How Golf is Like Building a Cloud Company

Building a Cloud Company

An Interview with Howard Moore, CEO, Keste

Keste, an early and leading innovator in CRM, was one of the first partners to sign with Vlocity, shortly after Vlocity’s Industry Cloud launch at Dreamforce’14. Howard Moore, Keste CEO and co-founder, believes success in implementing industry cloud apps is a lot like playing golf. Rip Gerber, Vlocity’s Head of Alliances, recently sat down with Howard to discuss a range of cloud and earthly topics.

Rip: First, welcome to Vlocity. Delighted to see you here.

Howard: Happy to be here.

Rip:  You’ve been a Salesforce Cloud Alliance partner for years.  What’s new in cloud computing in 2015?

Howard:  I witnessed an exciting new shift at Dreamforce’14. It was clear that Cloud CRM was becoming “vertical-ized,” and fast.  Salesforce has been transforming how customers conduct business for years, and with last year’s Vlocity launch, we were convinced that the timing was right to build even more on Salesforce1 for our clients.

Rip: Keste is the first system integrator to deploy Vlocity apps on Salesforce.  What lessons has your team learned in these early days of Industry Cloud?

Howard: Salesforce has built an incredible platform and ecosystem, and our customers see that Salesforce offers terrific core functionality.  But as cloud adoption increases, and matures, companies are seeking more industry-specific apps.  With Vlocity, we can deliver Salesforce faster, with less customization.  The customer wins, Salesforce wins, we win.  We’ve learned that with Vlocity, there are a lot more Salesforce opportunities, even in our existing accounts.

Rip:  Keste has developed unique capabilities in Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) on the Salesforce platform.  Any “secret-sauce” advice you can share about your approach in CPQ cloud integrations?

Howard:  Know your customer’s business.  When we founded Keste, we went deep into vertical integrations from the get-go.  We started as an Oracle practice, hired the best Oracle engineers and developers. We went deep into the Communications industry, and deep into CPQ.  We were early capitalizing on the industry transformation from mass-production to mass-customization.  We saw technology as an enabler, and focused on the complex CPQ processes of selling and ordering.  We see another transformation happening now: Industry Cloud.

Rip: Howard, why did you start Keste?

Howard: Keste is my second company. I enjoy building, it’s how I am wired, what I’ve always done. My father was self-employed, and like him, I have enjoyed having control over my career and my life.  Starting a company affords a level of independence and influence.  I take great pride in our culture at Keste. True professional satisfaction is knowing you are getting better every day through your work, knowing that you are gaining skills and becoming more valuable in the marketplace, whatever marketplace you chose.  We strive to create that satisfaction for everyone at Keste.

Rip: How do create a great culture at a professional services firm?

Howard:  You must pay well and take care of your people.  And take care of their families.  I am at a place in my career where I can choose, I can decide how I spend my time, and with whom.   We are very careful in who we choose to join us.  It’s that simple.  A great culture comes from focusing on the people.  The rest follows.

Rip:  Do you follow the same philosophy in choosing clients?

Howard: Absolutely. We only work on projects that move the needle for our clients.  We have to demonstrably improve their business.  It’s not about getting paid, it’s about how we spend our time.  Did my time with this person matter?  Did my time on this project matter?  I believe this is why Keste recruits such top talent.  Here, every professional has a direct line of sight on their career, every consultant can see how their work impacts customers in a positive way.  That’s extremely rewarding.

Rip: How will you know you are achieving your goals?

Howard:  Internally, we have very open feedback systems at Keste. Externally, we want to become the #1 CPQ consultant in the world.  Looking back, on several metrics we were known as being #1 in Oracle CPQ.  Now we will become #1 in Cloud CPQ with our partners Salesforce and Vlocity.

Rip: You’ve accomplished a great deal.  What advice do you have for us in the cloud industry?

Howard: Have a hobby. Mine is golf.  Playing golf is a lot like being an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs must have the fortitude to face a problem, and then look hard into the mirror to solve it.  Golf is a mirror – how you play a round of golf is a strong reflection of your state of mind, your level of preparedness.  In golf, like entrepreneurism, you are in complete control of your own actions and their consequences.  There is no hiding from yourself.  Have a hobby that helps you learn about yourself.  Always be learning.

Rip: I have a lot to learn to improve my golf game. Any tips?

Howard: In golf, you must have good coaches, just as in life.  Mentors that guide and advise.  Always look for mentors.  Second tip: make sure you are fitted with the proper equipment.  And third: have fun.  One of my favorite books is Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect, by Dr. Bob Rotella. Life is not a game of perfect either.  Have plenty of advisors, surround yourself with the best people, and enjoy what you do.

Rip: Tiger Woods could use some good advice these days.

Howard: Tiger’s going in the wrong direction, I mean, he’s got a coach that is focusing him on biomechanics.  You think a natural athlete like Tiger needs science?  Tiger needs to get back to basics.  One of my golfing mentors is 82 years old.  He played with Ben Hogan.  He’s chock full of wisdom.  His #1 tip?  Relax.  Nothing works unless you relax. In business or golf, you gotta relax.

Rip: Last question. What are you reading these days?

Howard:  I just reread Malcolm Gladwell’s  Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The CEO of Silicon Valley Bank gave me the book a while back.  There’s an important message for our cloud industry in it.  It’s about trusting your instincts.  Today we have enormous access to data, powerful modeling tools, and armies of MBAs that think analysis and planning is how you make decisions.  But the best decision makers, the real successful ones, use a combination of analysis and gut feel.  We talk about that a lot at Keste: make sure you don’t stifle your natural instincts.  Don’t over-analyze.  Follow your intuition.  Usually you are right.

Keste is an award-winning IT consulting company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. As a top Salesforce Cloud Alliance partner, Keste develops fully integrated, cloud-based solutions that help global companies boost sales performance, improve service capabilities and increase customer satisfaction. Recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing businesses, Keste is the partner of choice for Salesforce consulting, integration and CPQ solutions in many industries, including Communications, Insurance and Health.

Rip Gerber

Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer

Rip Gerber has 25 years’ experience inspiring and leading great people to build disruptive, market-leading companies, raising over $500M in venture and IPO funds that have delivered a collective 5x return on invested capital. He currently serves as Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer of Vlocity, Inc. where he leads all go-to-market activities, brand strategy, and global business development. Gerber has helped propel Vlocity as the fastest-growing Salesforce partner (out of 5,000) for four years in a row.

Rip is also an international best-selling author and accomplished musician. Throughout his career he has driven a dual agenda of ‘pragmatic creativity’ and ‘warp-speed innovation’ in the enterprise software, mobile, and Software-as-a-Service industries, where he has served in CEO, GM, Board Director and CMO roles for several venture-backed and seed-to-IPO companies. He started his career at the CIA and has served in management roles at Firestone, American Express, Nokia, Publicis, as well as founding and selling several tech companies including @once, Commtouch and Locaid.  He has a biochemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University.