Dave Blake is the founder and CEO of ClientSuccess, a customer success platform that helps B2B SaaS companies proactively manage their customer base, measure customer health, and maximize revenue by driving high growth and retention.
Hoping to learn more about his experience as a founder and the advice he would give to the next generation of entrepreneurs, we sat down with Dave for a conversation.
What inspired you to start your own company?
For most of my career, I've been a customer success guy. I started as a customer success manager at a company called Omniture in 2003. I helped build a global customer success team focused on their strategic enterprise accounts. I was fortunate to be part of Omniture’s amazing journey from startup to IPO. The company was acquired by Adobe, and I continued on that journey with Adobe to grow and scale the global customer success team.
However, we never had solutions that were tailored specifically for our needs during my journey with Omniture & Adobe, so we were forced to cobble together processes, workflows, insights, analytics, and dashboards across many solutions. After 10 years at Omniture and Adobe, I decided to start ClientSuccess to build solutions in the customer success space and really chase a passion and solve the pain-points that I experienced as a customer success professional and leader.
What advice would you go back in time and give yourself when starting your company?
In a SaaS business, product is king, so it's very important to hire the best CTO and product leaders from day one. Once you have the right product leaders and strategy in place, maniacally focus on your customers to build simple, elegant solutions that solve real business problems and pain points. Have a very customer-centric product strategy, with strong product leadership, will accelerate your path to product-market fit and growth.
As a founder, what question are you asked more than any other?
One question I'm asked a lot is, “How do you balance everything?”
I'm a father of five children, I've been married to my wife for almost 25 years, I'm involved in my church and the community, and I'm a founder of a software company. That’s a lot to balance. But over the years, I’ve learned from some great mentors and CEOs that your quest for a perfectly balanced life is a futile effort.
Instead, it’s important to have a principled-based life to learn to integrate your personal and professional life in ways to complement each other without sacrificing one or the other. I’ve learned that at times your family life overlaps with your professional life, and vice versa - and that’s ok. The key is to be ALL IN in your commitment to your family, faith, friends, and work. But, also to be fully engaged or “present” in each area of your life when it’s most important.
For example, many days I’ll work long hours or travel for work, which takes added time away from my family. However, when I attend one of my kid’s games or dance recitals, I really try to be focused and present during that game or recital to ensure my kids know I’m there for them. I’m not perfect, but it’s something I try to improve at as I’ve evolved as a founder.
What foundational step is most critical to building an enduring company?
First and foremost, you have to surround yourself with the right people. You need a committed team who are excited about the journey and willing to be ALL IN in creating something special. The team should be united in their passion for taking care of customers and solving their problems. You want investors who can be patient and engage as thought partners, while challenging you to build sustainable high-growth businesses. You want a community around you with fellow entrepreneurs and founders who dream big and genuinely want to create businesses that are game-changing for generations. I feel fortunate to have that at ClientSuccess, with Cervin Ventures, and here in Utah (aka “Silicon Slopes").
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
To aspiring entrepreneurs, I'd say, have courage and go for it! Just understand that the entrepreneurial journey has the highest-of-highs and lowest-of-lows (sometimes within the same day), but the key is to stay grounded and find your groove right in the middle. Be fearless and focused, have GRIT, and chase your passion!
To learn more about Dave and the company that he’s built, visit the ClientSuccess website.