#OneAvetta & the Importance of Understanding Your Customers
Arshad Matin joined Avetta, one of the world’s leading providers of cloud-based supply chain management, in October last year. With his extensive experience in successfully leading high-technology and software companies over the past 25 years, including being the CEO of Paradigm – a leading developer of software solutions to the oil and gas industry, as well as holding senior leadership roles at companies including IHS Markit, Seismic Micro-Technology Inc., Symantec Corp. and BindView Corp., and being a Partner at McKinsey & Company, Arshad is perfectly positioned to execute the next phase of Avetta’s growth strategy. Since his appointment, he’s focused all of his energy on optimising the organisation in terms of reporting structures and discipline and making sure that Avetta continues to constantly improve its leading technology. We caught up with Arshad to hear more about how his first months as CEO and President of Avetta have been, as well as the company’s increased focus on their customers and how they’ve handled the challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak has presented the world with.
What were your initial goals for driving change within Avetta?
Avetta was a very successful and continuously growing company when I joined six months ago. Our current goal is to scale the business so it can capture the large opportunity that is available to us. We believe that the business has the potential to organically double in size in the next three-four years
How are you planning to achieve this?
We plan to achieve this by having the right strategy, building the right organisational capabilities and executing against our plans.
We have begun working on further strengthening our two-sided business model. We currently have our 95,000 suppliers on the one end and our 450 clients on the other and our goal is to dramatically accelerate the membership in our network on both sides.
The second thing we’re working on at the moment is enhancing our value proposition to both sides of the network as we believe that we can create value for both our clients and suppliers. We also plan to continue investing in our platform to make it more scalable by adding more capabilities and more data analytics to it.
And last but not least, we’re also investing in becoming more global. Currently, we still get most of our business from the US, although we work with companies from across 100+ countries. For the future, I’d like to increase our footprint in non-North American markets.
What made you choose Avetta?
For my fourth role as a CEO, I was looking for something very special and Avetta ended up being exactly that. The company’s mission and approach are what drew me in, as well as its amazing team, which I was so excited to join. Avetta makes the world safer and better and I feel privileged to be a part of that. Joining the company was a massive opportunity for me – less than 10% of companies out there use a system like ours, which means that 90% of them don’t. There’s a big white space for a company like Avetta and I truly believe in its potential.
In addition to this, I was also impressed by Avetta’s technology. The company has invested very wisely in its platform – it’s new, fresh and it offers lots of different options to our clients.
How would you evaluate your role and its impact over the last six months?
The key thing we’ve accomplished as a team is connected to our strategy of expanding our network. We’re seeing a great initial response to the changes we make around focussing on investing more in our product.
We have put in place two key objectives across the entire company that define what we do on a day-to-day basis – #OneAvetta and #CustomerDelight. And these are not just slogans, they really are the guiding principles of how we work today as a company. #OneAvetta stands for the fact that at the end of the day, we are all one – when somebody from the outside interacts with Avetta, we work as a unified single entity. Nothing is the responsibility of just one department – we’re all in this together. #CustomerDelight stands for our obsessive focus on our customers and their experience with the company. Avetta’s always had a positive Net Promoter score, but I believe that we can always do better. It’s all still work in progress and we’re still only six months into it, but we’re already beginning to see recognition from our clients for the work we’ve done recently and it’s definitely something we’ll continue working on.
How does Avetta make a difference?
At Avetta, we help companies to become safer and better by having more trust-based relationships with each other. So, if the clients hired a supplier, they know that that this supplier is a safer and better choice in the dimensions they care about, which could be around quality, safety, health, environmental awareness etc. In contrast to some of our competitors who work with one or two sectors, we operate within many different sectors, which also puts us in a unique position.
Is the current COVID-19 outbreak affecting your operations in any way?
We have all been working from home and for a tech company that has invested a lot in infrastructure, that transition went very smoothly.
The post-COVID-19 world will be very different to the pre-COVID-19 world.
But more importantly, what’s affected our operations and what we’re really proud of is how we reacted when it came to helping our suppliers and clients in this new world. If you go on our website, you’ll find a COVID-19 resource page which is there to help our network navigate the challenges we’ve all been faced with. We’ve hosted numerous webinars and have spoken with experts who have shared their advice on how to deal with the current situation from a business point of view.
I do believe that the post-COVID-19 world will be very different to the pre-COVID-19 world. I don’t know what the new normal will be for us and for our customers and suppliers, but what I do know is that one possible outcome is going to be a major reconfiguration of supply chains. I think that a lot of global corporations will bring more of the supply chains back home, which will then require for them to hire many more suppliers and contractors – or the exact people we have in our network, which means that the demand for the service we provide will in turn increase.
In the current environment, a lot of companies of our size or even much bigger have had to cut back on staff, but we made the decision not to do it. We had permission from our shareholders and management team to maintain employment and continue to invest in our business. We’re very fortunate to continue being very busy through this time and we certainly haven’t seen any reduction in the number of calls we get or the amount of work we’re doing with our clients and suppliers.
For the future, however, we will need to adapt to the new normal and adjust our plans in accordance with whatever that new normal happens to be. In the short term, we will turn our focus towards helping our customers get back to work—safely.
Have you always wanted to be a CEO?
I have been a CEO for a very long time now, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve always wanted to be one. I am an ambitious person, but I’ve never had a ten-year plan. I set myself goals for the near future and I work on these goals until I achieve them. However, I do enjoy being a CEO – in every CEO role I’ve taken to date, I have been learning something new every day and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process!
You may have the best team and all the available tools out there, but if you don’t have a good understanding of your customers’ experience, you’re likely to fail.
What is the best advice anyone’s ever given to you?
As a McKinsey Partner, you’re expected to come with the answer to a set of problems that your clients want you to solve – that’s essentially what consultants do. You’re assigned a project and a problem that you and your team need to find a solution to. As a CEO, however, my job is slightly different. I am not expected to come up with a solution to a problem myself – my job is to ask the right questions and then get my team to come up with the right answer. As a CEO, your role isn’t to do everyone’s job – your job is to make sure that you have the right team and that you give them all the necessary tools while guiding them on how to find that solution for you. This is a great piece of advice I was given by another CEO, who said to me that he had to learn this the hard way.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced CEO?
I would say the most important thing as a CEO is to have empathy and a good understanding of what’s going on in your organisation, as well as what’s going on in your customer base. I’ve been in the business world for a long time now. I started my career in the 90s and I’ve gone through 25 years of experience. I’ve seen the world pre-dot-com bubble and post-dot-com bubble, pre-great recession, and post-great recession and now pre-COVID-19 and hopefully, post-COVID-19. And through that journey what I’ve learned is that in order to succeed in your role, you need to have empathy and be mindful of your employees and colleagues on the one end and your clients on the other. You may have the best team and all the available tools out there, but if you don’t have a good understanding of your customers’ experience, you’re likely to fail.
I also encourage all other CEOs to do work outside of their CEO role, such as being on the board of not-for-profit organisations – not only because it will help you develop different skills, but also because giving back to the community is extremely gratifying.