James A. Sills is the CEO of Clear Demand. James is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. James provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Clear Demand. James A. Sills joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has recently awarded Clear Demand with our Impact Company of 2019 award. We are delighted to have James join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview and our popular “speed round” as well.
James, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview about your company, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. What is the “elevator pitch” for Clear Demand?
Clear Demand uses machine learning to understand how price and promotion have influenced retail sales in the past. We use this understanding to optimize price and promotion in the future. With each price change and promotional offer, the system learns and improves. The objective is to build loyalty by improving shopper experience and drive toward a more frictionless transactions.
2. What is the key to your company’s success?
Clear Demand is a retail science company. We are aggressively advancing the state-of-the-art in machine learning and demand modeling to improve our algorithms. Included is a comprehensive rules engine combined with rigorous optimization that provides full transparency into the recommendations. Prior to Clear Demand, pricing solutions were black boxes. The result is a more accurate forecast that drives more value. Adoption is accelerated by training on best practices and an intuitive user interface.
3. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
When you start a new company you must clearly understand how to deliver something your customers need and why you are uniquely able to deliver it.
4. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
If you believe in your vision, be willing to fight like hell for it. The world needs it.
5. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at Clear Demand, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
We understand that we will not be successful if our customers are not successful. We are a 100% employee owned company with a culture that values team work. Everyone understands that they must be willing to go the extra mile to ensure customer success.
6. In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
We value listening—truly listening. This means that when someone is talking, we aren’t thinking about what we are going to say next but only listening and processing what is being said. It requires trusting that the speaker will take you to somewhere special. If you are thinking about what you will say or ask next, before the speaker finishes, then you are going to miss something. People with big egos or who are highly extroverted miss out on a lot. We encourage people to be precise and concise in their communication.
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead Clear Demand?
At Clear Demand we are working to change the retail industry. This industry affects us all. It is all about giving people the right product at the right place at the right time. Our science is driving efficiencies by reducing two things: (1) waste by more accurately forecasting demand so retailers have less excess inventory; and (2) lost sales due to stockouts during a promotion. Outside of medical research, I can’t think of a more important mission.
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
I’ll give you three. Innovators Dilemma describes why large companies struggle to innovate, Good to Great describes leadership, and Managing Scientists and Engineers helps you make the right hiring decisions.
9. When communicating with your staff, can you tell us the most important thing you do so that they are able to carry out the objectives that you set forth at Clear Demand?
Our staff have more to do than can be done. They must be equipped with a clear understanding of how to prioritize the work that is before them. There is a well-known story about a professor who fills a jar with large rock and asks the class if the jar is full. Next, smaller rocks are added and the question repeated. This repeats with pebbles, sand, and finally water. At the end, the professor asks the class, “what is the point.” One student says, “you can always put in more”. The professor says, “no, the point is to start with the large rocks.”
10. Can you explain what leadership means to you?
I would refer you to the level 5 leader in Good to Great for the best summary. Too many people confuse leadership with big egos or extroverted personalities. Leadership starts with a willingness to take responsibility and make choices—sometimes requiring personal sacrifices for a cause. A successful leader must recognize talent and potential and give their trust to those around them who are ready to receive it. I’ve seen CEOs who really struggle with trust or can’t judge talent. Ultimately it is about developing the people around you. This requires a careful blend of fun and challenge.
We would like to have some fun and do a “speed round” with you! We will ask you ten more questions that we want you to answer in just one to three words only.
Here you go!
1. In three words or less, what makes a successful CEO?
2. Describe your business in one word?
3. Describe your customers in one word?
4. What one attribute do you look for when hiring an employee?
5. What is the one word you want your customers to say about your company?
6. In three words or less, describe your passion?
Connecting with people
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Luck, Judgement, Work
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at Clear Demand?
Hardened by fire
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
I feel blessed.
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English language?
James A. Sills, thank you so much for sitting down with us for our DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping our readers learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Clear Demand, nothing but the best.
James A. Sills, CEO of Clear Demand, The Leader Roundtable Interview Series