Home | About | Recent Issue | Archives | Events | Jobs | Subscribe | ContactBookmark The Sterling Report


Does consolidation breed software product mediocrity?



CEO Spotlight: John ‘Jay’ Jarrell, Objectivity, Inc. 

By Angel Mehta, Managing Director, Sterling-Hoffman Executive Search

His in-depth sales experience and obsession with quality have been instrumental in reinforcing Objectivity’s position in the market for scalable, reliable databases for mission-critical systems. John ‘Jay’ Jarrell, CEO of Objectivity, is not just focused on innovation, but also on saleability. Angel Mehta, Managing Director, Sterling-Hoffman speaks with Jay about the software market and his plans for Objectivity.

Angel Mehta (AM): What was the first job you ever had in the software industry?
Jay Jarrell (JJ): I was offered a position with a company called Computer Associates (CA), which is now a large software company. It is based in New York state, and I decided to go to work with them in Sales. That was a real eye-opener with respect to learning the skill of licensing software, and how IP can be licensed and sub-licensed with respect to generating revenue for a business. It was much like the ‘Oracle boot camp’ in the late ’80s, where there was rapid adoption of software by corporations. This trend was under the premise that corporations would yield benefits from productivity and efficiency gains by licensing systems software, application software, database software (computerization and modernization of business operations), etc.

AM: You were at Objectivity for over 6-1/2 years before becoming the CEO… do you think that people who come up through the ranks and then take over a company are better suited to lead than the outsiders who are brought in?  This seemed to be a core tenet from ‘Good to Great’.
JJ: Depends on the organizational needs, requirements to grow the business and many other business dynamics, which factor into a board’s decision. Our decision was based on the need. Our company is one in which the technology was unique, complex and there were/are emerging requirements for our embedded software (Objectivity/DB). The organization requires a mindset of sales and marketing, and a vision, which highlights our company’s value proposition with respect to increasing market adoption and growth. Hence, the CEO role at Objectivity, Inc. is well suited to my sales, marketing and leadership background in the software business. My experience at Objectivity prior to taking on CEO role allowed me to immediately step in and be effective in the leadership and strategic role.

AM: What are you most focused on right now in terms of business challenges?
JJ: First, how are we going to dynamically grow the business without a huge influx of cash so that we achieve consistent growth? Number two, we don’t want to get taken out too early by a large company without growing our revenues to a point where we would have a strategic, compelling liquidity event. Number three, as we keep moving forward, there could be something competitively that might come along and take away our unique and competitive advantage in our key verticals. Those are the three main things that keep us innovating, keep us trying to be fresh and developing technological breakthroughs, so we keep ahead of the curve at the high-end.

AM: You talked about competitive advantages and key verticals. What are the defensible competitive advantages that Objectivity relies on to win business?
JJ: Our competitive advantage is that we are a complete peer-to-peer architecture for distributed computing and managing the relationships between all different types of data types in real time. We are embedded in high-end mission-critical applications and we help to connect those applications with other applications to give a fused view that improves decision-making.

That competitive advantage for us versus other types of data management, such as open source or relational databases, occurs when there is a high-end, real-time requirement for being able to connect all different types of data, which might come from different silos of information, in a mission-critical operational environment.

AM: So the advantage is technology built for that very specific vertical?
JJ: The technology, without question. In addition, we have implemented a vertical business strategy where Objectivity and Objectivity/DB (our flagship product) has a unique and competitive advantage versus other database management systems at the high-end.

AM: Having come up as a sales executive, what are some of the things that you are most frustrated by as the CEO of a software company?
JJ: Sometimes the conflict is that sales and marketing executives and software companies maybe don’t have an appreciation for the technical capacities of the software, and so, of course, the technical people tend to have less patience for them.

Conversely, many technical companies get an ‘if you build it, they will come’ type of mentality, which can frustrate business leaders, shareholders, institutional investors, employees and board members. Many times it is not about the technical founder building the product and then the market immediately adopting the innovation; many good technical innovations have not survived or succeeded due to the lack of business strategy, vision, and operational execution. This is why technical, innovative companies can truly benefit from talented sales, marketing, operational, and business leaders. These types of folks are a critical component for ensuring that an innovative company achieves success, thus delivering a financial return to all stakeholders involved as well as gaining market adoption of the disruptive technology introduced.

AM: Obviously, things have changed for early-stage software companies from the late ’90s, leaving the bubble bursting aside. Consolidation of the industry has got to make it more challenging to convince customers that you are going to be around. How have you dealt with that problem, and how do you coach other software sales people to address that issue when they’re selling on behalf of a small software company?
JJ: We’re lucky in that respect because we have long-term and very large customers. In our government verticals, we work with everyone from government agencies and the military services to systems integrators, all of whom are extremely risk averse. Also, there are a lot of large manufacturers using our application: Nortel, Ericsson, NEC, Siemens…so it’s hard for companies to doubt that we’ll be in business when we have so many world-class companies relying on our technology. We do a lot of reference selling.

The other very important thing about our strategy is that we sell to the innovators in the software engineering community – not to the IT folks who maintain systems, but to the innovators themselves.

AM: How do you know, as CEO, when to step in and when to get out of the way?
JJ: From my standpoint, you put key executives in place to manage objectives, you set up processes and then you monitor the processes so that you understand pro-actively when certain things are not going right. When you need to, you step in and ask the right questions and get things going. Sometimes it’s hard to step out of the situation. The biggest thing to learn is putting the key executives in place and key people in place. When you are in the CEO role, that’s really what you’re doing – looking in and getting involved. You do have a tendency initially to want to micro-manage or get a level down to each function of the business. But if you are always in reactionary mode, you won’t do very well. Your job is to look ahead.

Jay Jarrell is President and CEO of Objectivity, Inc., a global technology leader in data management products and services for software applications with the most demanding data management challenges. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Objectivity, Inc., as well as managing the company's growth and strategic direction. Jay is also an active member on Objectivity’s board of directors. He has been President and COO, a position he assumed in January 2002, after serving as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Prior to joining Objectivity in 1997, Jay was the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for Creative Biomedics, a company specializing in network telecommunications equipment and software solutions. Previously, he held sales and marketing positions at Computer Associates and A.C. Nielsen Co. For interview feedback, contact Jay at jjarrell@objectivity.com.

Angel Mehta is Managing Director of Sterling-Hoffman, a retained executive search firm focused on VP Sales, VP Marketing and CEO searches for enterprise software companies and lead investor in www.softwaresalesjobs.com, the #1 site for software sales jobs. Angel can be reached for feedback at amehta@sterlinghoffman.net

Click to email this article to a friend     Back


  Home | About | Recent Issue | Archives | Events | Jobs | Subscribe | Contact | Terms of Agreement
© 2006 The Sterling Report. All rights reserved.