Key Takeaways from High Alpha’s Fireside Chat with Scott McCorkle

by Srikar Kalvakolanu

Last month, we hosted Scott McCorkle, Executive in Residence at High Alpha, as our featured guest for our monthly Speaker Series. Scott joined High Alpha earlier this year, previously leading Salesforce Marketing Cloud as CEO. Scott has since re-entrenched himself in the Indianapolis technology community by also becoming the Executive Chairman of both Torchlite Marketing and Fuzic.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our fireside chat with Scott:

1. Talk to Your Customers

Scott McCorkle did one of those anecdotal “great” things that you sometimes hear in the stories of amazing leaders: he met with a customer every single day of his 10+ year tenure at ExactTarget/Salesforce Marketing Cloud. It started from his Software Artistry days and moved into being a commitment he made to himself and the company. With a background in Product, it might be a bit odd to hear of such an ambitious goal, but as Scott puts it:

Talking to your customers every single day helps you shape the conversation within your organization.

McCorkle talked deeply about how some of the greatest product ideas and revelations came from talking and engaging with customers meaningfully and building relationships with them to create a mutually beneficial partnership.

2. Three Words for Angry Customers

It’s always ideal to have happy customers, but the reality is that you’re going to have to deal with at least a few unhappy ones. Scott has been a master of flipping the script from a contentious and heated one to getting back on building a good relationship and working well with the customers. His advice for these situations:

You have to be shockingly transparent with your customers when something goes wrong. And you’re going to have to use the three words: ‘I am sorry’ coupled with what you’ve learned.

Scott discussed how this level of engagement allows you to diffuse the situation and work with your customers to grow to a positive relationship. It’s about validating (rather than evaluating) what they are saying (regardless if you agree or disagree) rather than saying ‘No’. If you do that, they are much more willing to listen and work it out with you.

3. Employee Engagement and Social Issues

Scott has been a huge proponent of social rights for all and during RFRA challenges in 2015, Scott was a central figure in the debate over how to respond to the legislation and how to act. Scott is well known for his incredible leadership when it comes to social issues. As Scott put it:

All companies must support employees and help amplify their [political and social] voices to be part of something bigger.

Scott noted that people have the ability to influence and change much more than they think they can, and how his advocacy, along with the support of the company, made incredible strides in the political and social realm.

This month was another incredible speaker series with a great deal of information and insight from Scott McCorkle. I can’t include every great piece of insight, but a few other notable quotes from the event:

Every CEO should be thinking ‘my business is going to fail.’ You need to have a high level of paranoia.

You only see success looking backward.

The optimal design team for software is 1.

It’s an art to know when a decision has to be made. It doesn’t always have to, but when it does, it stops at the CEO.

If you’d like to watch the recording of the entire speaker series, please find the video below: