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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO: With Peter Micciche, CEO at Certain

“When I started out in sales, I had the good fortune of having a mentor who took the time to spoon feed me what I needed to know to be successful. That’s person’s “gift” to me has resulted in a successful career. In turn, I have consciously directly or indirectly passed on some of what I learned to others who benefited and have in turn passed that knowledge on to yet more people.”

I had the pleasure to interview Peter Micciche. Peter is CEO of Certain, and has led the Company’s drive to deliver measureable results to enterprise marketers from events. Previously, he was CEO of Native Minds (acquired by Verity); CEO of Kinecta (acquired by Stellent); President, Cognos Corp (acquired by IBM) and SVP Sales Americas for Nuance. Peter’s earlier career included sales and sales executive roles at GE Software. Peter earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and finance from Boston College and an MBA degree from Suffolk University in Boston, MA.

What is your “backstory”?

Peter: I was an experienced enterprise software executive by the time I entered the world of event and meeting management. I only knew events as an attendee, as a corporate sponsor and from organizing business conferences. I knew that event planning is an incredibly demanding role and as expected the software has to deliver for the “show to go on”.

As I delved into the industry I found the conversation among planners, industry executives and corporate clients to be about how to manage the daunting logistics events require and how to control spending.

I was shocked that there was little dialogue around the most important element of events — the purpose of events are to sell something — be it a product, service or an idea. It seemed that the money and resources that pour into this “blackhole” were disconnected from the outcome the organizers were striving for.

My aha moment was when I realized that the data an event, conference or tradeshow can generate wasn’t captured and was literally going into thin air. Data is the “glue” that can connect the event investment to the business result.

I knew that this disconnect was a major source of financial pain for large enterprises and that it was possible to address this pain and produce a competitive advantage.

I wanted to do something about this massive problem.

Certain provides robust enterprise event automation software that empowers enterprise marketers and event planners to achieve sales and marketing results, engage prospects and customers, and scale events globally. Our enterprise platform provides marketers and event planning professionals with a broad, powerful and unified suite of integrated applications for planning and executing events and delivering event intelligence to increase sales, market share and improve marketing effectiveness. Microsoft, Oracle, The Walt Disney Company, Deloitte, Intuit and Dow Jones are just a few of the customers that deploy our event automation solution.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Peter: We suddenly lost a beloved senior executive to cancer last year. She had made a significant impact on our Company and culture. We held a memorial service for her in our headquarters and as expected the sadness was palpable. I was concerned about the time it would take for employees to grieve and recover. The next day, one of our suppliers had a major system failure that impacted all of our customers. At exactly the wrong time to have a crisis, we had one. People were feeling badly without the universe dumping this nightmare on them.

I was astounded by the response. The entire Company rallied non-stop for 48 hours to ensure our global customers got the communication, assistance and human touch necessary to do their jobs. I could write a book about team collaboration from that one episode. The level of effort was off the charts and taught me more about human potential under duress than anything I had ever experienced in decades of software experience. I couldn’t have been more proud of and grateful to my people for overcoming adversity.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Peter: Leading people is a great honor. I try to create an impact on the world by sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned with our people and with others that seek mentoring and coaching. I believe in the network effect and even small insights that I might possess if imparted to others can create leverage that helps many others unforeseen. For example, when I started out in sales, I had the good fortune of having a mentor who took the time to spoon feed me what I needed to know to be successful. That’s person’s “gift” to me has resulted in a successful career. In turn, I have consciously directly or indirectly passed on some of what I learned to others who benefited and have in turn passed that knowledge on to yet more people.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

A. Determine if you want success or you want to be right. I had a relationship with a Board member which had some friction and that was starting to impact our effectiveness in working together. I was convinced I was right on this contentious issue. A wise mentor took me aside and encouraged me to own addressing the relationship before it went downhill. I parked my ego and decided the relationship was worth more than getting my way. Once I compromised, everything fell into place and the relationship blossomed mutually benefiting both of us.

B. Find a coach whose judgement you trust who can tell you to your face what you need to address. The starker the assessment, the better. Most of the people around you are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. They then will watch as you go over the cliff they didn’t tell you was around the corner.

I’ve had a couple of coaches who wouldn’t let me off the hook. One was a former Fortune 500 CEO who was six foot ten and had an icy cold baleful stare that made the most confident executive squirm and stammer. He was equipped with a Mensa mind that was like a steel trap and used that to challenge and shape my thoughts until the optimal decision was crystal clear.

I now work with a woman who is two feet shorter but equally challenging with her German precision and relentless push to turn the gray areas into either black or white.

C. Wherever you are, it’s because you decided to be there. If you don’t like where you are, then make another decision and keep going until you get to where you want to be.

I think I picked this up along the way from Dr. Phil. Everything starts with a decision and your current situation is a product of many decisions; even micro-decisions. Perhaps you are a salesperson who at the end of the day makes a decision to make just one more phone call before going home. Or not. Suppose the person at the end of the line is the one jackpot customer whose purchase leads to a major promotion for you.

Make a decision and then make another one. Jack Welch said “ the only decision I regret was not making decisions twice as fast”.

D.” The answers are in the marketplace.” — I heard this from a Board member who was listening to two smart executives arguing about marketing strategy. Business can be fun when you’re dealing with challenging problems and the smart people around you are engaged in a lively, stimulating debate. Sometimes it’s easy to forget though that the customers and prospects have the most motivation and credibility to answer the questions you are debating. Go ask them.

E. You are only as good as the team you build; you will be on a journey; make sure you enjoy who may be in the car with you for a long ride. Reference checks can be incredibly revealing if you listen/observe the “body language” when you ask tough questions. Listen to what your gut says in that call. Push away the tendency to “check the reference box”.

I have made the mistake of uncovering an issue through reference checking and then overriding my intellect and my gut. Why? Because I’m fully invested in the candidate at that point and the thought of going back to square one is too painful. Inevitably, it leads to even more pain when jerk behavior emerges and you have to deal with it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Peter: Yes, I would like to have lunch with the twenty-five year old version of myself. Experience is the best teacher and I would like to share my experiences with perhaps the one person who would actually embrace everything I would say. Myself!

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