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An Interview with Ron Sege, Chairman of Virtana

Ron Sege is a Partner at Benhamou Global Ventures and the executive chairman of Virtana. With over 37 years of experience coming up with “disruptive offerings” for the enterprise information technology market, he has made an enviable career for himself in business. In those 37 years, he has also “established public companies and venture-backed startups.”

Throughout his career, Ron Sege has also amassed a wealth of experience in “extensive cross-border management” as well as “managing operations in China, UK, Continental Europe and Israel.” His specialties lay in “go-to-market strategy and tactics,” owing to his career beginning in Field Operations at ROLM Corporation and 3Com.

Later, Ron Sege became an experienced executive, moving first into Division General Management until eventually becoming President, CEO, and Chairman in public and private companies. Through his experience and knowledge, he possesses sharp insights into the “telecom market, Enterprise Networking and Cyber Security, Wireless Technologies, and Industrial IOT.” He had honed his insights by working for ROLM Corporation, 3Com Corporation, Tropos Networks, and Echelon Corporation.

Currently, Ron Sege sits on the board of Ubiquiti Networks and the Advisory Board of McRock Capital Industrial IOT (IIoT) Venture Fund. Previously, he sat on the boards of 3Com Corporation and Echelon Corporation, as well as the private boards of Ellacoya Networks and Tropos Networks.

Check out more interviews with savvy tech executives here.

 

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? (original)

Ron Sege: I have always been fascinated with new ideas and ways to do things. This has shaped my longevity in technology as I have been involved with public and private companies all around the globe. My undergraduate degree was in Economics and I never would have believed decades ago how profoundly technology would impact how all of us live, work, and play. It has ignited a passion for me to become involved in investing for the most promising technologies to come to market.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Ron Sege: I had to taste a little bit of ‘humble’ pie just after graduating from Harvard Business School. See the next response for details on my hard-won lesson that learning how to manage people rather than processes is the most important thing to do as an effective business leader. During those first couple of years, I learned to be just one of the crew, first pulling cable, then in sales hanging out with the customer. That’s where you develop genuine relationships. I think it’s critical. I believe in the reverse pyramid organizational theory — the front line is not there to serve upper management; upper management is there to serve the front line.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Ron Sege: I went to business school; certain I was an admissions mistake. After all, I was just some guy from the country — or what was then the country — in the Bay Area. After business school, I came back to the Bay Area, interviewed for jobs and took one at ROLM Corporation, which was basically the inventor of the computerized commercial telephone system.

The guy who hired me, also a Harvard MBA, said, “Hey, we like hiring MBAs from Harvard and Stanford. Most of them go into marketing and finance and you can do that and be just like everyone else. Or I would actually like to experiment by putting an MBA on our customer services team because it’s a key part of the company.”

So, being a sporting fellow, I agreed. I showed up my first Monday morning and reported to my immediate boss. He’s a guy supervising crews installing and servicing phone systems, many ex-union guys. He said, “The big boss told me I have to hire you and make you a supervisor of one of our crews.” My immediate boss told me he didn’t like the idea, but he would do it. He introduced me to my crew of ten guys.

So, there I was — a fresh MBA graduate with little hands-on management experience now in charge of a group of front-line workers who had years of on-the-job experience that I didn’t have. A week after I’d been there, I showed up on Monday morning at 7am to face a cold, hard disconnect. None of my crew members had showed up.

By 9am, I got a call from my boss. “Come into my office right now.” I go into the office and he said, “Do you notice that none of your crew is here? They don’t want to work for you anymore. I don’t know what they teach you at Harvard Business School, but obviously they don’t teach you how to manage people.”

I was living the precursor of the NY Times best seller by the late, super-agent Mark McCormack, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.

My boss gave me my first big lesson on how to lead people. He told me it’s not all about efficiency and I’ve got to be part of the team: bring them snacks in the morning, ride around and actually help them with the installations, go to class and learn how to do what they are doing. So, I did all that. That was my introduction to the realities of business.

Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Ron Sege:

  1. Be humble and realize what you don’t know- this fosters reflection and reveals new insights.
  2. Instill trust from staff, customers, and partners- companies only grow by keeping customers and adding new ones. This applies to recruiting and retaining talent too.
  3. Understand the friction and pain points- what is the biggest business or organizational challenge or hurdle that customers need to overcome? Listen — you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.
  4. Solve a big problem- Focus on the most important friction points and smooth them out.
  5. Keep improving to stay relevant- Markets move fast and new competition enters every day. Always take the long view to future proof a company.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Ron Sege: A core human attribute is the search and need for purpose. Employees, customers and investors prefer to work for or support companies that are aligned with their core values and life goals. Savvy employers understand this and showcase their mission and values to demonstrate that the fit is aligned. With so many social causes that matter- homelessness, lack of access to technology or healthcare, it is important to support the causes that resonate with your particular industry and company.

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Ron Sege: Sales conversion rates are dependent on trust, timing and value. Is your sales team reaching out to customers when they are in the decision-making phase? Do they understand the customer’s business and what problems they need to solve? How does your company do what the customer needs better than any other option? All this requires deep, active listening. More questions, less speeches.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Ron Sege: I think one of the hardest things to acquire in business is lasting, trusted customer relationships. At Virtana, we’ve developed deep, long-lasting relationships with more than 250 of the Global 2000 companies over a number of years. We have a net-promoter score of over 80, which is almost perfect, and a customer churn rate of close to zero. That coupled with the fact that we excel at high-fidelity performance monitoring that can help them do business better. We also help them leverage their use of cloud solutions to benefit their businesses at the right cost, performance, and capacity. We are core to their business success, and we deliver year after year.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Ron Sege: I’m on LinkedIn.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

 

The post An Interview with Ron Sege, Chairman of Virtana appeared first on Tekrati.

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