JotForm CEO Aytekin Tank relies on customers to improve operations

Aytekin Tank, Jotform
Aytekin Tank keeps customers front and center. (JotForm)

JotForm CEO Aytekin Tank runs his business with the help of his customers.

The builder of online forms, like job applications and payment documents, regularly fields calls from customers—and listens. “It’s the only way to operate a business,” Tank told FierceCEO. “They help us innovate.”

Customers were always the company's focus and that focus became more acute in instances where they weren't crazy about designs or formats Jotform was producing. “When we talked to customers we found we needed to rebuild our form builder,” Tank said about 2016, and of last year, “the way forms looked wasn’t great,” he said. “We needed to make them more user friendly.”

Tank took the feedback seriously; the focus of the company is “how can we make it really great with input from our customers throughout. We give them prototypes and they help improve our ideas.” Customers are “extremely important to us,” he said. “Every time we talk to them we learn.”

The depth of customer service is overlaid with the way JotForm innovates. In addition to integrating customers into improving operations, the company each year sets out a big goal to work toward for the next 12 months or so.

“We’ve found that formulating this goal and carrying it out over a long-term stretch stimulates creativity and motivates all of us to do our best work,” Tank said. “We break it down to a singular goal that carries with it specific challenges to sharpen our focus.”

To mold the idea, Tank said he first talks with users to discuss their experience with JotForm’s product. “I try my best to uncover their needs, pain points, theoretical features or products that would make a difference for them.”

He also seeks insights from employees. “This allows me to gather opportunities for advancements across design, development, support, and marketing perspectives,” Tank said. Then the company runs hack weeks “that turn into tangible results that we use to build upon all year."

Once employees have spent a few months developing an idea, “and the idea has sufficiently matured, it’s time to really get the whole team on board,” Tank said. “I will do a presentation to the company and explain why I’m excited, the reasoning behind it, and the opportunities in front of us.” He said that when he does decide on an idea, “I have no idea what the final product will end up looking like. And that is by design. In the upcoming months, employees will run experiments, try different things, adjust the strategy or vision as needed, and build upon what we’ve created together.” 

For 2016, the company’s big idea was to completely “rebuild, simplify and beautify our core product from scratch, making it the first and the only form builder to go 100% mobile friendly,” Tank said. “In 2017, we worked on building JotForm Cards, a friendly way to ask questions.”

This year’s big idea has not yet been disclosed.

Fast Five with Aytekin Tank

When did you know you wanted to be a CEO?

When I was a student in college. I operated a small business and it was a lot of fun.

What is the most important trait for a leader?

Decision making. If you can’t make decisions you can’t move to the next phase.

What keeps you up at night?

Whatever the challenge we have at the time keeps me up.

What is your favorite question to ask during a job interview?

Have you done anything on the side? If they have taken time to do something on the side, it tells me they are passionate about what they are doing.

What do you wish you knew five years ago that you know today?

I wish I had come up with our current business approach.