CEO Leadership Series - Dale Gantous (InGenius)
CEO Leadership Series - Dale Gantous (InGenius)
Dale Gantous is co-founder and CEO of InGenius which was founded in 1986. Evolving over the last 25 years they are now focused entirely on computer telephony integration (CTI) and in 2012 they introduced InGenius Connector Enterprise which remains their company's flagship product.
When you meet Dale it's clear why InGenius has experienced such success and why they have such a happy and engaged workforce. Her kind and generous spirit is contagious, she leads by example and lives and breathes the InGenius values, which impressively have remained unchanged throughout the years.
Top 20 Questions
Your best/worst subject in school?
Worst: French, until I started to have summer jobs where French was the only spoken language - so now I'm pas mal bilingue.
What was your first job?
My first summer job: Packing panties at Vico-Viola Lingerie factory in the garment district in Montreal, and I did it for 3 summers.
My first real job: Planning thruster firings on in-orbit Canadian communications satellites, did that for 6 years, and loved it.
Best advice you ever took?
From the founder of InGenius, Rich Loen, who hired me: Come work for yourself, you'll never look back!
Tip you would share with this years graduating class?
Same tip I always give: As soon as you can in your career, get a job that gets you talking to customers - whether that's in tech support, sales, or 2nd line engineering support. You never really understand what makes your company worthwhile, until you talk to its customers.
What book are you reading?
Just finished Marc Benioff's Behind the Cloud, the story of Salesforce's rise. My favourite book is Margaret Laurence' The Diviners, and I hope to reread it soon. I have always loved a good coming-of-age novel set in Canada.
It would have to be something funny - something Bugs Bunny or Groucho Marx said … or maybe this one: "Judge me by my size, do you?" on a Yoda t-shirt at Universal Studios (on the back it says, "You must be this tall to ride this ride"). I'm 5 foot zip, exactly minimum astronaut height.
One thing that surprises you about business?
It's not really a surprise, but I'm happy to say that good ethics and good business go hand in hand. People like dealing with people who are straightforward and honest, and that includes customers, partners, and employees. It includes everybody!
What motivates you?
Having the respect of my team - it's a critical motivator to me.
When was the last time you worked a 40 hour work week?
I'm not in the office more than 40 hours a week, but I admit I am checking email, most of my off-time. I'm answering these questions right now on Saturday morning.
What is the best (most recent) feedback you received from one of your employees?
That I am very good at making business development partnerships - I find that work hard, so that was a great compliment to receive.
When are you most productive?
When there's a critical issue that needs to be resolved quickly - my adrenaline skyrockets and it's time to get stuff done.
Best thing about being a CEO?
Being able to make decisions, decisions that are good for customers and good for employees.
Most challenging thing about being a CEO?
No real downtime - even though things are great, there's always some problem that needs to be solved that bubbles in the back of my mind.
What is one word that describes your leadership style?
You have FUN! in your office?
Food parties, free drinks fridge, euchre at lunchtime, foozball table, smart people having fun in their work and fun with each other.
An experience that has influenced you the most as a leader?
Going through the big high-tech bubble-burst downturn, surviving, climbing back up and thriving as a company.
A CEO that inspires you?
Marc Benioff is pretty inspiring.
If you weren't a CEO you would be...
...a waitress in a diner with a beehive hairdo - hah! I don't know - maybe a scientist trying to find a cancer cure.
An organization that you always make time for?
Oxfam, Plan International, World Vision - anything that helps hungry people around the world.
Gmail, yeah I know, sounds boring, but hey it keeps me on top of everything I need to be on top of.
InGenius provides a pair of red Converse shoes to new employees. Can you share how this started and why you think the practice has sustained over the years?
Our Founder, Rich Loen, always wore Connies - and our corporate colours are red. The red shoes kind of represent the combination of cool and fun spirit that Rich has always infused into the company and still does to this day - he does the new orientation for all our employees.
What is another fun fact that you would be willing to share about InGenius's culture?
Well it may not classify as fun, but it's important - we're caring. We care about each other, and our customers. I didn't really articulate that until recently, when my advisor told me that we are a "kind" company. And he meant it as a compliment. I'm glad - I like us to keep the values that we learned when we were 3 years old - kindness and caring for others. As I've said before, good ethics and good business go hand in hand.
One of your corporate goals is teamwork - how has this goal positively impacted your culture?
Well we couldn't be successful without it! We are world leaders in a critical but complex technology niche - telephony integration with CRMs. Can't do this in any kind of scaleable way without teamwork. And the teamwork means that people have to work together to figure out hard problems, which instills respect for each other - when people overcome difficult challenges together it breaks down barriers and brings them closer to each other.
InGenius has a successful co-operative development program. What insights have you gained over the years from investing in students and new graduates?
Coop students have been wonderful for InGenius - we've always assigned our coop students REAL work to do, code that will go right into our software product. There are no make-work assignments at InGenius - if you're here, you're contributing in a real way. We also find our future new grad employees through the coop program - and the combination of new grads with experienced senior developers is a great way to be productive while grooming the careers of the young folks we hire. And it's fun to have a mix of ages and backgrounds working together! Even though the young folks don't always get my jokes ;).
How do you find work life harmony running a successful company and raising two twin boys?
It's hilarious! Actually I couldn't have it better - Rich and I worked together for about 7 years before we ever went out together, so we knew each other and all our foibles very well before we made the plunge. And having the boys is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Yes there's a lot to think about and do, but we've always made sure that I had plenty of help - we still have a spectacular nanny and a wonderful cleaning lady, so we are well taken care of. Yes Rich and I talk about work, but we enjoy family life and vacations and date nights, so we're good!
What is your best leadership advice for any new CEO?
Surround yourself with a great senior team, set specific annual goals for your company, and expect the team to measure their departments' performance against those goals, report on and discuss them with the entire leadership team. The CEO can't do it all alone, he/she needs the senior team to be leaders for the company. This was advice that I received from my stellar advisor, Paul Loucks, and it has proved tremendously helpful for our team at InGenius in continuing to achieve our dreams.