TOP CMO: Norman Guadagno, Mimecast - 'The Boo-Boo Theory of Risk'
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 00:00
Trust is earned, I want to have everyone be able to do their job without them having to come to me as a CMO so that I can provide value where it's most needed. I want them to earn that trust. And I want them to earn my trust because it currency works both ways.
Ben Kaplan 00:14
This is the podcast where we go around the globe, marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies, and most disruptive startups, great ideas, after a certain way want to spread, they want to be told to someone else's simple, surprising, and significant data to unlocking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Norman Guadagno CMO of Mimecast, a cybersecurity company that provides email and collaboration security to over 40,000 customers. Norman previously served as the first CMO at Acoustic, a marketing technology company and Senior Vice President at Carbonite, a well-known segment leader in data backup, and recovery. How do you focus on the most important things to CMO and get rid of all the distractions? And how can you get more performance out of your marketing team? By cultivating a culture of trust? Let's find out with Norman Guadagno.
Ben Kaplan 01:23
Norman, one of the things that you talk about is that in our marketing efforts, we can often get distracted, distracted by things that are meaningful. We can get distracted by process, we could get distracted by data, which are all essential components. So what do you mean about this distraction? And how do you start thinking about minimizing distraction for your teams?
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 01:49
That's it's a really an important point and a great question. And I think that when we think about what we do in marketing, we spend a lot of time on me, how do we get to the thing that place the desired goal. And we often spend a lot of time and effort digging into setting up processes going into data. And what sometimes happens, and what I work with my team on regularly is making sure we always do that, first and foremost in the context of what goal are we trying to achieve? What's the outcome? Let's be clear on the outcome. Second thing we want to make sure we do is realize that there is no and of data, we can spend forever. Well, let's get some more data on this. Let's do some more. Let's dig here. You can spend forever looking for data, frankly, that can support or not support almost any position. Once you have a clear enough insight, maybe get yourself to the 80% confidence level, move forward versus forever trying to say, well, what if we got just a little bit more data, maybe we'll be more sure. There's very few things that are truly Sure. But what's impactful is if you start to run something and you test and learn, right, the way to get great outcomes, is to test and learn. And the way to make process your friend is to have enough process that everyone understands what you're doing and that it's repeatable, but not so much process, that it becomes an end in and of itself. And that's just striking a balance across these things. Well, and
Ben Kaplan 03:26
where do teams go wrong specifically in the process where people just get distracted? Because it sounds simple on the surface, right? Like we care about outcomes. We want to drive, you know, business goals, often that's measured in American currency or another type of currency. It might be measured in market share, or customer growth or other things like that. But we kind of all know that. Where do we just sort of lose our way in that what do you see as an example of just like, you know, smart people, they know they're pulling towards this KPI but they just get distracted along the way.
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 04:00
Yeah, I think it's a good sort of dig down into that issue. So for example, oftentimes we'll see teams and I've seen this in many a team where they become very focused on generating pipeline pipeline is a very common metric that we use a lot, particularly in b2b. We try to find how much pipeline can we generate? We build a lot of infrastructure for pipeline generation. But there's a it's easy to become fixated on pipeline. And here's what happens. marketing's busy building all sorts of processes to build and measure pipeline. And sales is saying, Hey, we don't have enough revenue. And marketing is like, but look, big pipeline numbers. They're terrific. We've been growing up until the right and sales are saying, but we don't have enough revenue. We're missing plan. That's a moment from marketing the state back step back and Save Whoa, is it the right pipeline? Are we over indexing on pipeline generation, at the expense of the actual business goal here? Are we measuring is good enough pipeline, because you can generate a lot of pipeline. That's bad pipeline versus good pipeline. So that's a sense of roll back and say, let's take a step back and make sure that we're actually focused on good pipeline that converts in the time we want it to convert. Maybe the business is saying, Hey, we have a revenue shortfall in the next couple of quarters, you're generating pipeline for four quarters out? Can you pull back a little bit and see, are there ways to generate near quarter pipeline, it's a perfect example of you can build a lot of process to obtain and measure and frankly, sometimes shout from the rooftops, lots of pipeline. But if it's not directly connecting to what your partners in the business, usually a sales organization that's looking for revenue are able to generate, you have to say, Have I over indexed on trying to build an infrastructure to grow pipeline, at the expense of being able to feed my sales counterparts what they need to make the business successful overall. And I've seen that happen multiple times.
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Ben Kaplan 06:26
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Ben Kaplan 06:47
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Ben Kaplan 07:08
Norman, we started the conversation talking about distractions, the flip side of being distracted as being focused. And as the saying goes, Do you know where we're sort of focus goes energy flows? Right? It's like that's where the effort goes. So how do you think about keeping a team focused? Let's say we have sort of removed distraction. We are working more closely with sales. And now we're trying to heighten our focus, how do you think about staying focused so that the energy goes in the right place to because there's a lot of ways to for instance, Chase revenue or tried to find revenue, some may be more efficient than others, some may be more impactful to the organization or even more scalable than others.
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 07:50
It's an interesting way to think about this focus and the energy behind it. Oftentimes, one of the things that becomes a distraction from focus, and maybe even a diffuses focus, if you will, is that there are just too many things that people are working on too many things that everyone thinks are important and valuable. I'm a big fan, have the regularly go through look at the list of all the things you're doing and eliminate some of them. And it sounds simplistic, but honestly, man, it is hard. People don't like letting go of things they hold on to it sometimes as a, oh, this is my set of things, don't take one of them away, that somehow diminishes me. And I try to make sure the teams understand, hey, if we take some of them away, even if they were incremental value, it actually means that the things we're focused on, could produce even more value. And this is, as you're probably aware, right? We all have this discussion on can people multitask. And there's a lot of research that shows that, in fact, humans are not very good at multitasking, we perform our best when we're focused on a single task yet we spend so much of our time attempting to split ourselves amongst more and more tasks. And it takes away from the quality. And again that let's substitute the word quality of output for what you said about energy. That's what you're looking for. Focus gives you that quality of output teams focused on a small number of things, probably going to produce higher quality output. And they may even feel better about it when they're done.
Ben Kaplan 09:40
Well, and the other point is that just because you let something go now, doesn't mean it has to be forever. It might come back. So we might do this in sequence. So we might take the six things we're trying to do and the six channels we're trying to do we might focus down on just a couple of them and that doesn't mean the other four aren't good and make Maybe we just need to, like, get our beachhead in this area working first, and then we can cycle into other things. So it's also, you know, this fear of, I guess it is like a little bit of FOMO business FOMO, maybe like fear of missing out, right? You're like, Oh, we're missing out on this, like, oh, we could have this amazing trade channel, that could be great. And it could be all of these things. And that's, you know, it's gonna be awesome. If we don't do anything. Now, we're not going to do it. But maybe we just need to focus. Let's talk about it. Like, what should you focus on, I mean, there's options, there could be low hanging fruit, which just means it's like a little bit easier for us to get to, there could be high impact,
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 10:36
lower cost, faster execution, something that's a foundational thing. And I love by the way that you brought up sequencing, because it's something that I have more recently introduced into my own repertoire, I didn't think I didn't think coherently about sequencing up until the past few years, but I've become a fan of if we do this, and then we do this, we'll get the payoff when we do this third thing, and this fourth thing, so I think about things in is this something that might have a little bit less immediate impact, but it's going to pay off tremendously for items 345 on the list, we should maybe do that first. And the second part of sequencing that I found, which is a little bit harder sometimes for people to understand is, sometimes I will sequence something early, that may actually be something that we're going to throw away later on. But it's necessary to advance us to a certain place where we can be prepared for that, for example, oftentimes, there's infrastructure technology, you have to put in place, everybody wants to go for the final end game solution, right away is sort
Ben Kaplan 11:51
of like future proof. This is the one that we're gonna, you know, it's gonna last a lifetime, here forever. But sometimes, and most notably, it's like, here's the counterbalancing force that I often see, which is ease of adoption. So you have like, the amazing thing, the like the shiny gold, like, you know, your kind of operating system you'd love to have. But the problem is, maybe at your current state, if you go for that now, you're not going to be successful, because it's shiny, but it's complex, there's different pieces, and your team's not ready for it. So you might have to go with the simpler option that that is not future proof that almost cannot scale with you. But it gets you to that kind of training and knowledge and comfort level that allows you to do the shiny thing later. Even if you have to, you know, you know that it's not going to last with you forever, because it's not going to do everything you needed to do.
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 12:38
And you just have to go into that with eyes open, I actually just championed and approved a solution that I said very directly. It's a two year solution at best. But it solves a real problem in the business right now. And it's fast to implement, it's easy to use, it has very low overhead, it's reasonable investment of time and money. And it is not the be all and end all. But the be all and end all is 18 months or more away, and we haven't even started it. And we have a problem today that we can address in and I made it super clear and partnering with our IT organization. Hey, we're all in agreement. This is essentially a solution that we're gonna get the most value from, and we will probably end in a year or two years. But the business will have grown learned and be prepared for that ultimate solution. hard decisions. That's why sequencing matters. And that's why being able to make those trade offs matter.
Ben Kaplan 13:36
Well, we've talked about distraction, we've talked about focus, we've talked about doing things in the right order sequencing. What about this notion of do we need a player's to execute this like we need to really hire well and we're looking for the diamond in the rough the needle in the haystack. Wow, you know, Mary is amazing. Mary can carry the ball forward for us versus the flip side and I suppose to spend time thinking about this as well. If Mary's so amazing. She's not really that scalable for building out a team and we're pretty depend on Mary so do we need something that's like okay, you know, B players or B plus players they're not the eight plus players in our organization can actually move this forward. And are we better in the long term for that because there's many more of those kinds of people and we can build a foundation and and you know, hey, business is a team sport, no one person is going to solve all of our issues. How do you think about hiring in the context of all of this who's on your team?
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 14:42
It's a really interesting challenge. And and I'm gonna flip the script a little bit on this a player B player in that I want people and I of course I want the best talent, but I don't see the best talent as sufficient ever. I see. be the right person in the right role as a path that's very critical that is there a players, quote unquote, who are going to be exceptional in particular roles, but who frankly, might not be exceptional in some other roles. And there are, for lack of a better term of people called Beat players, I don't like that term, I think there are people whose skill set or expertise may be in a different level of development, but who are terrific in a particular type of role inside the organization. And as you said, it is a team sport. And for me, it's about building the right configuration of people. And oftentimes, what I see is actually hindering growth is not Person A versus Person B, but is actually is Person A in the right role with the right team, surrounding them above them below them. And as Person B, and if you can change the role, and figure out what are the talents because everyone has some set of talents around their core discipline, right? But people also have talents around how they collaborate, how they manage others, how they interact with peers, and you're looking for that entire perspective on the person. So you get out of this, frankly, sometimes simplistic, I just want eight players on the team. Well, you know, that's, that's the all star game and the all star games are usually pretty boring. What you really want is a well oiled team, where everyone's playing a role. And they understand their role clearly, and people are able to perform at their best, regardless of their skill level. Not everybody is Tom Brady, but they're still quarterbacks do an amazing job on every team in football. And that's because you're surrounded by the right set of teammates. And I think it's important that leaders start to understand their team is that it's, it's the people, but it's also all of the interactions and collaborations and growth of those people with each other.
Ben Kaplan 17:13
Trust is often dismissed as the touchy feely stuff of team building exercises and fluffy HR seminars. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, imagine trust as a bank account, where every honest conversation every promise kept, and every transparent decision you make are deposits that yield interest over time,
you don't make deposits in order to take withdrawals. Nevertheless, if you have a high emotional bank account, if the quality of that relationship is so good, and the trust is so high, you can in fact, make mistakes, you can take withdrawals.
Ben Kaplan 17:53
When you've got a difficult decision to make a tough hurdle to overcome a challenging crisis to solve, you draw upon your accumulated balance of trust. And if trust is a tangible asset, how might you treat it differently? As you know, the level of trust you have on hand right now.
Ben Kaplan 18:17
Norman, to me, when I talk to other CMOs, when I think about organizations, one of the first things that trips people up is role clarity. What I mean by that is not that people don't know their job description. I mean, they they often know that but role clarity involves like, am I responsible for this? Or am I accountable for this, which is a difference responsible means you've got skin in the game, you're part of that accountable was like the buck stops with you, right? Like, I want to know how this is doing. I go talk to to Norman. And ultimately, that's where it goes. And the issue is that in a lot of mature organizations, marketing organizations, companies, they're mature. So it's kind of easy to have the clarity, right. It's like big teams. We've been doing this for years. We know how to do it, but where all the action is, and kind of the fun of it is that you want to grow and growth creates uncertainty. Why? Because you're becoming something you're not currently you're growing. And so you don't by definition, have everything built out. So how do you think about real clarity related issues like accountability, and in the context of growth, but going from who you are to who you want to be which creates uncertainty.
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 19:32
And uncertainty is is your friend or your enemy, depending on how you look at it. And I like to think of it as as a friend if we can do that, on the responsibility and accountability. 100% agree with you that there's often a lot of clarity around responsibility and not nearly enough clarity around accountability. And organizations often are designed to diffuse accountability. And by doing that, It makes it harder for decisions to be made. How many times have you heard about or being a part of an organization where it's like, I don't know who's making this decision, but it's not me. And I always approach it with the belief that, and I've said this to teams repeatedly over the years, when you're faced with a decision, make it I'll back you up. If it turns out it was the wrong decision. It's usually something we can undo and course correct.
Ben Kaplan 20:29
It's not a catastrophic, it's not do I step off this cliff or not? Most decisions that we face
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 20:36
fail, most decisions are not that no, nobody is going to plunge to their, their death, nobody is going to blow up the moon. And, and I feel good about that. So I tell people make decisions. I'm giving you the autonomy to make decisions. And, and it's hard because people get frightened, oh, I don't know, it's like, Go Go for it, I got your back. We all work with whatever the aftermath is going forward. So there's that that little bit of diffusion. But you also talked about this, you know, growth, almost every organization, including the biggest, most stable organizations are probably in a period of uncertainty. And right now, macro economic forces, work habits, changing post pandemic, everybody reevaluating how does work get done, generative AI is going to take all of our jobs, all of these forces mean that every organization should be in a state of trying to evaluate, are we doing the right things in the right way. And I believe that little bit of uncertainty causes people to, to learn, right to figure out oh, wait, I we are growing or are changing. And I, I think about this, sometimes I have a I have a two year old here at home, right? And I watch how often my two year old falls or bumps his head or just like because he's just doing stuff all the time. And when he falls unless it's truly a catastrophic fall, which doesn't happen very often. He like goes, wakes up and gets up and continues on doing his stuff. But his body's learned in the process of falling. Okay, I fell next time I know to fall this way, fall that way. And organizations focus so much on me oh my gosh, you fail, what's going on versus the you fail, pick yourself up, move forward, continue to evolve and learn as you go forward. And and organizations should insensate embrace a little bit of that toddler Enos. When we're learning where we are and how we are and, and toddler learn about their body in space, organizations have to learn how do I interact with sales with the product organization with finance? What can I do? How is I can manage? Or can I push? And how far can I push before I'm gonna get pushed back. And what happens when I get pushed back that creates healthy learning growing organizations, that people start to say, oh, I can take accountability for this thing. And it feels good and it achieves good outcomes. And not that I want every organization to think of themselves as a toddler. But there's a lot we can learn from how toddlers interact or alter.
Ben Kaplan 23:26
I'm the father of two young girls, and I often see my daughters on the edge of an especially steep playground slide. unsure if they should take the plunge. And it reminds me of the business world. Sometimes you have to try things out, maybe get a few scrapes, to figure out how to slide more smoothly next time around. And marketing calculated risks are the stepping stones to innovation. They're the ingredients and the secret sauce of competitive advantage. Sure, no one likes to fall. But you pick yourself up, slap on a metaphorical bandaid and use the newfound experience to move forward. Remember, risk isn't the enemy. It's the tuition fee for progress.
Ben Kaplan 24:16
Norman, the question is, what's the most efficient way to learn something it's like it could be study it and get a tutorial and go to a course and watch a webinar and do all that. Or it could be, you know, for lack of a better metaphor, stick your finger in
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 24:30
the socket, or in the socket and see what happens. What we try to do then
Ben Kaplan 24:35
is create an environment where certainly you can test and learn in a lot of ways but with not the catastrophic consequence, right. So we might block out that socket, put the safety plugs in there just because that's a really bad outcome. Put little protectors on the corners of the table in our marketing stack in our business, but then give free rein beyond that because nothing else is going to be catastrophic. At the most. I've never done this in business especially Before I'm gonna say this word norm, at most, you're gonna get a little booboo. Just gonna get a little booboo. And that's that
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 25:05
is true, right? A little booboo, right? And somebody will give you a band aid and give you a sticker. And you'll walk away with your SpiderMan sticker and you'll feel good. And you know, frankly, honestly, Ben, I'm gonna get a whole stack of stickers and keep them on my desk. So I could just give people, Spider Man and Hello Kitty stickers and say it's like, good job, let's move forward. Because it's so true that it's not catastrophic and learning. How often do organizations say we're data driven, we test and learn. But it turns out that they're data driven, but they never actually change what they're doing as a result of the data that they're constantly consuming. And what you have to do is sometimes be willing to take those risks, like we're going to try something crazy. And I just saw this on my organization recently, that we had implemented something on the website. And over time, we saw that, although it was producing one outcome that we wanted, it was negatively impacting another outcome, specifically around the types of form fields we were getting, and the types of inquiries we were getting. And we started looking for that balance. And I said, You know what, we just got to make change here, team go do it. And we reconfigured things to try to find a better balance. And all of a sudden, we saw the thing that had been negatively impacted started to go up again. Now we've done this recently, we don't know what the longer term effect is. And it could be that that will go up at the expense of the other thing, and like, Okay, where's the right balance, but you can't find the balance. If you don't iterate endlessly. And you realize that, well, maybe this thing is actually more important, we just didn't realize how important it was. Back, when we built the other type of button for people to push, those types of experiments have to be ongoing, and people shouldn't be afraid, I often joke that there are businesses that treat their website, as if it were a printed book. And it requires a massive force before you can go and like have a new edition. Published, right. And I'm like, it's digital, test it, make a change do it. And, and for some reason, companies, their their, their motions, their process, let's talk about process one more time, if we must, their process around things like updating the website becomes ossified into this system that requires this, this and this and this and this, and this before you can even make the slightest change, right, that's not being responsive, that mistaking process for actual value creation inside the business.
Ben Kaplan 27:48
Well, and I think one thing, that's a maybe related concept, and I love this, Norman, by the way, because we can get philosophical about marketing and organizations and all that and then go go through the theory of it. But here's where everything you said I 100% agree with, but I know where certain blockers happen, even your website example. And here's where the blocker happens in sort of the real world because I know there's other CMOs listeners they like, sounds great. But here's here's the real world, which is the blocker happens because there's not a sufficient level of trust in the organization with individual people. Because you're like, you know, yes, we could try something out on that website. But I don't really trust Joe to actually either implement that the right way. Or remember that, hey, you know, you're at Mimecast, you're in the cybersecurity business, you're in a risk averse don't just like break stuff on the website that could do you know what I mean? Like, like, that's the kind of business you're in. So that is another part of our discussion, which is, how do you have sufficient trust to do that, because high trust, you're just like, go, I trust you, you'll figure it out. It's amazing. Low trust, you're like, well, but I want to approve that final copy. And I want to make sure that we didn't create, you know, and then that's where it started. That's a slippery slope. So trust is a currency. How do we get to trust,
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 29:06
trust, trust is a trust is a big currency. I'm, I'm super simplistic about that, at least, maybe about everything. Trust is earned. And it's shouldn't be earned in a in an unseen way. It should be earned in the Hey, Joe. Let's go through what you're going to do. I'm going to take a look at it the first couple of times. Okay, you got this, or, Hey, let's try to do a little bit of redirect. And I know this is oversimplifying it, Ben, but the reality is, as leaders, it's on us to make sure we can have those type of interactions and discussions and then our leadership team underneath tests into every level can actually go through the act of establishing a relationship with people in teams and making it clear, I'm doing this because I want to understand how you do your job or how you produce this thing on the website. And I want to go through this a couple of times. And then you know what, you got this, I trust you, you're gonna go forward. And that explicitness around the trust as frankly, a currency is very uncommon, unfortunately, in organizations, and I try to make it a little bit more explicit and clear that I want to have everyone be able to do their job without them having to come to me as a CMO. So that I can provide value where it's most needed. But I want to earn I want them to earn that trust, and I want them to earn my trust, because it works both ways the currency works both ways. I'm going to be true to my word, I'm going to demonstrate how I do what I do in a way that you will come to trust me, when I say I have your back, nobody believes me the first time. They only believe me, when I demonstrated, I want to come into a new organization or no team,
Ben Kaplan 31:06
you talked about simplifying things, if we're going to simplify trust down to its essence, like, what is it and what can you do wherever you are in your marketing career or journey, I mean, to me, it's this, it's as simple as this, which is, if you want to build trust, one, say what you're gonna do, so explain ahead of time, what you're gonna do to do it. And then if you do that, and you do that, repeatedly, that builds trust. And that's it. So you know, if you want to build trust, if you're new to accompany for something else, like don't say things you're going to do, if you're not 100%, sure, you're going to do them, and then find things that you're 100% sure of that, you're going to do that here's the other little hidden trap, which is don't like go do it in secret, and then say, here it is, if you want more trust, you say you're gonna do it, and then you do it, you have to say at first, because that builds trust. And if you do that repeatedly, on a few different occasions, and then people trust you, and that's it. So that's all it is, you got to say what you're gonna do, and you got to do it, or you and you
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 32:01
really got it to the to its essence there, right? Say what you're gonna do, do it repeatedly. And I love the other part of that. I am one who hate surprises. And I tell teams, there shouldn't be surprises, we'll share the work along the way, don't go off somewhere, and disappear and come back six weeks later, the solution to all of our problems, because not only is it probably not going to be the solution, but you won't have buy in and frankly, the problems may have changed because you weren't talking with other people in those six weeks. So engage and share and realize that the hardest part of our jobs is not the discipline of marketing. It's the interaction with other people. And if we get that, right, and we invest heavily in how we interact with our colleagues, and do it in a respectful, open, transparent manner that builds trust, we get better outcomes.
Ben Kaplan 33:04
Well said. And final question, Norman. If these interpersonal skills, maybe softer skills that sometimes we don't focus as much on in this sort of this era of data driven, quantitative results oriented market, which is all important, like we said, and even talks about aligning the business outcomes as the first thing you talked about, but if these soft people skills are going to be critical for us, what is the skill that either you wish you had more of yourself, or that you wish you could impart and other people was like, one skill, one thing you were gonna do for yourself or for others? What would that be?
Norman Guadagno - Mimecast 33:39
Yeah, and it's a great topic, because it's something I think a lot about, actually, I suffer deeply. And I own this from an internal sense of what is right and wrong, and what the right way to do things the right way to do things are, and I sometimes cannot control myself from trying to explain it to people, I have a tendency to over explain what I think is the way something could be done. And I know that that's something I forever am trying to damp it in myself. So gives people the opportunity to express their own way to get things done. The larger lesson, of course, is hey, there's an infinite number of ways to do things. There are very few things where it's like if I don't know exactly like this particular in marketing ends up like this. And what we have to understand is that respects to the actual the ingenuity and the point of view that everyone brings to the table. So when you see someone else that seems to be doing something in a way that's like, Ah, how are you doing that? And they're like, no, no, I got this. Give him the benefit of the doubt and see where it leads and maybe learn something along the way. It's a lesson I've been teaching myself and I hope others can embrace.
Ben Kaplan 34:57
According to Norman Guadagno being data driven is not just about gathering numbers. It's about creating actionable insights. So don't get distracted by data for data's sake. As Norman said, our businesses shouldn't just be data driven, but also data smart. Take a good look at your data dashboards and ask yourself, are we data hoarders or data heroes? No one thinks that trust is like the WD 40 of corporate life. It just makes everything run smoother. A bit of trust can turn those rusty Gears of bureaucracy into a well oiled machine. And let's not forget the power of making strategic mistakes. Just like how we baby prove a home to make it safe for toddlers to explore. We should create business environments where a slip up is nothing but a well, booboo. It's all part of the process of progress. Embrace it, learn from it, and most importantly, iterate on it. For TOP CMO, I'm Ben Kaplan.
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