‘I want to be able to achieve what I call unquestionable success in my eyes more days of the year’
Building a company is a difficult task. Whether starting their own or growing an established business, these leaders have made a name for themselves as some of the best of the best. So, what makes business leaders tick and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Alex Zeltcer, CEO of nSure.ai, about his journey in business.
What are the biggest challenges you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge is always cultural issues within the organisation. These are the most difficult challenges to fix because culture is usually built into the organisation, and changing that is not easy.
There’s the famous quote from Peter Drucker which says “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I truly believe in that. If you have a strategy, it’s great, but the thing that really determines whether a company is successful or not is the culture that you create within it.
When you look at the responsibilities an employee has in a start-up compared to an enterprise, there are many things that are different.
Usually, within a large enterprise, if your responsibility can be depicted as a square, the next person’s responsibility is probably the square next to it. There is a small area that is overlapping between you two and that way, nothing falls between the cracks.
In start-ups, there are large gaps between employee responsibilities. That means that when something falls between the cracks, and it always does, there is a lot to be covered.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
When I first started my career, I really thought that the higher in the chain you are, the more control you have over what you do and the more control you have over your responsibilities. The reality is exactly the opposite.
As a CEO, I have a lot less ability to control what I’m responsible for than I would have if I was a developer or digital marketer.
The second thing is that I didn’t know what was driving me when I was young. When I was in my 20s, I sat down and decided I wanted to run a company with a lot of employees because I felt that would allow me to achieve a lot, and I wanted to be close to the management of the company because I felt that I would have more control over the strategy. I also decided how much money I would make.
I did the same drill again when I was 42. When I looked at the things I thought were driving me, I realised I was completely misaligned with what really drives me.
I think the thing that drives me most is I want to feel that the people I work with believe that I can help them be their best and become the best performers they can be. Disappointing them is my biggest fear. If I had known that when I was in my 20s, I think my career would have looked different.
Did you always want to be a business leader or did that desire develop over time?
Yes, I always knew I wanted that. I’ll give you an analogy of that. When I was running Smart Team, we decided that we wanted to be the number one PLM tool for SMBs in the world. Someone asked why, and I said, “Because,” right?
There’s no reason why; you either want to be number one or you don’t. There’s no reason for that. It’s the same here. There’s no reason behind it. It’s either you want to be that, or you don’t. And I always wanted to, but my reasons for that changed as time evolved.
What is your top tip for other business leaders?
I’m very systematic and very consistent on this. As I said earlier, culture eats strategy for breakfast, which I think is very important. The second thing in a start-up is that pace is everything. That basically means everything you can do today, you should have done yesterday. Don’t leave anything for tomorrow.
What are your plans for the future?
I like what I’m doing, but I think that the hardest thing to do is be proud of what you do. Out of 365 days a year, I probably wake up proud of what I do on one or two of these days. Every other day, I’m a bit disappointed in whatever I achieved yesterday. I want to be able to achieve what I call unquestionable success in my eyes more days of the year. We’re working towards that, I hope. And then we’ll do it again. That’s it.
What makes a great business leader?
I don’t think there are rules. I’ve read management books like Good to Great by James Collins, and one of the things that he tries to do is define what makes a great company.
But personally, I think that’s the wrong way to go about that. I think that every person is different. And as a result of that, they all have different management styles. There are no good management styles or bad management styles. There are good and bad managers. Things that work for me might not work for someone else. And things that work for someone else won’t necessarily work for me.