Leadership that Scales: TigerEye Live

Tracy Young, hosts a LinkedIn Live show featuring Dini Mehta, former CRO at Lattice, as the first guest.

Hosted by
Tracy Young, TigerEye CEO

Podcast Transcript

Tracy Young: Hi, welcome to TigerEye's inaugural LinkedIn live show. My name is Tracy Young. I am the co founder and CEO of TigerEye. Today we have a special first guest, Dean Mehta, former CRO at Lattice, joining us to provide valuable guidance on how to keep sales leadership in the building. Dini welcome. I'm so happy to have you here.

Dini Mehta: Thank you. So happy to be here. And I'm honored to be the first guest.

Tracy Young: Yes, you just have such an amazing background. So why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I'll try to keep it short. So I'm originally from India, very proud immigrant, and I moved to the U. S. for school. At 18 years old, my parents hoped that I would become a doctor or an engineer.

Too bad that wasn't in the cards for me. And so, Eventually found my way to Silicon Valley and fell into tech. In the first few years of my career I fought sales. I did every other role and go- to- market except for sales because I thought I wouldn't belong. I didn't see a lot of folks that look like me.

And then eventually I realized that sales was my path to really accelerate my career, really earn my success because it's objective, it's very data driven, and so tried my hand at sales, and so my first role was at Quantcast where I was an AE and the business was at an inflection point where they were scaling rapidly we were selling a new product into a growing new market, which was challenging but also such a fun experience.

And so I did that for about three years. Then I went to a company called Drawbridge, where I was there for five and a half years. And I was early. I was the first person on their sales team and saw the business scale and grew my group. I saw myself scale, go from an AE to become a VP of sales there, saw multiple chapters of company building and it was super fun and probably one of the most pivotal experiences in my career.

And I did a lot of growing up there as a leader. And then most recently I had the privilege of scaling the go to market at lattice where I joined when we were 3 million in revenue, about seven folks in the org. And we grew it 200 million plus. I was there for four and a half years and to 200 plus folks on the team.

And so just a great experience. I went to lattice to try to build a different type of sales org, and now sort of four and a half years later, I'm very proud to like, say, you can, you can have a caring collaborative culture. And have a high performing team. And so, and now I'm doing nothing.

Taking a little bit of a breather before I figure out what's next.

Tracy Young: Carrying a quota is stressful to say the least. I think as founders, as CEO, we carry quotas too. And every quarter I remember my eye just twitching, like before the end of the quarter. Like you could have done anything in your life. Why do you like being in sales so much that you have chosen to continue your career here?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, great question. It's a question that I'm very passionate about and I wish they taught this in schools and more folks out of college chose sales because most people end up in sales because they're like, well, I don't know what I want to do. All right, I'll go. There's entry level roles here.

So I'll like fall into it. And most of us find our way into it with that. But it's an amazing profession. It is the one profession where it is so objective. There is, I was, you know, a math major in college math and biology. And so I, you know, I was always analytical about how do I get to, you know, from point A to point B and sales helps you create that map for yourself.

It's very objective where you're like, all right, it's hard. The pressure's on all the time. But the upside is huge. You can earn your autonomy. If you've gotten to quota, nobody's going to bug you. Like, yeah, I used to tell my top reps, like. If you can get to your quota in, by working three hours a day, good on you.

As long as you do that every month, every quarter, every year, nobody's going to get on you, right? Like it's. You can, you get to do that. So you earn your autonomy and you earn your upside. The only profession where, yeah, you can get your job is at a risk if you don't hit quota multiple months in a quarter, but you also get to out earn.

You can make a lot of money. You know, I was in early twenties making six figures off of commission. And it's sort of this direct inputs to outputs connection that I just loved. There was like, there's no other profession like it. And it teaches you a lot of life skills, like resilience, how to read a room, communicate.

And so, yeah, I'm a huge fan. It helps you in, in multiple ways besides sort of, you know, a great career helping you become a better human.

Tracy Young: I agree with that. It's challenging in a way that's hard to describe, and it's so people based and relationship based that you end up just being a better human in the process. You have had just such an amazing trajectory, really helping these companies go from, I mean, I'm assuming just single digit millions in ARR to hundreds of million in ARR under your leadership after being there for several years. Tell me about what you love about tech and startups.

Dini Mehta: I think I love the sort of different phases that each of those different chapters bring like what a company building Experience in the five to 20 million looks very different than the 20 to 40. And, and in that, you know, you're creating something out of nothing. You know, when you start, you're like, okay, we've got this dream.

We've got this vision that we're going to go after. Here's our mission. And there's something innately optimistic about it, but you have to, it's really hard and that balance. And, you know, I think I've always sort of been the person who's long term optimistic. But short term paranoid, which, which lends itself really well to startups and tech and sales, because yes, you're celebrating an amazing quarter, but at the same time, hopefully you've set yourself up for a good next quarter.

And you're not spending too much time celebrating that. So what I love about, I think it's a good match to my own sort of personality and who I am. But what I, you know, it's like the, the process of creating something from nothing. Is the part that that like I love the most and and there's, you know, some of the best in the world.

You get to learn from some of the smartest folks, especially at startups, right? You're not, you're just as good as you know, you can work incredibly hard. But if you're the, you know, on the engineering side or on the product side, you haven't done a great job of communicating what you need or what the market's saying.

There's so much sort of Diversity of thought in terms of the different roles coming together early on and even as you're scaling and doubling and so I think that is one of my favorite parts is like you get to collaborate with different types of people, different roles, and you're creating something out of nothing.

Yeah. I get to personally flex my sort of optimistic plus paranoid balance.

Tracy Young: I remember at my last company, PlanGrid, it felt like every six months. Because we were growing so fast, every six months we had to reorg the entire team. And some folks, as you know, they're just not okay with change. A few weeks ago you posted a shocking stat. I was surprised to learn this, that the average tenure of a sales leader is only 18 months. And I thought maybe partially it's due to, you know, the dynamic nature of startups that you're just in a different stage and phase every six months, or if you're lucky every three months, cause that's how fast you're growing. So let's dig into that a little, what are the underlying factors that contribute to such a short 18 month tenure for the average sales leader?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I mean, I became aware of this reality where I saw folks around me, like every two years at a new company. And, and, you know, a standard question you'll hear exec recruiters ask is like, what stage do you focus on?

And there are definitely some folks that prefer a specific stage, which is like, I just love doing the zero to one. And after that, I sort of lose interest. Great. So there's, there's sort of a population that love doing that certain phase and they're really good at it and that's all they want to do.

But then there are a lot of folks that are either typecast into that same stage role, which is like, Oh, you've done this once. That's all you're going to do. More often they scale, you know, as they struggle to scale themselves through these different phases of the business. I mean, at Lattice, every three months, we were re segmenting the org.

And every six months, the whole business, company, team looked different. Like our processes were breaking, like we were in the land of champagne problems, which is what I used to say, is like, and our job as the revenue team is to stay in the land of champagne problems where, you know, the things that used to work yesterday aren't going to work tomorrow.

So we've got to rebuild and and scale for this next phase. And that applies not just to. The business, but also to me as the revenue leader and the sales leaders that are sort of leading their teams because you have to be successful at 10 people with less than 5 million in revenue, so different.

As a leader that you have to be, you know, at 250 people and 100 million in revenue and part of the reason why it's hard to sort of do the multiple phases. And I think that is a big part of it, which is like, are you being aware of what is the next phase require? And are you getting ahead of that as a leader?

Two, there's like missed or unset expectations between the founder, the CEO, or your manager and the sales leader, right? Because you've done so well in this first phase, you're like, you're a top performer. Amazing. And I think there's this sort of, well, next phase, they're going to continue to do well. And then when they don't, there's sort of this, okay, they're not for that phase.

Let's go get a new leader. That's like a very classic things that happens at startups and sales leaders and founders, there's an opportunity to say, Hey, this next phase is going to look very different and that is going to require me to flex different muscles as the founder and you to flex different muscles as the sales leader.

And so we should sort of align on how, you know, how we're going to do that together. So there's the missed or unsaid expectations is classic trap. And then I think the third one, sometimes companies. Assume that the problem, you know, is going to get, you know, a revenue problem that shows up in revenue because that's the place we measure things so meticulously.

Assume it's a sales problem when sometimes it's not, it's, you know, that's, that's not the sort of. Only challenge, right? It may be a positioning problem, it may be a product issue. It be, yeah, a market competitive issue. But it ends up being, Hey, why don't we just replace a sales leader and that's gonna magically solve those problems.

And so again, I think being thoughtful and sort of over communicating and saying what are the challenges does, and sometimes, you know, the sales leader has a lot of influence on all those things, and they see it. Mm-hmm. for most of the, the rest of the exec team does. But they're not, sometimes it's not, they're not the only person that can solve it.

So I think it's, there's a bunch of different factors that lead to this. And it's unfortunate because I think a lot of these sales leaders with some tweaks, good scale, scale through the different phases.

Tracy Young: I think it's really sad when you see someone great. I mean, I, you know, as a CEO founder who has interviewed many executives over the last 10 years you, you do see these profiles where they've just been out of place for 18 months or less.

For their last five jobs. And unfortunately, I see that as a red flag. It's like, well, why haven't able to stay at each player than 18 months? Is there a problem here? And so I think, you know, especially as, as we bring on new people, for me, it's like, how do we. How do I help this new leader thrive in their new role?

And it sounded like you talked about, like, making sure we have expectations and goals setting and have alignment there. Is there any other tips you have for, let's say, managers and founders and CEOs to help sales leaders thrive in their role? What can they do?

Dini Mehta: I think one of the realities is sales leaders are wired to act and they have a natural sense of urgency, right? Because you've like been trained by the quota of like, well, clock's ticking. If I'm not building pipeline, if I'm not doing stuff, I'm not, I'm going to be behind on quota. So, you know, that is the positive of like, they've got, they're wired to act, they have a natural sense of urgency and they want to jump into action the first week, the first day.

And so, you know, they're building strategy, they're making changes. And so my biggest piece of feedback and the things I've done when I've onboarded a sales leader onto my team is as uncomfortable 30 days.

At least the first 30 days, I should say. At Lattice I remember I promised myself that I will make no decisions, no moves for six weeks. And, you know, we were like three million in revenue. There's clearly a lot of stuff to solve. And it's hard because you're like, I see this thing that I know how to fix it.

Let me go fix it. But it's, that's where, you know, it's a slippery slope. You're going to start making moves without spending time listening to the people that have That have built the company so far and learning from their experience, learning about the market, learning about the company. Cause you only get that phase once.

And so how can you force your brain to go slow to go fast later is probably the number one piece of feedback I give every person that starts. It's like, I know it's going to be uncomfortable. I know you want to jump on and, you know, take on client calls and build training materials already. Don't do it.

And in Atlantis, yeah, I wasn't successful in three weeks. I was making decisions, but those first three weeks were super, super important in, in just my trajectory of building trust with the teams, listening to them, learning about it. And, you know, it sort of, if I had, if, if I thought I, I understood what changes I needed to make from my prior experience, talking to those folks, you know, it went from a.

60%, I had it right to an 80% . Mm-hmm. . So super important to spend time and, and, you know, really flex your curiosity and learning muscle. Even if, you know, you're like, I've done this thing. I've know how, what to do. Exactly. Just doing that is, it's, it's so important for the trust and community building that you can just do.

Tracy Young: There's this wonderful saying in construction, You measure twice and cut once, and I think it can be applied to many things in life and in professions. So true. So what about tips for, like, a person inheriting a new team? You know, that's, that's gnarly. You might have people who organ reject you. How do you build alignment with these people that you didn't hire, that you just suddenly inherited?

Dini Mehta: That is one of the hardest things you do as a leader where you walk in and you don't have the credibility. Like when you're, when you've sort of risen up the ranks at a company, like you started an AE, you're a director, then you become a VP, very different because they know who you are.

You've got street cred, you've, you were a top performer, you're consistent, you're a leader on the team. And that's why you get promoted. It's a different type of challenging sort of. Thing that you have to navigate, but walking in as an exact as a leader, you know, you've, you don't, there's no, the trust battery is sort of at a 50 50 and it's, it's, you know, your job as a leader to get that sort of 50 50 up to 100.

And how do you do that is get to know, you know, what I've learned is I get to know people as people first. It's like, what if these are humans that are doing a job and you can spend time looking at spreadsheets and that's important, studying the plan, spending time with your exec team and the founding team to make sure you're sort of getting their input on what, what are the things that are going well, what are the things we need to do better.

But so much of it is just spending time with the people that are there learning about them learning about the business and, and over communicating, like telling them, I'm not going to make decisions for the first six weeks, telling people that I'm looking for input. And everybody gets a voice, even though everybody that might not get a vote.

I might do something else, but hopefully you'll you'll you'll give me the benefit of the doubt and let me sort of make these changes in the first six months. It's so important to over communicate every step of the way because people are on edge. They don't know you. You haven't built trust. And so it's really on you as the leader to spend time sharing that perspective right on the why.

Why are we making these changes? Why do we need to because you are going to make some changes when you show up and and making sure people understand and internalize the why like if we do this. We're not building a business to get to 10 million. We're getting a, building a business to get to hundreds of millions and that's going to require embracing change.

Change is uncomfortable. It's hard, but that's our job. I think giving that sort of giving the truth with the why. And being upfront with people, I feel like sometimes it's like you think you're protecting folks by not having the hard conversations early on, it just short term it saves you the discomfort, but long term it creates so much dysfunction.

So I'm just going to tell you, I see something seems odd I'll tell you, even if I'm wrong and you can tell me why that's not right. So yeah, just being over communicating, building trust, sort of what I've learned after making mistakes of not doing that.

Tracy Young: There's such core components of leadership and, and just a functional team. So you spend a lot of time with your direct reports, of course, how do you think, you know, because time is so limited, how do you think about distributing your time between people who report to you and have to perform for you? Your customers, your peers and marketing and product and engineering and your boss. What's, what's the distribution like if you were just like throw a percentage numbers on it?

Dini Mehta: Yeah. Great question. And I think that evolves quite a bit at different points in the business. So early on I would say I'm spending like the first six months I'm spending most of my time. I'm saving. 50 percent 50, 60 percent of my time with my team about 20 percent with my boss the founder, CEO, and the, you know, the other 20 percent with customers.

So I'm not spending that much time with my peers, mostly spending time with my team, my boss and the customers, just really getting an understanding of the business, the market where we are today and where we need to go. And then over time, you know, especially as you scale, it was the running joke towards my last, like, year, year and a half at Lattice, where I was spending 80 percent of my time with Other execs, other departments, and 20 percent of my time with, with my team.

Because we already had great leadership in place that plan. We had sort of good strategies. It was a lot about execution. And my job was now to make sure there's alignment across the different departments where we don't have silos. And that's very common that it will happen because now you've got, you know, where you, when you were a 40 person go- to- market team. And now you're all of a sudden, or 40 person company actually, which is how big lattice was when I joined. And, and now you're a 800 person company, very different. And so people that have been there a while can play such an important role, not just a sales leader, you know, it's, it's more important as a sales leader, but anybody that's been there for a few years.

Can play that sort of part of bringing the here's how we've done it in the past and you're sort of the changes we can make so the percentage changes quite drastically in the different phases where, you know, in the 50 to 50 to 100 million phase, I'd say I'm spending definitely majority of my time with the exec and other departments versus my own team.

Tracy Young: Any tips for our listeners on how to best communicate and collaborate with your manager, assuming they're the CEO or founder?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I mean, I think start early in terms of just setting the tone of what you want that relationship to be building spending time. And I, you know, I even recommend doing this before you join, because that is the person.

You, you're their partner. They're your partner. And, you know, you want to make sure that you're spending a ton of time stylistically. If there's good alignment because people have different ways of making decisions, how they operate, and you might need a certain thing. The founder might need a different thing.

And so spending time understanding the must haves between that, you know, within that relationship is important. But then once you join, sort of being, you know, the plan, so study the plan and then sort of over communicate. I think a lot of times sales leader was like, I want autonomy, which I fully understand, but you have to bring in.

Folks that are managing other different parts of the business, and especially your manager and the founder who understands this company and this product and this market better than anybody else, and so helping sort of firstly getting there, getting their understanding of of. Why they founded the company.

What is the mission? Where are we headed five years from now? What do you want this company to look like? What do you think that, you know, and really getting an understanding of that, not just from a sales perspective or whatever your department is, you have to be a company leader before you know, the

CEO wants out of. Once out of the company and then what that means for your team and your role and then putting that on paper saying, okay, here's what I heard you say. Here's the things I got from that. Here's our plan. Here's the strategy behind that. Does this look right? What am I missing? What could we, you know, what should we tweak?

And there's so much that comes out of that, right? Like what I might hear and what the founder said might be totally different things. And this is where like writing things down and even if it may feel like, why do we have to do that? We have a plan. We've done this, like really writing it down and making sure that there's no unsaid or missed expectations can be, can be hugely helpful for both parties.

Tracy Young: There's so much coming at the CEO and CRO on a daily basis including your own team and, you know, helping them get unblocked and helping them with their deals and coaching them. So for your first line and second line managers, how do you evaluate their strengths and weaknesses? Like, what do you look for for your, you know, your leadership team?

Dini Mehta: As you scale, they're an extension of you. And so early on you could pull everybody in a room and directly communicate and do the great job of telling the why, walking through the strategy. But once you're 50 people, 60 people, a hundred people. It's your leadership team, your frontline managers, your second line managers that are really going to uphold your values, your, your sales process, the way you do business. And so for me, number one is values, like making sure the person we hire is. super aligned on how we think about how we think about hiring people, managing them, and what those values around those pieces are is super critical.

So there has to be strong values alignment to. Their ability to, I mean, I think a lot of times in sales, you have reps that are like, I want to become a manager and they want to become a manager because it's the next step in the career track, which I just, I think it's wrong. These are like completely different roles and it shouldn't be a promotion from a rep to a manager.

It's a completely different role. And so there's a lot of like reps that are like, I want to do a man, I want to be a manager, but in reality. They're just want them, they want growth. And so having managers that are really aligned, really want to focus on the people. They recognize that their job is to serve their team and then help their teams do their best work, not get to the highest number for their team.

The output may be that you get to really high revenue numbers, which is what happens. But your focus as a leader should be on, on your people. And so are you people first? Are we values aligned? And then in terms of their domain expertise, I don't give a lot of, lot of weight to domain expertise because smart people figure it out.

But do they have interest in the space we're in? Will they, will they be curious enough to jump in and understand like what an HR persona might need or a marketing persona might need and the, the deal sizes that we have? I think the deal sizes is harder to translate. So some sort of a qualification there.

But the values and the people first and the curiosity and the passion for the mission are, are, are the must haves in my book in building a team.

Tracy Young: It's so interesting getting to work with you at TigerEye as, as one of our product advisors and then just getting to know you over this time period. You're not only. So high processing and analytical, which makes you in this data driven sales leader. But it's also really apparent to me. You're so passionate about people that trust building and like listening and just like your emphasis on the importance of communication with them is drives everything.

Okay, so my last question for you is What do you understand about people now that you didn't understand 10 years ago at the beginning of your career?

Dini Mehta: Great question. What I didn't, I think with 10 years ago, when I first started managing people, I assumed everyone wanted what I wanted and behave the way I would behave because that was my. Closest experience. And so I would manage people how I want to be managed. And now I know that that's just there's multiple paths to the same destination, and every person needs something else.

And the sort of beauty and art of leadership. Is creating that space where people can be their authentic self where you can ask for accountability because at the end of the day, it's about results and, you know, job number 123 is revenue. But on the flip side, how we get to it. Has to feel authentic and fun.

And, and, you know, early on, I didn't have that understanding that there's multiple paths to it. People need different things. And sometimes it's, you know, what you're offering is not what they need or want. And that's okay. But what you can do as a leader and bring to the table is creating that space where doing the right thing is the easy thing to do versus they're sort of forgetting.

Feel like you're going against the tide and you have to be a different type of person at work and a different type of person in your personal life. And, you know, I always that was the most fulfilling part of the job is to create an environment. Every person, regardless of their background, felt seen and felt like they belonged and could do their best work.

And I think, I don't know if 10 years ago as a leader, I definitely had some wrong assumptions that everybody wanted what I wanted.

Tracy Young: And this is where being a great listener is a superpower because then you really get to know people for who they are and get to understand what it is they want and manage to that.

Dini Mehta: Exactly.

Tracy Young: I loved this conversation. Thank you so much. I think there's just so many fabulous nuggets in there. I can't wait to listen to it again. Just really good, practical advice on, you know, managing teams, working with others. And at the end of the day, Performing for the company and building a great legendary company.

Dini Mehta: Thank you, Tracy. So fun. Always fun collaborating with you and the TigerEye team. Thank you.

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