Just 20 months into his tenure as CEO of Cision, and Kevin Akeroyd is not only working on making products better but is also putting his imprint on the company’s culture and vision.
Cision, which went public last June through a reverse merger, makes software that helps public relations professionals identify their audience, get placements and monitor them.
The company, in various iterations, is over 100 years old, and Akeroyd came to it from an Oracle business.
“I spent my last three jobs working for a CEO and now I wanted to be one,” Akeroyd said.
He also had a type of company in mind—a midsized one. “I’d worked for large and worked for small and wanted to go to midsized,” Akeroyd said. “I felt they were more nimble.”
And so far he is enjoying the experience. “We are moving as fast and aggressively as I wanted to,” Akeroyd said.
In working with his management team, “if we have alignment and agreement on how I’m going to measure them, I step back and let them focus on what they need to do,” Akeroyd said.
He is also overseeing a newly public company, which brings with it a whole new set of requirements.
But going that path was felt to be worth it. “We have a lot of debt, so the ability to use the proceeds to pay down some of it” was seen as a positive, Akeroyd said.
The move also gives Cision access to public market capital and helped foster a single brand for a company that is the culmination of 10 acquisitions. The unified Cision has 4,000 employees in 31 offices around the world.
Keeping tabs on a sweeping enterprise requires “doing it by the numbers,” Akeroyd said. “You’ve got to have the processes in place.” For instance, there is a uniform way for training Cision’s customers in how to correctly and consistently use its software. “If you establish all the moving parts across your business instead of having them be ad hoc you can be highly effective,” Akeroyd said.
And as he staffs up, he offers a sports analogy for the type of employee he covets. “I would hire the best overall athlete rather than a specialized one-position player,” Akeroyd said. “I want someone with intellect and nimbleness.”
Motivating employees means engaging them consistently and in plain terms. “You have to clearly and simply articulate the company’s vision,” Akeroyd said. “You have to put out an easy to understand road map of how you are going to get there.”
And “communicate early and often about how we’re doing,” Akeroyd said. “Communication is everything.”
If a CEO is not letting staff know what’s going on with regularity, “then 4,000 employees start to wonder if they are at a job that is really succeeding,” Akeroyd said.
Akeroyd said he also has been putting a lot of thought into Cision’s culture and diversity. “If you have a great culture, then you as a company can be an order of magnitude more successful than if you don’t,” he said.
And diversity is “mission critical,” Akeroyd said. “It is not only the right thing to do, but companies that take advantage of all that diversity—the talent, skill and human resources—end up making themselves capable of a lot more.”
Fast Five with Kevin Akeroyd
What is a key trait of a leader?
The ability to instill belief in your company, customers, partners and investors.
How do you create new opportunities for revenue?
Speed, creativity, nimbleness and customer focus.
What do you wish you knew 5 years ago that you know now?
How fast everything was going to be reliant on technology.
What keeps you up at night?
Figuring out how we’re going to fix what we’re not doing well.
What is your favorite job interview question?
What is the toughest situation the job candidate has faced and how they dealt with it.