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Stowe Boyd, Contributor

April 8, 2009

4 Min Read

A few months ago, near the start of the Open Enterprise 2009 research study, I interviewed Dave Hersh of Jive Software. He shared some of the response the company had made to the economic downturn, and how they had made quota, leading him to get a tattoo on his ankle.In today's New York Times, the ins-and-outs of Jive's efforts to remain ahead of the econolypse (as Kara Swisher calls it) are detailed:

[via Start-Up Gets Course in Survival by Claire Cain Miller][...]Then, at the beginning of last year, Jive started to stumble. It rushed to market a version of the software that was full of problems. It made bad hires in its rush to expand. Meanwhile, companies were cutting their software budgets. Jive lost money for the first time.[...]Seven days after the Sequoia meeting, Mr. Hersh laid off 25 of Jive''s 150 full-time employees and several contractors. They included underperforming salespeople and three executives who lacked the skills to build a company past the start-up phase, Mr. Hersh said. He scrapped an instant-messaging project and let go of the engineers on the team."Once you get this slap in the face of what''s really going on out there, you realize you have to make changes immediately," Mr. Hersh said. "It was like going through a break-up - it''s tough at first and then it''s much better."That same afternoon, he called the remaining employees to the office''s open meeting space that Jive calls "Whoville." Mr. Hersh first put up a slide with the names of the laid-off employees. He figured the remaining employees would not look around the room wondering who was missing and would thus concentrate on what he had to say. He detailed everything the company had done wrong. He borrowed from Sequoia''s presentation and told the staff that Jive needed to conserve cash, make swift and deep cuts and invest based on results instead of ahead of them, as they had when they overhired."Everyone was kind of numb, distracted," said Dennis Deveny, a field sales director at Jive. "I got the vibe that Dave was near tears."Then Mr. Hersh got his own taste of change, when Bill Lanfri joined the board as its new acting chairman. Mr. Goetz [of Sequoia] made the introduction. Mr. Lanfri had been the chief executive of Big Bear Networks, another Sequoia portfolio company. Mr. Goetz had also introduced Jive to another director, Tony Zingale, the former chief executive of Mercury Interactive, a software company bought by Hewlett-Packard.In January, Mr. Zingale brought on John McCracken, who had been his vice president of sales at Mercury. Mr. McCracken, who is known inside Jive as Johnny Mac, went to work overhauling Jive''s haphazard sales process. Jive''s strategy had always been to try to sell software to anyone who called. Mr. McCracken considered it a waste of money to chase customers who did not really want Jive, especially as the recession made software a much harder sell.Salespeople were instead trained to grill potential customers with questions about their budgets and goals and turn away customers that did not fit. "One of the best things you can do as a business is to learn to say no," Mr. Hersh remembers Mr. McCracken telling him.On a recent sales call with a large technology company, Mr. Deveny was told that it already used other wikis and forums. "Aren''t you just compounding things by adding another to the mix?" Mr. Deveny asked, playing the devil''s advocate. A week later, Mr. Deveny turned down a company because Jive thought another company''s software would be a better fit, something that would have been unheard of before.Instead of boasting about cool technology, salespeople now explain how the software has helped companies save money. They tell the story of T-Mobile, where a salesperson who risked losing a deal posted a question on Jive, received responses from far-flung colleagues and closed the deal.After the upheaval at Jive, the buttoned-up Mr. Hersh promised employees that if they sold $8 million worth of software in the fourth quarter, he would commemorate it with a tattoo.They succeeded, and on a rainy January afternoon, he called a tattoo artist into the office break room, drank a glass of Scotch, rolled up his gray dress pants, stuck his ankle out and braced himself while the tattooer inked a Roman numeral eight, designed by the same employee who had created the company logo.Since then, he said, other tattooed people often strike up conversations with him about their tattoos'' meanings. Most say theirs depict the cycle of life, Mr. Hersh said. "I''m like, ‘We hit quota!'' "

Seems like a story of accelerated growing pains, brought on by the economic mess. Perhaps a sign of maturity in the Enterprise 2.0 industry, as well.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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