Interview with Shellye Archambeau
Shellye Archambeau offers three great pieces of advice for entrepreneurs: only do what you're passionate about, create an informal network of advisers, and test your ideas before you launch.
An Interview with Shellye Archambeau CEO, MetricStream
Date: September 5, 2008
NCWIT Interview with Shellye Archambeau
BIO: As the CEO of MetricStream, Shellye Archambeau is responsible for running all facets of the business. Ms. Archambeau has a proven executive management track record and over 20 years of experience driving sales growth in the technology industry. Prior to joining MetricStream, Ms. Archambeau was Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Sales for Loudcloud, Inc. [renamed Opsware], responsible for all global sales and marketing activities. At Loudcloud she led the transformation into an enterprise-focused company while growing sales 50 percent year over year. Previously, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of NorthPoint Communications, where she led the design and implementation of all sales and marketing strategies. Ms. Archambeau also served as president of Blockbuster, Inc.'s e-commerce division and was recognized by Internet World as one of the Top 25 "Click and Mortar" executives in the country in June of 2000. Ms. Archambeau spent the prior 15 years at IBM, holding several domestic and international executive positions. Ms. Archambeau is an author and sought-after speaker on the topics of compliance, marketing, and leadership. She has been featured or quoted in numerous business publications including BusinessWeek, InformationWeek and the San Jose Business Journal. She is co-author of Marketing That Works and she guest lectures at The Wharton School West and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Ms. Archambeau currently serves on the board of directors for Arbitron, Inc.[NYSE: ARB] and The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives. She is also a member of the Trustees Council of Penn Women at the University of Pennsylvania and the Information Technology Senior Management Forum. She earned a B.S. degree at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.
Larry Nelson: This is Larry Nelson with w3w3.com. And we are fortunate to be right here in the headquarters of the National Center for Women in Information Technology. We are so excited about this particular series, because it is really targeting young people and trying to get them more interested in getting involved with IT and how exciting it is. But most of all, on the entrepreneurial side. So Lucy Sanders, who is the CEO and founder of NCWIT, as we call it, for all of our friends. Lucy...
Lucy Sanders: Well thanks Larry. We are excited about this series, as well. With me is NCWIT Board Director, Lee Kennedy from Tricalyx. She is a serial entrepreneur. And we are speaking today with Shelley Archambeau, who is the CEO of MetricStream, which is an incredibly cool company. Very timely in today's regulatory and quality environment. Shelley, welcome.
Shellye Archambeau: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Lucy: Why don't you tell us a little bit about MetricStream? You do a lot. You have software, you have services, and you have training. Tell us a bit about what you do.
Shellye: Absolutely. What we do is to provide solutions to companies to help them ensure they can comply effectively with rules, regulations, and mandates that are out there in the marketplace. So whether that is Sarbanes‑Oxley or that are FDA regulations or ISO 9000 processes, any time they basically need a solution to ensure that they comply with the regulations so they can reduce their corporate risk, as well as get the visibility to be able to manage that risk and apply appropriate resources as needed. That is where MetricStream comes in. So we have customers in the FDA space, everything from Subways, which I'm sure a lot of people have eaten at, to pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer. We also run a high technology space, with companies like Fairchild Semiconductor, Hitachi America, and etcetera. So, we work with companies of all sizes to help them comply by providing the full software services total solution.
Lucy: Well, we are excited. I must make a plug about Pfizer. Pfizer is an investment partner for NCWIT.
Larry: Oh, right.
Shellye: All right.
Lucy: They help us by funding our K‑12 Alliance. We love Pfizer.
Shellye: Excellent. Well, we do too.
Lucy: We can have a Pfizer love fest.
Larry: There we go.
Lucy: Yeah, I love them. One of the things that I noticed too, while I'm looking at your website, was that MetricStream just won an award, the Stevie Award.
Lucy: And that is, I think, is that focused on your portal that uses an innovative use of open source?
Shellye: Yes, absolutely. We won first place for Compliance Online. Compliance Online is a web portal where we bring together all of the different information about compliance: rules, regulations, best practices, training, and etcetera. To make it easy for compliance professionals to find out and learn what's new, where the areas of focus, where the areas of risk, get updates on how companies are best handling the management of different issues and regulations, etcetera. And we're pleased that in just a very short time, and we just launched this basically the beginning of last year, we have become the number one compliance portal.
Shellye: We are leveraging a unique model, where we basically have experts from around the world that provide training to those that need it. And we create an environment in which professionals can come and ask each other questions, interact, etcetera. As well as do vertical search, meaning when they want to find information on FDA CFR part 11, they can do a search on that and just get that, versus getting something that may have the same part number, like a widget on a car if you do a broader search. So all of those things are actually bringing a significant value. And we were recognized, as you said, as a Stevie Award, which is basically an international business award.
Shelleye: As the number one player in that particular category.
Lucy: Well, I'm sure you use a lot of technology with that. And certainly you're Compliance Online Portal is one such. And by the way, congratulations. I read you got to go to a great gala to get the award.
Lucy: I was hoping I could come carry your bags. Our first question for you really does, in fact, relate to technology and how you first got interested in technology and also, as you look out onto the horizon, which technologies you see as being very important in the future.
Shellye: Certainly. So first, interest. It was really college. And now I'm going to date myself, because I went to school in the early '80s. That was around the time frame that Apple Computers and all those things were starting to come out, and really seeing just the changing horizon out there. So, I went to Wharton and focused on business marketing. But where I really put my focus was doing all that in the area of technology. I thought this was really how we could change the world. Again, you're 18, 19, 20 years old and you believe you could do all that, so I did. But I wanted to get into this space. It was hot. It was new. It really looked like there was a lot of leverage that could happen by getting involved. And it hasn't let me down. I've spent over 20 years now in the technology space, and it's just amazing how fast technology continues to change. Harnessing the power is just an exciting, exciting area to be in.
Lucy: So Shelley, when you think about the series we're doing, it's all about different, fabulous entrepreneurs and what they've done. So we love to find out, why did you decide to be an entrepreneur? And what is it about it that really makes you tick?
Shellye: You know, it's interesting because I actually started my career not as an entrepreneur, per se. I joined IBM. You can't get much bigger than that in terms of a conglomerate to join. [laughs] But I joined IBM with the objective of wanting to run a company, so I might as well try to run IBM. I spent a good number of years doing that, running different divisions and operations both domestic as well as overseas. But the piece that I was missing in all of that was that the higher I got in the company, the farther removed I felt from the market and what was really happening. You spend more focus trying to get things done within the company. With that, I said let me take what I've learned ‑ all the technology focus, I had lots of opportunities to go and fix divisions, build new divisions, get them growing, et cetera ‑ let me take that and apply that to smaller companies. Because now I want to have more of an impact, if you will, on a business. So becoming an entrepreneur to me was really taking a set of skills and trying to get out there and just have an impact. When you think about all that we're learning in our careers and all the skill sets that we're building, that's really what we're trying to do. Whether you're trying to do that against a company or against a technology or against a social issue, et cetera, we're all just trying to make an impact with what it is that we're doing. I don't think there's any better way to make an impact than to be an entrepreneur. You're bringing a new idea, a new concept, a new way to approach technology. All of those things you can do as an entrepreneur and really have an impact on the market space that you're targeting.
Lucy: Along the way you have a fascinating career path coming through a large corporation like IBM and then starting your own company. Who influenced you along this path? Do you have role models or mentors that you remember? What kinds of influences shaped you?
Shellye: It's interesting. I think one of the things that shaped me in the beginning is that I've always been a planner. I knew, as I said, that I wanted to run a business. I didn't have, really, a view of being an entrepreneur when I first came out of school. Going to Wharton, everything was pretty much focused on big companies, et cetera, and that's what I did. But as I started to progress and see what kind of changes people could make by being an entrepreneur, and then getting connected with people in this space. You talk about mentors. One of my mentors and advisers is Mark Leslie. Mark Leslie built Veritas, which was just acquired about a year and a half ago by Symantec. He took a company from start to four billion dollars in market cap. Seeing what can be done is just amazing. I'm a big believer in mentors and advisers in general. You didn't quite ask me this question, but let me just frame it a little bit. One of the tidbits that I like to offer people is that as you're moving forward in your career, try to adopt mentors. And I say adopt, meaning look for people who are doing things you want to do, or things you think you might be interested in, and just spend some time. Try to reach out, talk to them, ask them for advice, etcetera. There is so much to be learned. And it was really in doing that kind of thing that enabled me to develop a set of really strong relationships that helped me shape what I wanted to do with my career. I still reach out and grasp for mentors and advisors and ideas, because there is so much going on in the world. There is no way you can experience it all yourself. So the best way to try to get broader perspectives is try to leverage other people's experiences, which is really what mentoring is all about.
Larry: I haven't had this type of corporate experience, like being with IBM. So, going from IBM to now being a real, full‑fledged entrepreneur, along the way I am sure there's been a bit of course correction and other challenges. If you were to pull something out, what would be the biggest challenge that you had to either try to overcome, or maybe you didn't overcome it, you just had to learn to live with it?
Shellye: Gosh, probably the biggest challenge I'd almost put as two things, and I'll answer two ways. In the corporate world, it was all about rightsizing, downsizing, whatever word you want to use. It doesn't matter how many times you do it, that is just a hard thing to do. You are obviously trying to get the business models right, but you're also impacting individuals very specifically. So that is something that is hard to do. Have I done it? Absolutely. Can I do it? Yes. But that doesn't mean that that is something I enjoy. What we've tried to do, when taking that experience and coming to build MetricStream, is try to ensure that we're growing at the right pace and path with the business growth and momentum. So to try to avoid having to go through that kind of activity as you grow. On the entrepreneur side, as to what has been the toughest, it's really...Gosh, we've put two companies together. Part of MetricStream's growth, we actually merged with another company three years back. And that was probably one of the toughest things. Because now you're trying to a business that you've got, investors that you've got, match it and marry it with another company that has its own set of investors, their own original business plan. And make it work both from a financial standpoint, from a structural standpoint, as well as from a market standpoint. So, I would say merging MetricStream three years ago was probably one of the hardest things that I've done, because it touched on every aspect of running and operating a business.
Lucy: So Shelley, you had some great advice earlier about role models and mentors. If you were sitting here today with a young person, what advice would you have to them about entrepreneurship? And what advice would you give them?
Shellye: Well, first would be only do what you're really passionate about. I mean, this is hard work. Being an entrepreneur is not showing up at nine o'clock in the morning and leaving at five, and being able to put all of the stuff behind you. Being an entrepreneur is totally encompassing, because nothing happens unless you make it happen. If you work for a big company, if you don't show up for work, there is already an engine. There are people doing other pieces, people pitch in, things will still happen and still work. When you're an entrepreneur, if you don't show up, things don't happen. Because you don't have all of that infrastructure and things in place. So if you're going to work hard, make sure you are doing something that you are really passionate about. So that when you have the good times, which you will, you can celebrate and enjoy. But when you have the bad times and the struggles, you still want to persevere. And you do because you are really passionate about what it is that you are doing. As an entrepreneur, the ups can be almost euphoric. But the downs can have you second guessing everything that you are doing. It's important to do something that you love, so you can power through all those cycles that you go through. So that's number one. Do something that you are passionate about. Second would be, create an informal network of advisers. I touched on this, in terms of mentors and things. There are a million people out there who have done what you are getting ready to do. Maybe not in the same industry, maybe not with the exact same model, but in terms of creating a business, finding customers, creating a business model that works, getting investors and funding, etcetera. All those things have been done by others, so create a network of advisers to help support you in that overall process. And then lastly, test your ideas before you just launch into it. You know, make sure that there is a good niche that you're targeting. So testing ideas, either with others like these advisers I talked about or just with people on the streets, to see what kind of feedback you get about your concept and what you're doing. And then get launched into it. Do something that you're passionate about, number one. Two, make sure you create this informal network of advisers. And three, make sure you test your ideas before you jump into it.
Lucy: That's all really great advice. I'm really resonating to the testing of the ideas, because it's only then that you test it with your advisers and they love you, they're going to give you the hard news. It's great..
Larry: Now we have to listen.
Lucy: Well, you know, they're giving you all the input that you need.
Shellye: You know it's true. And it's interesting, because a lot of people come up with great ideas for the product, whether that product is software or it is hardware, or it's a cool widget, whatever it might be. The hard part is, how do you get that product to market? Hundreds and thousands of new businesses and new ideas are created every day. The ones, however, that make it, are not always the ones that actually have the best product. This will be the ones that end up with the best business plan and marketing strategy to get it to market. So, and I'll put a little plug, I hope you don't mind, but I'll put a little plug in there for a minute because I actually co‑authored a book on Marketing That Works. That is all about how to use different techniques and capabilities and structure and discipline to make all that work. Really, that is where to spend the time to make sure that you can be successful.
Lucy: Well Larry, I think just as a side note, that's another interview for you. Larry: There we go.
Lucy: You need to go look at the book. Larry is an author, as well.
Larry: We'll put that up on the blog.
Shellye: Oh, Okay. Great.
Lucy: You have great insight and advice. What other personal characteristics have given you an advantage as an entrepreneur?
Shellye: You know it's interesting, in terms of reflecting on that. A couple things. One is, I'm a pretty good leader. And when I say a good leader, I think of leader as people who operate in a way that people want to follow them. Making sure you provide the vision, the strategy, the direction, and just stay two inches ahead of everybody. So that you are pushing out the boulders and blockades, etcetera, so that everyone else can be successful in what it is they are getting ready to do. I think leadership is an important characteristic, and one that has definitely helped me. The other is being a listener. And this one's a little different, because people don't always think about this. But it's really being a listener. To make sure that as you come out with your product or your set of solutions, that you don't fall so much in love with your product. When I say in love, it's very much like falling in love with a person. When you fall in love with someone initially, you are almost blinded to everything else. All you see is all of their positives, all their best traits, etcetera. You tend to diminish and not focus on maybe some of the negative traits, etcetera. Well it's easy to fall in love with your product. So that you're not really listening to what the market is telling you so that you can make that product better in what you are doing. So listening has been another key piece to all of this. I mentioned earlier that I'm a planner, and I think that has helped. I absolutely have been able to bring both to my own personal career. A game plan for what I want to do, so what do I need to be able to get there? And making sure I put those things into place. And frankly, once I've gotten here, the other thing that's an advantage is being a woman. There are so few female entrepreneurs running companies in different places, as a percentage. When people do meet you, they tend to remember you, which actually helps your company because they then can associate it with what it is that you do, etcetera. So I actually think that's an advantage. The last would be, I like to win. I like to set objectives. I like to work with teams to go make it happen and win. That's what this is all about. As you build a company, an organization, it is how do you make sure your product fits the market needs? It's making sure that you're building a team and leading it to be able to deliver on those overall needs. And putting a plan in place that will be successful and then making sure you win if you're getting out there and competing.
Lucy: That's great advice. So Shelley you've had such a wonderful career. You're running a company now. How do you bring balance to your personal and professional life?
Shellye: That's interesting. I think about balance and I tell people I think balance is a misnomer. Balance to me means you spend equal energy, time, hours, whatever it is in one area as well as another area at all times, right? That's balance. I don't have balance. What I have is integration. So I think of this more work‑life integration. I've got a fabulous husband. We celebrate 23 years in August.
Shellye: And two kids, which, however knock on wood, are turning out really well. But I've been able to do that because number one I work in partnership with my husband so we view each other as a team in terms of how we execute. But number two I've been able to leverage. I'm going to use technology to actually make it all work. My son, as an example, my son played in a basketball championship when he was in high school, which was last year. And they actually made it to the States. When I was in home and in town I didn't miss a game. Now how did I do that? I did that because of the Blackberry and a cell phone. It doesn't mean I was in the stands... I couldn't focus every second on every game. There were times when I was actually plugging away on email, there were times I had to step out and take a call but you know what? I was there. Without technology I couldn't have been there all those times and making sure that things are happening the way they need to happen. So I think integrating the two in a way where you can physically be where you want to be and yet insure that things are getting done that need to get done really makes a difference. It's very hard I think to actually shut out and say, "Okay, from this time to this time I do X. And from this time to this time I do Y. And never the two shall meet." That doesn't work for me. It works for me to integrate the two and to be available. For part of my career I actually commuted. So for three years I left home Monday mornings and I came home Thursday night if I was lucky but usually it was Friday night. And my kids were at school at the time. So the deal I had with them was, "Listen, when you want to talk to me or reach out to me you just call me. Just call my cell." And folks that I worked with knew that when my cell phone rang if it was my kids I was going to answer it. Now it didn't mean I stayed on the phone. I'd answer it and say, "I'm doing this do you need me to step out or can I call you back?" And you know what? 95% of the time I could call them back. But that just knowing that they could reach me meant that I was still there, right? There was no difference if I was at work three miles away versus being three thousand miles away in terms of what was happening. And me taking those phone calls? That didn't impact my ability to execute on the overall job. So when I say integration if it's both kinds of things, figure out how you can make it work together so that you can be available in both sides of your life.
Lucy: Well, and we asked this question. I won't say it's a trick question but we all agree with you. We are a fan of integration and blending. I personally think this word 'balance' does us a disservice. And one reason why we really wanted to ask the question is because we want young people to know that there are ways to blend these types of very aggressive and time consuming jobs with having a rewarding personal life. So...
Shellye: That's right. Now listen, can I add a couple more things to that?
Shellye: Because what happens to a lot of young people especially is they put themselves in a trap. And when I say "they put themselves in a trap" meaning my biggest advice to people, which has helped my husband and I, is you need to get help. And I don't mean a psychiatrist.
Shellye: When I say, "You need to get help" meaning those things that really aren't as important to you whether it's cutting the grass, whether its' cleaning your house whatever it happens to be for you and your husband, get somebody else to do that. So the people say to me, "Damn it, how can you afford all that?" Especially when you get started, and the whole bit. My answer is to plan it in. When my husband and I got married, I knew that I wanted to have kids right away and so did he. I'm right out of college just starting and the whole bit. Well, we bought a house that was a small, little house that was a fairly decent commute in terms of overall distance. But we did that because I spent more on childcare and help than we did on our mortgage. And we did that so that it would work and we wouldn't be pulling our hair out to be able to get it done. Now, that takes discipline. Everybody else you want to take and say, "OK, let me get the best and biggest house I can get for what I'm spending." We looked at it and said, "Oh no. I want to consider childcare and support and mortgage as one big hunk." Now, what can that be? And now we've got to divide it up between the two. But plan for it. What tends to happen is we come out of school, we work for awhile, we get married, we get the house, we get the cars. Next thing we know, our fixed expense is so high that we don't have the tangible or flexible dollars to be able to go get the help that we need to enable us to better balance. Because I will tell you, it is impossible to do it all without any help and still retain your sanity and your health and all those things. You've got to figure it out. Start financially with, "OK, what can I do". Then work from there. It makes a huge difference.
Lucy: Well, I know you can't retain your rotator cuffs either if you try to do it all. That's great advice. One last question for you. You've achieved a lot in your career. I want to also tell listeners that, although you didn't mention it, we know from reading your bio that you also have a big heart. You're involved with a lot of non‑profits ‑ the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, you're also involved at Penn. What's next for you? You've done so much and you have so much time ahead of you. What's next for you and your company?
Shellye: Well, the immediate next is to build a great company and metric strength, and to indeed have an impact on the whole marketplace of how large and small companies comply with the rules and regulations and mandates. So first, next, is absolutely to build a great company. The follow on to that is that I want to continue to do things that have an impact. Whether it is an impact in business, in terms of driving and building and growing another company, or it's on the social entrepreneurial side in terms of looking at ways to have an impact and take some of the skills and capabilities that I've built to go do that. I'm not sure yet which that will be. What I can tell you is that if you flash forward five or ten years, I still absolutely expect to be out there and creating an impact in both the business world as well as in the non‑profit space. Because you're right, that is an important thing to me. I know that I have not achieved everything that I've achieved because of me, because of Shelley Archambeau. I've been able to do it as a result of a lot of good support, advice, and path paving that was done in front of me. And I want to make sure that I'm helping to do that for others..
Larry: Well Shelley, based on the experience and the lessons you learned going from IBM to trying to figure out how to apply these lessons you were learning at IBM to a smaller company, you've done a magnificent job. Of course, a couple of words that really pop out in my mind is being a good leader, a good planner, a good listener, and really liking to win.
Lucy: Yeah, go!
Larry: With a team. With a team, of course.
Lucy: And she's an author.
Larry: And she's an author. "Marketing That Works".
Larry: What a title. I like that.
Lucy: We'd love to help you advertise your book.
Shellye: Well thank you. I definitely appreciate the help.
Larry: We'll do that for sure. This is Larry Nelson here at NCWIT. I'll tell you, this is another exciting interview. I don't know how you and the board line up all of these wonderful people, but I'm just happy to be a part of it. You'll be able to hear this and other interviews at ncwit.org, that's after the www of course.
Lucy: Yes, of course.
Larry: I just don't like to say it with ours. We have the podcast, and so....
Lucy: Yeah, too many w's.
Larry: Yeah, www.w3w3.com. All right, thank you for joining us Shelley.
Lucy: Thank you Shelley.
Shellye: You're quite welcome. Thank you all.
Lucy: We appreciate it.
Shellye: Okay. Bye bye.