales and marketing but have a strategy for some of the other groups. I picked up some of the basics of finance in business school. Working in banking and private equity for five years was pretty entrenched, at least as a consumer of financial information, if not necessarily a producer of financial information. The most valuable piece for taking on the CFO role came from strategy consulting, which was learning to dig into a problem, analyze it and pick it apart from multiple dimensions.

SIC 181 | Anaqua

Anaqua: The most valuable piece for taking on the CFO role came from strategy consulting, which is learning to dig into a problem, analyze it, and pick it apart from multiple dimensions.

 

Looking at a situation and coming up with an answer and saying, “This might be due to factor X,” wasn’t a good enough answer. You had to look at it from multiple angles and have a good understanding of exactly what was driving that factor because that could be a key component of the valuation of the business you were looking at or whatever the problem it was that you were being paid to solve. It might be a type of answer.

You needed to have a definitive answer. That skillset translated to being a CFO because, coming in, you’re given this information. You’re ultimately the accountable financial authority in the business, so it’s up to you to be the one that understands, “What happened to profit? What happened in this segment of the business this month?” Being able to understand those trends and do something about them is what it’s all about.

You didn’t come up through the bookkeeping controller or director of the finance path. You came in from the strategy, analytics, and that side of the business, which makes a lot of sense.

Strategy and M&A, we are looking at it from the investor or stakeholder perspective as a consumer. They are obviously moving into an operating role where you are owning those financials. There are growing pains. When I came on there, there were a lot of awkward silences in meetings when an advisor or practitioner was presenting some financials to me, analysis or a concept where maybe I didn’t know the lingo and I’d have to hit the pause button and say, “Rewind. explain that to me again.” Like I’m a very smart eighth grader that doesn’t understand all of your lingoes. I don’t have much ego. I was happy to do that. Ultimately, it leads to a better understanding of what exactly you’re trying to accomplish in the business.

Has been in the CFO seat hurt you in operations at all?

It can be all-consuming. Initially, when I expanded my responsibilities in the business, I was still spending a lot of time on the finance and accounting side. For me, the key thing was balance and having the discipline to spend time on the other parts of the business that need attention as well. For me, that was the key thing, being comfortable having others do that analysis, run with the financials and take care of that. Taking a step back and focusing on other initiatives to either help grow the business organically or we’ve spent a lot of time on M&A throughout my time but in 2021 in particular, we’ve done four acquisitions. Those take time to execute and now to integrate.

Where did you get the leadership chops? Where did you learn the skills of being a good leader, which is required across all the operational roles?

I started my career out of college. I started in tech consulting. This was the mid or late ‘90s. The company was called Sapient, which was a systems integrator and web business a little later. They were very good at putting you in uncomfortable situations quickly. The business was growing rapidly. It was a natural evolution. By the time I was 24, I was managing teams of 20 or 30 people a few years out of college because that was the norm.

When I joined, we had 300 people at Sapien. Within 4 years, we were 3,400 people, and most of that growth was organic. They obviously had some leadership development and training but a big part of it was putting you in growth situations outside your comfort zone and then supporting you. The mentorship was a huge part of the culture there, giving you some tools but ultimately investing in you and letting you make mistakes and then recover. I certainly made plenty of mistakes along the way but I was learning to take care of the team, manage the scope, and learn project management. I have paid dividends and certainly later in my career with the COO mandate.

A big part of leadership development and training is putting you in growth situations outside your comfort zone, supporting you with mentorship, giving you tools, and ultimately investing in you and letting you make mistakes and recover.

I get you to talk to us a little bit on the quest about what the company does. Tell us about a mistake that you learned from them.

By the time I was 24, I was managing these large project teams, and I will never forget it. I have worked on these sales compensation systems. You have all of your reps in the business, and they have different compensation schemes. Transactions come in, apply rules and compensate them. It sounds simple. It’s a pretty complicated business problem to solve. There was a large insurance company. They had parachuted me in to manage it. It was 24 years old. It was a new platform we were applying. I didn’t know anything about insurance. We had a pretty challenging client that was traveling for the project, and ultimately, it got away from me.

The client was difficult. The team was new and growing. I wasn’t painting a clear vision of what success was looking like. It was all the mistakes. I was 24, had been highly successful to that point on the prior ones, and I drove it into the ground. Clearly, it was out of my league in it. To the credit of the company’s leadership at the time, it was, “Pick yourself up. Let’s dust you off and get ready for the next one.” They gave me another one that was the same size or bigger. That one was a success.

The learner isn’t ready to learn until they are ready. You have to trip and fall until you are ready to grow.

Knowing where your limits were too. Prior to that point, I didn’t know. You don’t know until you have an experience like that. That was formative. Talking about understanding the importance of managing scope, team, project plans, and execution are lessons I’ve never forgotten.

Tell us about Anaqua. What do you guys do?

It was the core of the business. The bread and butter is intellectual property workflow software. That’s the company’s history. It is precise rules for obtaining and managing your portfolio of intellectual property, primarily patents and trademarks. That’s the core of the company’s history. From there, we’ve added other offerings. For example, when you get a patent, typically, you will get your patent in your home country, and then you will look to put that into effect in other jurisdictions where you sell a manufacturer. You have to make renewal payments to those jurisdictions. It’s basically a tax. They don’t call it a tax but with a certain frequency. That’s an example of an additional service that we do for our clients who are interested.

If you are signed up for the Anaqua software, using our software and managing your portfolio, either as a corporate or law firm, the idea of having a partner who can manage those payments for you on a reliable and cost-effective basis is a pretty attractive value proposition. It’s one less thing to worry about. You know that all of these patents and trademarks that spent all this R&D, money and time developing will be safe, and they will continue to be in effect and well taken care of for you.

You are pretty much a SaaS company.

The heart is SaaS. Since the company’s founding in 2004, the core workflow has been SaaS, and virtually all of our customers are hosted on our platform. We have these additional services that we will offer to those customers for those IP payments, patent search, docketing or all sorts of other services that we do that are a benefit. It’s nice for us. It’s additional revenue for these customers. We’ve invested a lot of time and money to have them join us. For them, it’s a big benefit to having more services on one platform seamlessly integrated. We find there’s higher customer satisfaction for customers that are using us for more things.

A friend of mine, Andrew Sherman, is a trademark and patent lawyer and another one, Denise Gosnell. Andrew Sherman will be a good referral source. I’m going to talk to him about your company and see. He talked to me about patents and trademarks being the Rembrandt in the attic. If you and I were out buying a home, and you bid $2 million on the home, and I walk around and notice there are two Rembrandt paintings up in the attic, and I’m like, “I will offer $4 million for the home.” You are like, “Cameron, it’s crazy.”

I’m like, “You can take the home. I want the $4 million or $6 million worth of paintings. I want that IP.” Most companies don’t understand what intellectual property is and what they are missing. Can you give us some examples for the mid-sized companies that maybe haven’t started thinking about this? The Fortune 5s know this but what about the midsize, the 50 to 500-person companies? What do they start looking for as assets?

It has been more the domain of the larger companies or the ones that invest in the R&D, invest in building out in-house staff for getting and protecting IP assets to support the R&D or branding assets on the trademark side. The EUIPO did a survey in 2019. They proved that all companies across the board have higher revenue per employee. It was about 20% for the ones that have meaningful IP portfolios. For small and medium enterprises, it was even more pronounced. It was 68%.

Why is that? Is it because they are thinking more strategically? Are they leveraging that? What are they doing?

It’s a few things. It’s about concerted effort for what you are developing that’s going to create that competitive moat. Warren Buffett, “Create that competitive moat against your competitors.” Are you creating something that’s meaningful and sustainable over time? A trademark will go on indefinitely if you are maintaining it and demonstrating use. Patents can also have very long-term lives for these things.

It focuses your thinking on developing these assets that are going to be a competitive advantage. If you do that in a way that advantages your company and disadvantages your competitors and has a force of law behind that, you now have something that’s a meaningful asset. In a sale process, similar math holds that companies that have meaningful IP portfolios get higher multiples in sale processes.

SIC 181 | Anaqua

Anaqua: In a sale process, companies with meaningful IP portfolios get higher multiples.

 

I thought of a weird use of IP that I don’t think I’m curious if anybody thinks of but it’s also a recruiting tool. When you take your Rembrandts or your IP and show them the potential high-level executives and show them your strategic value, they must see another reason to come into your operation versus your current P&L.

Some organizations are more sophisticated than others in understanding and articulating the value of that IP. It’s something we focused on as a company. For example, I mentioned earlier that these renewal payments are part of what it costs money to maintain these IP portfolios. What we try to help our customers with is making those decisions to understand what is valuable and what they own. For example, if you have a patent that’s being cited by other applicants, that’s a more valuable patent.

If your patent is being cited by examiners as blocking another applicant’s patent, that’s another and even more pronounced indicator that the patent you have is valuable. That means when you are thinking of your renewal decisions, where to spend money or not, obviously, the one that’s scoring higher, being cited or used as a blocker, that’s a very valuable asset that you have there that you want to make sure you are maintaining.

You mentioned that when you are looking to sell your company, you have that IP as an asset that you are going to be able to sell, and you sell the sizzle. You show the opportunities with all these patents because you haven’t done anything with them necessarily yet or maybe you have. In some cases, it’s sitting there. In some cases, you are using it. In the four acquisitions that you did, you mentioned you did four acquisitions. Do you try to underplay the value of the IP or do you look for the IP and go, “It’s not worth that much,” but you are like, “That’s valuable?” How do you work around that?

We’re a little bit of the doctor who’s his own worst patient. In general, we take a look at the IP of the acquisitions that we are doing. Of the 4 we’ve done in the past year, 1 of them had some pretty interesting patents and trademarks. The other three were smaller and weren’t as much of a focus for us. For us, I would love to say that we do detailed IP evaluation and scoring, and then it folds into our valuation model.

What about the acquisitions? What did you learn from doing them? A lot of our clients in the COO Alliance are doing acquisitions. Four of my clients are getting ready to be sold. What did you learn in the acquisition process? Where did you struggle? Let’s talk about looking for target companies to buy, the actual buying process and then the integration process. What did you learn in these trying to find target companies?

Two things there. The first one is that we are somewhat advantaged in that intellectual property. It’s a fairly finite universe. For us, what that means is getting to know the players in the industry, taking the time, and getting on the plane. Our CEO is very good at building relationships with people in the industry and our entire executive team. That’s important. To some extent, that’s a consistent theme in IP because you can believe strongly in IP and the Rule of Law and share that belief with competitors in the market.

A chief IP officer at one company could be very close colleagues with a chief IP at a competitor because the common interest is having a strong Rule of Law, IP and having clear rules for how that works. That carries on to vendors in the space. We try to understand who the competitors are and what are people trying to accomplish and build those relationships over time. Of the 4 acquisitions, 2 were sellers who had decided to retire from longer-term relationships. When it’s time to do a transaction, we are there.

Talk about the actual transaction process. What did you learn from that? Where were your missteps? What were your successes? Without giving away your playbook, can you give us any tips or any lessons?

In the company’s history, we’ve done 10 acquisitions, 9 since the current CEO has been here, and 4, we picked up the pace in 2021. The common theme of the successful ones versus the less successful ones is the focus. For us, the key is to understand early on in the process what are the key drivers of value creation and key diligence questions that we need to answer, then focus on those areas throughout the course of the prosecution of the transaction. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to say, “Here are some new market opportunities. Here’s a potential issue we’ve seen in the business,” even though it’s off to the side and doesn’t matter.

Staying focused on those key issues that you identify upfront, those key questions, answering those questions, that’s the number one key determinant of success. Another one for us has been advisors. Having a good, stable advisor that understands you and the business, gets on the same page with you and can align on those key questions help the transaction process itself moves faster when you have that in place.

Staying focused on critical issues, identifying the key questions, and answering them are key determinants of success.

How do you balance the advice with the opinions you are getting from advisors? How do you balance that out? Did you just listen and then say, “Thank you for that,” and then go back and discuss?

For us, it’s somewhat self-fulfilling in the advisors you select. The advisors that we tend to work with are the ones that understand our questions, are able to give us answers to those questions, help us move forward and, if we ask for a recommendation, render it. That was my approach when I was in consulting and advising, private equity in corporate was, “Here’s the analysis. Here are the options. Here’s the recommendation,” and distinguishing between those things.

Let’s talk about the integration. Once you’ve acquired these companies, are you typically keeping the CEO onboard? Is the CEO leaving? How do you merge the management teams? What have you guys struggled with, and what have you done on the integration side?

Of the 4 in the past year, 2 founders’ transaction was to facilitate their retirement moving on. For those, it’s fairly straightforward. For the other ones, generally, part of our thesis is ongoing management involvement. Even in the cases where the actual CEO, owner or founder is leaving to work with the next tier of management, we’ve had success there having people run the business if we are continuing it, which most the cases, we are continuing that business. Finding the next level of management if the CEO is transitioning out as part of the transaction.

Do you get rid of their finance team or marketing team? Are there departments that you can obliterate?

We don’t. In general, we have been growing the business. When I joined, we were probably 150 people, and now we are over 500. We’ve grown the business and don’t have a massive infrastructure. We don’t have a playbook when we come into every acquisition to say, “Here’s what’s staying. Here’s what’s going.” For us, it’s opportunistic. It’s case by case. More often than not, we are going into these acquisitions with a buy-and-build mentality.

Especially if it has been a founder bootstrap, a lot of times, they won’t have a lot of that infrastructure. For us, it’s coming in and figuring out, “How can we invest? What’s the market opportunity? What do we need to do to support that? If they don’t have much of a finance organization, and we are going to support that with our corporate finance organization, what is that going to create for a pinch point? Do we need to add something at the corporate level to facilitate the additional volume that we are picking up with that customer?”

What’s it been like with some of the global. What percentage of your team and clients would be global?

We have more employees outside than inside the US. It’s a very global organization. The client count is skewed more toward the US but has significant global representation. IP is very much a global industry, not just the client base. Historically, it has been the larger organizations that have the largest IP portfolios but it tends to be run as a global enterprise and operation. Cross-border patent filings are huge. Any multinational is going to have a large portfolio of IP. It’s a question of, “Where are they? How is it?”

What have you learned about working with people globally? Are there any differences between some of the people or some of the countries? Any cultural differences that you’ve had to adapt to?

There has been a lot. The biggest common success factor for that has been making the effort to try to understand where that group is coming from. If that means getting on a plane, going out and spending time with them, looking at how they run that part of the business, investing that time and effort and trying to understand and identify. I find that most things fade away. If you are putting in that effort, most things might be called a cultural way of doing things. If you are putting in that sincere effort, those things fade away. For the most part, people want to work together and achieve the corporate objectives that you have but it’s tough and time-consuming.

SIC 181 | Anaqua

Anaqua: If you’re putting in that sincere effort, most things that might be called a cultural way of doing things fade away. For the most part, people want to work together and achieve their corporate objectives, but it’s tough and time-consuming.

 

How about on the board side of things? Is that different?

It’s a totally different lens. When you look at the letter from the auditors, when you are done with your audit, they have a wrap-up letter that it’s addressed to those tasks with the governance of the corporation. As a board member, that’s your view. As an operator, you have the objectives you are trying to accomplish with the company but you also have constraints. You have these constraints. You’ve got your budget, parameters, and your team.

You are constantly trying to balance the objectives you are tasked with and the resources you have. At the board level, it’s a different lens. The board is tasked with ensuring that the company is acting in the best interest of its stakeholders however you define those stakeholders. Obviously, you have constraints. The board has the power to change those constraints if needed.

If the board decides to change the operating budget for the year because there’s an objective that’s critically important, that’s totally within the board’s discretion to do so. For me, it has been interesting to be a part of the board and to participate in that part of the governance aspect of the company in addition to the operating aspect.

Do you have to walk in being cognizant of that as well? Do you have to walk in and say, “Now I’m going to be thinking with my board hat,” or do you go in as a leadership team member who happens to be in a board meeting?

It changes a little bit. As management, we are doing a lot of the presenting of the metrics of the business, “Here’s where we are for this month and this quarter.” There’s discussion around that. Even within a meeting, it’s probably pivoting back and forth a little bit to, “Here’s the information. What do we do about it? How do we take action?”

Is there anything you try to hide from the board? Is there anything that you don’t want to disclose to the board that you might bring up at a leadership team meeting?

The key point here is the level of granularity. We’d never hide anything but the question is if we tried to get into every operating issue at the board level, we’d never make any progress. It is understanding the role of the board. The role of the board is governance and oversight. The board members have unique insights and perspectives. For me, as a member of the management team, it’s about what information I need to give to the board to make the best use of their insight and experience. What can I present to them that will help us make the right decision for the business to move forward?

Is it more advisory, or is it a blend of advisory and board of directors?

It is the board of directors, governance, compliance, financial oversight, and audit review. We are a larger company. It’s not a venture growth equity stage thing. It’s a more mature board construct that we have.

Where does the leadership team go for mentoring or advice other than the board?

It’s probably different answers for each of us. A lot of us have been in different roles. I’ve done certainly a lot of different things in my career. It’s about maintaining the mentorship relationships there. That’s true with my colleagues and other leaders in the team. We don’t seek mentorship from advisors but we seek input from our advisors. We value those relationships with our financial advisors, lawyers, and investment bankers. All those things are important relationships to maintain but that’s more of a sounding board as we try to think through important topics rather than mentorship per se.

I’m sure that the growth from 150 to 500 people has been easy with the 4 acquisitions. That gets along perfectly. Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, talk about the fear of conflict and the avoidance of accountability. How does your team operate, and how do you handle conflict when it starts to arise? How do you embrace healthy conflict? Any thoughts around that?

As a member of the executive team, the main point is communication. Our executive team meets twice per week, and we try to talk about what are the key issues facing the business. What are we hearing from clients? What are we hearing from the market? What are we seeing competitors doing? We are trying to get those key topics out for discussion and having that communication. There’s going to be a conflict between different groups when you are in a high-growth environment.

When you are growing and dealing with integrations, you are going to have some of those conflicts rise. For us, the key is communication. Our CEO is very supportive if there’s an issue coming up. The first question is going to be, “Who have you talked to? Have you gotten to the perspective of other people involved in that situation? What are you going to do about it? How are you going to take action on it?”

Do you ever misstep on that stuff?

All the time. We run the organization lean. We try to keep the layers reduced but as a result of that, a lot of people are doing a lot of things. You take on additional responsibility, and a lot of time, if you have a conflict, it’s not going to be bad faith. It’s going to be either lack of time to address the problem or a lack of understanding. A lot of times, we are all acting in good faith. You wouldn’t stick around our organization if you were not. For us, that’s the key to addressing conflict when it arises.

A lot of times, if you have a conflict, it will not be bad faith. It’s going to be either lack of time to address the problem or a lack of time to understand.

I want to talk about working with the CEO. One of the roles of the COO is, it’s like the emperor’s new suit where you have to tell the king that his clothes, he’s not wearing any. How do you deal with advising the CEO and also telling the CEO when you feel he’s wrong?

The first point is on the advisory. That’s how I knew our CEO. Before he was CEO, he was my client back when I was in consulting. We’ve got a long history of me providing him with advice. The key here is the same as any relationship. It’s the analysis, the insight and the recommendation. How can you pick those things apart and make sure that you are addressing each of those buckets to render the advice? The actual delivery of the information is the same thing. It’s about figuring out what’s the right forum to do it.

How do you balance the speed of giving advice with a depth of analysis? For example, you may have a situation that’s cooking where ideally, you take a day, distill your thoughts and come up with a more robust analysis. On the other hand, you know something needs to be actioned very quickly and don’t have the luxury of doing that. That’s a phone call to the CEO versus, “Here are my three slides digesting the problem and rendering a recommendation.”

Now we don’t get to sit across the hall or right beside them. Were you a location-based business prior to COVID, and were there changes because of covid related to that?

We were. We’ve had a remote workforce but multiple offices and mainly office based with key contributors in different remote locations. With COVID, very quickly, we shifted to a remote model primarily for the software and implementation side of the business. For some of our service-based parts of the business, for example, the payments that I mentioned earlier, that is more of a location-based service.

For that business that’s primarily based in France, we had to figure out what’s the combination of working remotely plus scheduled time in the office, accounting for employee safety. It wasn’t switched flip, which to go completely remote. It’s a different approach to COVID based on where you were in the world. The US had a very different approach from Japan, France, and the UK. Each region was different from what we were and still are having to manage throughout the course of the virus.

What were the big challenges that you had from that?

For the United States, the key for us was the initial move to remote. We thought we were. We are a software business. You don’t know how that’s going to work until you are the first. Mainly, there’s that March Friday when it became clear that the world was changing. By that Friday, when you turn the lights on virtually on Monday, you are not quite sure how that’s going to react. For us, that was a leap of faith but it worked tremendously. Productivity was great. We had a good year. 2021 employees adapted to it.

For the business itself for Anaqua, there was a question, “What would happen to the underlying intellectual property market business?” Back in the last recession in ‘08 and ’09, people did continue filing new IP, did maintaining their IPs but COVID was a new crisis. We didn’t know if would clients make irrational pruning decisions and hack those renewal fees that I was telling you about earlier but they didn’t. Clients realize they spend all this time and money on R&D or brand development to come up with this IP, and then they tend to be very thoughtful in maintaining it and not making rash decisions. That’s an approach we’ve tried to live up to within the business.

How do you price? Is there a fee for the renewals or is it based on the value of some of the IPs at all, or is it some of the service around it?

The software is primarily a subscription based on the size of your IP, portfolio, and then the payments. There’s a transactional pricing scheme and a contractual wrapper.

I want to go back to the 22-year-old Justin Crotty, who’s getting ready to start his career before the 24-year-old crash project. What advice would you give yourself as a 22-year-old that you know to be true now?

I have always been a planner. I’ve always had plans of, “Here’s where I’m going to go. Here’s where I see my career going.” Those are never the plans that happen. When I was in private equity, one of the founders of partners always said that you’d put a plan or a model in front of them and say, “The one thing we know is this isn’t true.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go through the exercise of making the plans. I’ve had 4 or 5 careers or however you want to count it but I’ve found that those experiences have been super valuable for the role that I play now.

You asked about some of that earlier. The advice to 22-year-old me that had the linear career path set up would be, “Don’t worry about it. Focus on having good experiences. You are going to have failures. Figure out what you can learn from those and how you can develop a broad skillset that ultimately you are going to use. You may not know how you are going to use it yet.”

SIC 181 | Anaqua

Anaqua: Focus on having good experiences. You’re going to have failures. Figure out what you can learn from those and how you can develop a broad skill set that you will ultimately use.

 

Work hard at the time wherever you are on.

Try to get better each time. Try to take care of people, your team, and clients. Try to do those things and don’t necessarily worry about the outcome every time because you don’t know. You can’t predict what may or may not be valuable. I didn’t know when I was working on engineering many years ago that I would now be responsible for cloud hosting. Having some basic understanding of technology would be helpful for having those discussions. Focus on having broad experiences. Learn from your mistakes, try to take care of people, and the rest will take care of itself.

Justin Crotty, the COO from Anaqua, thank you much for sharing with us. I appreciate the time and the ideas.

It was great talking to you. Thank you so much for having me.

I appreciate it.

 

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About Justin Crotty

SIC 181 | AnaquaSaaS Software and Payments leader with 20+ years of experience developing and executing growth strategies aligned with business goals and financial objectives. Proven track record of building dynamic teams and driving organic growth, complemented with fully integrated acquisitions. Passionate about protecting global intellectual property rights and achieving profitable growth

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Written By Cameron Herold

Written By Cameron Herold

Cameron Herold is known around the world as THE CEO WHISPERER. He is the mastermind behind hundreds of companies’ exponential growth. Cameron’s built a dynamic consultancy: his current clients include a “Big 4” wireless carrier and a monarchy. What do his clients say they like most about him? He isn’t a theory guy—they like that Cameron speaks only from experience. He earned his reputation as the CEO Whisperer by guiding his clients to double their profit and double their revenue in just three years or less. Cameron is a top-rated international speaker and has been paid to speak in 26 countries. He is also the top-rated lecturer at EO/MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program and a powerful and effective speaker at Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer leadership events around the world.

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