Dale Thornton is the CEO of Friendly. Dale is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Dale provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Friendly. Dale Thornton joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team is delighted to have Dale join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Dale, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions about leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. Dale, please tell us about Friendly. What is the elevator pitch?
Friendly designs and builds engaging digital user experiences, based on user solid research, ensuring product-market fit for users’ broader life experiences.
2. What is the one thing that makes Friendly great?
Our Friendly work culture, underpinned by our great team. In the services industry, you’re only as good as your last hire. Our team is everything. They need to not just fit with the internal team culture, they need to share our Friendly way of engaging with our clients. Friendly’s culture extends to make our client feel part of the team.
3. Please tell us what is the key to being a great entrepreneur?
Have a core vision for why you got into business, but be flexible on how and what you do. In the 10 years I have run Friendly I’ve seen UX trends come and go, the rise of touch devices, but we have stuck to the core UX principles that have stood the test of time.
4. What is the best advice can you give to a young entrepreneur just starting out with a new venture?
Don’t have to reinvent the world to make a difference. Listen to those that have gone before you, learn from their successes and failures. Leverage existing design patterns and business models. It is often subtle nuances, others previously overlooked, that can disrupt entire industries.
5. What is the one thing that you, as a person, want to be known for?
Empowering others to be the best they can be. Whether it is employees, clients, users, family or friends, I hope they see me as making a positive contribution to helping them make things better than before.
6. When building a business, what is the one most important thing to keep in mind at all times?
Balance calculated risks on loss-leaders with solid guaranteed income. Over the years we have taken risks reducing rates, even taking equity in early stage start-ups to work on innovative new projects, rewarded with potential upside. Developing new lean UX methodologies to fit the tight budgets honed our team’s skillsets to bring innovation to our large corporate clients. Not all losses become leaders. Knowing when to pull the plug on loss-leaders is an important intuition to develop. Having other team members working on profitable corporate projects helps offset the risks of working with start-ups, but it is a balancing act.
7. When hiring employees, what is the one most important thing you look for?
Their personality and desire to learn. I always hire someone that has a hunger to step up into their new role, rather than someone that is just shifting from the exact same role elsewhere. I like to give my employees enough rope to work things out themselves, rather than get fully trained in classroom and then just repeat exercises once on the job. They need to be constantly learning and evolving.
8. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning?
Making a difference for the good. I love designing digital experiences that balance form and function. Creating experiences that not only look good, but also delivers and intuitive way of achieving the desired task. Whether it is designing the optimal sales pathway to assist people feel safe with Brightside insurance, or creating Bupa’s mummatters app to help new mothers deal perinatal depression, or creating a new digital platform to disrupt the seafood industry, in the form of ShoreTrade, or designing the XM Cyber product to fight hackers, I am happy knowing each day I use my UX super powers for good.
9. What is the one thing that makes a great company?
A shared common goal and culture. Especially in design services, where some designers can be subjective about what is the right design solution. Everyone needs to be there for the same reasons, so regardless of which team member is working on a client’s project, the client gets a consistent vision to deliver upon their brief.
10. What is the one thing that makes a great leader?
Provide your team with the vision of “why” we come to work together every day. They will work out the “how” and the “what”, these will evolve as your team does, bringing new skillsets to deliver upon the promise you established.
Dale Thornton, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We appreciate you participating in this important roundtable interview series, and helping our readers learn more about what it takes to build a great company and become a great leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Friendly, nothing but the best.