Josh Folk is the Co-Founder of IdeaScale – he is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Josh provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of IdeaScale. Josh Folk joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has recently awarded IdeaScale our Impact Company of 2019 award, and we are delighted to have Josh join us for our Leader Round Table Interview.
The IdeaScale story is very interesting, and we are very excited to not only interview Josh about his very successful business and entrepreneurial spirit, but also put Josh through our popular speed round as well. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview, and answering some questions about leadership, your vision, and your passion.
1. What the “elevator pitch” for IdeaScale?
The 4th Industrial Revolution is accelerating the innovation economy. As a result, organizations are moving from a closed model to a collaborative model of innovation. However, these collaborative systems have reset expectations: employees now expect to be engaged, global R&D efforts must be coordinated, and overall organizational efforts need to be aligned.
This poses a real threat to organizations that can’t meet these new expectations. In the last 15 years, 52% of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. In 1955 the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company was 75 years and as of 2015 that has been reduced to only 15 years.
For organizations willing and ready to adapt — the result can be tremendously rewarding. We’ve seen innovation efforts impact a wide range of things from realized cost savings to the creation of new business models to the discovery of new products. For example, the concept for Amazon Prime was an idea originally inspired from a software engineer. IdeaScale partners with companies to serve as the digital “home” of their transformation by deploying the necessary systems and processes for ideas to be captured, connected, developed, and thrive.
2. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give CEO’s just starting out regarding keeping a company moving forward, and please tell us the key to your company’s success?
Be open to change. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you have to pivot. Do a reality check. For example, a few years ago we noticed some shortcomings in our approach to customer success. When diving deeper we realized a lot of our resources were being deployed in other areas. In other words, our investments didn’t recognize customer success as a priority. So we made the decision to move some teams, shut down projects, and focus squarely on this problem. The key to our success (and survival) has been in building up a workforce that is adaptive, understanding, and unrelenting in spirit. That’s something we can all take pride in.
3. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Smile. Stay positive. Challenges mean you are on the right track. Having a support system with other founders in the same industry can also help in identifying where you are in the journey and better prepare for the challenges to come.
4. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at IdeaScale, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
We’ve bootstrapped 100% of our growth to-date. So we like to say our customers are our investors. As a result – I think we naturally had to build a company that was intuitive, open, honest, and fun. I might also add that sharing deep passion for the missions of our customers might be equally important. At the end of the day we truly want to see our customers succeed. We’re their biggest fans.
5. What is the one thing IdeaScale does to have great communication with their customers?
Good question – if I had to pick just one thing I would probably say having a genuine interest in solving problems. I’m often amazed at how often our founding team is willing hop on phone calls or support chats. With that said, we are always looking for ways to improve in this area.
6. In today’s fast changing business environment, what do you do to keep up with the changes? What do you read to stay abreast of things?
Well, one way is to use our own software to maintain a pulse on customer needs and industry trends and opportunities. As for reading – I’m a little old school in that I enjoy the WSJ each morning. For me it provides an added lens that helps me put a lot of our company matters into perspective. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck or frustrated on our own stuff – but most things aren’t that big of a deal within a larger context.
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead IdeaScale?
My why starts with family – I always try to win at home first. Beyond that I think the key to consistent performance is to have a personal mission statement and to ensure your work fits within that. For me, it’s essential to be working in entrepreneurial situations – high risk / high reward. This is hardcoded into my DNA. IdeaScale is a perfect place for me because not only do I get to work with an amazing team in growing a company, but also with brave customers that are willing to take on new challenges in a brand new field.
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
You can waste a lot of time trying to fix someone’s weaknesses. First, Break All the Rules helped me understand the importance of hiring for talents vs. skills, building on each person’s unique strengths not weaknesses, and building high-performing teams that “own” their performance. Managing by methods over results is just asking for a career full of frustration and headache. It’s not worth it in most situations. Life is too short!
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 IdeaScale?
The most important thing is to involve them. It’s really the only way achieving sustained long-term results. Easier said than done – we’re always trying to do better. It’s what Stephen Covey describes in his “Think Win/Win” principle in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you don’t have trust or a common vision of desired results, you tend to hover over, check up on, and direct. Trust isn’t there, so you feel as though you have to control people. Turns out employees don’t really appreciate that.
10. In one sentence, can you give some advice to fellow entrepreneurs wishing to build a company as exciting as IdeaScale?
Cash solves a lot of problems so focus on your bottom line and be diligent about the bets you are making each year. Also hire a great marketer! Our inbound marketing has been a lifeline when those bets don’t always pay off.
We would like to have some fun and do a “First Reaction” 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 Founder?
Passion and Purpose
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?
People and Progress
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Your own way
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at IdeaScale?
Nothing to lose
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English Language?
Josh Folk, Thank you so much for sitting down with us at our DotCom Magazine Leader Round Table. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping others learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We hope your interview helps our readers, and we wish you, your family, and of course IdeaScale, nothing but the best.
Josh Folk, Co-Founder of IdeaScale, The Leader Roundtable Interview Series