|Home - Industry Article - July 08 Issue
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
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
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
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
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
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