Harvard in Tech
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Harvard in Tech

Harvard in Tech Spotlight: Mike Shore, VP and GM of Enterprise at Axon

Mike Shore, VP and GM of Enterprise at Axon

I spoke with Mike Shore, VP and GM of Enterprise at Axon, a company that develops technology to connect people, devices, and apps to protect life in all regards.

After graduating from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Mike worked at Atlassian in enterprise growth, which laid the foundation for his sales management career. Mike had always appreciated and enjoyed thinking about sales management, incentives, systems design, data, and resource allocation, which tied in well to the main priorities of sales leaders. When he was at Atlassian, his former Harvard classmate and fellow Harvard golf team member, Josh Isner (now Chief Revenue Officer at Axon), reached out to Mike about the VP of Sales opportunity at what was then Taser (and what later became Axon). Mike was excited about the company’s mission and potential in protecting life and truth, so he joined as VP of Sales, growing the Axon team from $10 to $100 million in revenue.

Mike was always drawn to the company building process, so after several years at Taser, he left to join an early stage startup in San Francisco, where he served as VP of Revenue. After some time there, an opportunity arose to join Axon again to build their enterprise sales group. So Mike joined as VP and GM of Enterprise at Axon in 2020, where he leads the business selling Axon to all commercial customers. Axon Enterprise encompasses all use cases outside of public safety, partnering with security, construction, manufacturing, and logistics companies to service their data needs around managing structured and unstructured data and digital assets.

Mike shared his perspective on building sales organizations, leading companies, cultivating sales relationships, and advice for his younger self.

On building sales organizations, Mike underscores the value of incentives, behavioral economics, and how people react to systems. He focuses on hiring the right people and creating the proper environment for them to succeed through empowering them with the right resources and placing them in the right seats.

In organizational systems, Mike thinks about how the design can empower the inputs (the team, company’s resources, and people’s time) to be transformed into business success. He also thinks about how he can design a system that not only achieves the immediate goals but can also be self sustaining and grow with the company.

Mike builds teams around trust rather than control. Trust is built up through repeated behaviors and delivering on every single commitment. Building trust with team members starts with the interview process, not just the first day on the job. In any job, including sales, there are many ups and downs in short term outcomes, but a team’s stability and long term success is rooted in the trust.

Mike has built Axon’s sales culture around a long term focus combined with near term execution. He embraces the next play philosophy: regardless of the outcome of the last week, last hour, or last call, what matters is the next call, the next attempt, and the next project.

On learnings from leading other companies, Mike highlights what he learned about creating excellent cultures from incredible companies like Atlassian and Google. In developing the Axon Enterprise sales culture, Mike took inspiration from many of the core principles at these companies. For example, he focuses on candor and transparency, compassion and patience, doing everything as a connected team, and cultivating ownership mentalities.

Through working at high growth companies, you can learn many best practices from companies that are winning. But at the same time, you do not want to stay too long in an easy environment. Mike aims to take on stretch roles to exercise new muscles and apply his existing learnings to new spaces. For example, his first role at Taser as VP of Sales was his first time in a multi-level leadership role. Although it was a leap at first, his experience there prepared him well for higher level sales work.

Through working at startups, you learn to focus, execute, and develop a deep mentality of ownership. Given the lean structures at startups, you often own the creation of a product or the management of a process from end to end, which teaches you about attention to detail and empowers you to take pride in your work.

From working at companies with different sales styles (Atlassian is a bottoms-up sales company, and Axon is a top-down one, for example) and in different stages of scaling, Mike was able to equip himself with the knowledge and experience to lead a sales team through the different stages of a company’s growth.

On cultivating sales relationships, Mike notes the importance of being straightforward. Being authentic brings out the authenticity in other people, empowering them to be more genuine, share more about themselves, and pave the way for more symbiotic collaboration.

Sales is ultimately about consultation rather than transaction. Listen to other people and focus first on delivering value to them through partnering with them to help structure, organize, and deliver on complex projects.

On what he would have done more of at Harvard, Mike highlights the importance of being curiosity driven rather than agenda driven. Explore everything and get to know everyone. Some of his favorite memories from Harvard were opportunities completely outside of his major or core focus areas, such as a talk by the Dalai Lama and a class on jazz. Take the time to broaden your perspective and lean into serendipity. Spend less time worrying about your first job out of college and instead think more critically long term about progress and getting unique experience, regardless of the discipline.

On advice for his younger self, Mike shares the importance of finding the right life partner, investing in relationships, and prioritizing experiences over fear of failure.

Too often people become so risk averse that they miss out on meaningful learning opportunities and unforgettable experiences. Looking back, Mike realizes he has learned much more from what has not worked out. He would tell his younger self to take more risks especially early on and get comfortable taking risks to build resilience to failure and live a more authentic life sooner.

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