An Oak Tree & Two Leadership Principles That Matter Most

Leadership Principles

From Harvard to the Navy Seals and service in Afghanistan, Vince Juaristi, the President and CEO of ARBOLA, and Rip Gerber, Vlocity CMO and Head of Alliances, discuss what it takes to build a successful technology solution company focused on the public sector.

The Public Sector is rapidly adopting Vlocity Industry Cloud apps, and ARBOLA is one of the earliest implementers of Vlocity Industry Cloud apps built on the Salesforce platform.  ARBOLA is a small, minority-owned, HUBZone Certified company that delivers quality people and quality technology solutions for federal, state, and local government throughout the United States.

Rip:
Vince, appreciate you taking time to share more about ARBOLA with the Vlocity partner and customer community.  What was the genesis of starting ARBOLA?

Vince:
After returning from a 13-month stint in Afghanistan, I returned to Virginia, pulled together a couple friends, and started ARBOLA in January 2012. We wanted a small, easily manageable company that let us deliver high quality services on important technology projects for mostly government clients. We grew quickly thereafter without sacrificing that wonderful feel of a small business. 

Rip:
And how did you come up with the name ARBOLA? What does it mean?

Vince:
ARBOLA is a head nod to my Basque heritage. My dad was a sheepherder who came from Spain in 1948.  One of the important symbols of the Basque people is an oak tree in Gernika, Spain. It's called Gernikako Arbola.  Every head of state since Queen Isabelle would come to the Basque people, lay a hand aside the tree, and promise to protect Basque freedoms. In 1937, Franco bombed Gernika with the help of Hitler's Condor Legion.  It was the first instance of aerial bombardment in modern warfare.  The town was left in ruins, but the oak next to the church remained untouched.  The original tree finally died, but a sapling from the oak's acorn was planted in its place (see the photo below). 

Rip:
When did you make the move towards cloud computing and Salesforce?

Vince:
We made the move into cloud and Salesforce immediately after starting ARBOLA.  We recognized the value of how cloud streamlines moving from a concept to a working system. It's faster, cheaper, often more robust, and more easily modified for changing public needs.  ARBOLA was among the first to launch a Salesforce solution for New York City.  Since then, we have implemented several other solutions for the city, now approaching $1 million in the past two years. 

Rip:
The cloud is now going vertical.  We’ve been working on a few projects together, Vlocity and ARBOLA.  What are your thoughts about industry cloud?

Vince:
The ARBOLA staff has had years of experience managing traditional projects through the full system development lifecycle.  There's nothing wrong with traditional systems development life cycle (SDLC).  But we discovered that from conception to final launch, an agency's business processes had a tendency to change due to modified legislation, shifting priorities, or new political appointees. 

With cloud, however, we could more quickly satisfy the business needs of agencies.  Some of our implementations occur in 30 days.  Part of that ease comes from the new, clever, useful tools like Vlocity that make implementation fast and easy.  One feature we love in Vlocity, for example, is the Vlocity OmniScript™ and Question Wizard.  It helps us match client needs and business processes visually. It's intuitive and less prone to error.  Good stuff!

Rip:
Tell us a bit more about yourself.  You’ve had an interesting journey.  What made you pursue a career in government?

Vince:
After graduating Harvard, I returned to my home state of Nevada to work as policy advisor to the Governor.  It was one of my best jobs - low salary, long hours, and a chance to help people I would likely never meet. I loved it.  The service fed my blood like an opiate, and once infected, public service became an indispensable part of my life. 

After we left office, I built up another company for 10 years and then sold my stake.  I served on public boards, traveled, wrote a book, and returned by invitation to Harvard for a semester.  But the truth was I was bored. 

When State asked me to serve in Afghanistan, I accepted and spent 13 months working with the Afghan government and the U.S. military to build the Afghanistan's justice system.  Our military men and women are really extraordinary people.  I'm so happy I befriended so many of them.  I still keep in contact with the Afghan President, Dr. Ghani, wishing him well, hoping all the best for him and the Afghan people.  It was a tough road to serve there, but it's a thousand times tougher for the Afghan people. 

Rip:
That’s a fascinating and inspiring story, Vince. You’ve no doubt experienced many styles of leadership in your career.  In building your own company, what do you think it takes to build a great culture?

Vince:
Two principles really matter at ARBOLA: truth and clarity.  Be truthful with clients, with employees, and with yourself about goals, ambitions, progress, and numbers.  Secondly, be clear about the goals and convey them to employees.  If people know that they are part of a larger mission, that they are not a meaningless cog in a massive machine, they will work hard, feel empowered, make better decisions, retain high morale, and support each other through difficult times.  That's a healthy culture. 

Rip:
Is there anyone who has inspired you along the way?  Any books that have inspired you?

Vince:
Several people have inspired me.  Two English teachers from high school taught me to value words, that words form ideas, and ideas lead to actions.  That was a good lesson to learn at an early age. In Afghanistan, I worked most closely with Admiral Robert Harward, a Navy SEAL, and a great guy, who went on to head up Central Command down in Florida.  He inspired his troops unlike any other commander I've seen.  I enjoyed working with him.  We are still good friends today, though I still can't bring myself to jump from a perfectly good airplane. 

Rip:
Thank you Vince.  Congratulations on all of your and ARBOLA’s success, and thank you for your work in government service, and with Vlocity Industry Cloud for your clients.

Vince:
Thank you, Rip.  I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Vlocity.

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.