Dave Yovanno | Crain's Los Angeles

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dave Yovanno

Background:  

Dave Yovanno is CEO of digital marketing startup Impact Radius, which works to provide solutions to the challenges faced by modern marketers.

Early in his career, Yovanno served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant and chief information officer for a naval hospital in the Seattle area. He has worked in advertising for 25 years while focusing specifically on marketing technology and software-as-a-service (Saas).

The Mistake:

You think you’ve got time to execute a plan but when a business is in trouble, you’ve got to move pretty fast.

I was able to do that quite well at [SaaS company] Gigya, [where I was CEO from 2008 through 2011]. I put forth a plan and we made a decision to pivot from an advertising to Saas model and we literally dropped everything, laid off half the company and went for it.

With Marin Software [where I worked as CEO from 2014 to 2016] it was a public company and there were a lot more people involved, like 500 people, and I felt that it needed to happen more gradually. In hindsight, I probably should have moved a lot faster. I think the business would have been better off if we had moved as quickly as I had moved [when I worked at Gigya]. You just have to drop everything and make a hard pivot if you think that’s right.

At Gigya, [before the pivot] we were kind of a social media technology company and this was back when MySpace was the number one social network. But when Facebook rolled out the News Feed and changed the whole industry pretty quickly, we were forced to pivot and just didn’t panic. We assessed the market and looked at what was trending and did a lot of research on Saas and had a lot of specific models.

Things change quickly, so don’t hang onto a legacy model regardless of your size.

The Lesson:

One of my biggest takeaways—and I see this being a big challenge for bigger, public companies—is that things change quickly, so don’t hang onto a legacy model regardless of your size.

When I look at Impact Radius and the success it’s having, it’s based on disrupting these large, incumbent companies that haven't been innovating or keeping up with the trends. [It leaves a] wide-open market opportunity for that next startup to come in and disrupt.

It’s even more paramount when you’re bigger: you have to defend yourself. You'll be successful of course for a period of time, but I think over the mid-to-long-term you’re going to lose if you’re not changing quickly. You’ve got to move a lot faster than you think [especially] if you’re planning to reduce your operating expenses and things like that, you need to up your sense of urgency and cut deeper if you’re in cost-reduction mode: cut deeper and sooner than you think.

Dave Yovanno is on Twitter at @DaveYovanno and Impact Radius is at @impactradius.

Photo courtesy of Dave Yovanno.

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