3 observations after 5 years leading a PE-backed company
Prisest’ na dorozhku is a Russian custom of sitting on your luggage before embarking on a journey. To reflect on what you leave behind and to envision the path ahead. As Blue Yonder transitions to a new governance structure, we leave a stakeholder behind: our investor-partners Blackstone and New Mountain Capital. The playbook over the last five years, built in partnership with them, can fill a book. I share three experiences that are noteworthy.
1. Make no little plans: Broad support to think big and invest for the long term enabled us to do much. We doubled our R&D spend, took bold measures to enhance customer experience, added 2,000 jobs including right here in the United States, enhanced our employee benefits, even refurbished every office from Scottsdale to Dallas to Monterrey to London to Hamburg to Hyderabad. We recognized that we had outgrown our company name and as a result transitioned to a new brand in “Blue Yonder.” Along the way we made a bet on an up-and-coming sportsman, a Spaniard. Today, Jon Rahm, our brand ambassador, is ranked the #1 golfer in the world. “Make no little plans,” became a company-wide mantra and off of it came big bets—from product to partner ecosystem; even a U.S. Open golf tournament win.
2. Action Bias: Innovation above all else became the norm. Our first rendition of Luminate, our AI/ML fueled supply chain solution, went from concept to generating value for a lighthouse customer in 9 months. When we made mistakes, there was swift acknowledgement and recovery. Early in our flight path, our thesis evolved and with that came a company defining decision to change our cloud platform provider. Quarterly board meetings became less about unthreading the 90 days and more about weaving for the next 2-4 years. Soon, velocity outpaced the pull of inertia.
3. Absolute transparency: In all that we aspired to do, achieving pristine alignment between the frontlines of the company and the investors became our piece de resistance. We made it about four meta metrics: SaaS ARR, customer success, associate engagement, and innovation. Our operations reviews and board meetings became cathartic events: we talked about our areas of improvement while positioning the company for the long term. We made it a norm to share as much from our board meetings as feasible with the entire company. Trust-building within our broader team and investor-partners was a cherished commodity. The only way we knew how to gain absolute trust was via absolute transparency.
We learned over the 5 years that in a company undertaking ambitious transformation, the role of the board, beyond governance matters, can be a defining factor. And in that, we were privileged to have a seasoned chairman of the board and expertise from our investor-partners.
Let me be clear. Our aspirations for Blue Yonder are far greater than the sum of the past five years’ success. For one, there has never been a time of such great significance when supply chains could do so much to influence human lives and the planet itself.
As we embark on our journey ahead, our domicile in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona implores us in the foreground. Each day we are witness to majestic skies that evoke limitless possibilities. And with that, and with our customers, partners, and team members, we look forward to soaring into the blue yonder.