Innovation Junkies Podcast

Chad Engelgau on Collaborative, Data-driven Innovation

The Jeffs host Chad Englegau, CEO of Acxiom. Discussion topics include: how innovation intersects with strategic growth, how to ensure that groups within organizations are innovating & continue to innovate, & the future of the data world & Acxiom’s role in it.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkies podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategy, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable in his or her business and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our Growth DX, go to innovationjunkie.com\growthdx. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys. Welcome to the Innovation podcast. This is Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine, glad to be back with you, Jeff.

Jeff Standridge: Hi, you too. How are you doing man?

Jeff Amerine: Pretty good. It’s a sunny day. It’s not 150 degrees outside. How bad can it be?

Jeff Standridge: That’s exactly right. I’m looking at 82 here right now. So I’m in good shape.

Jeff Amerine: All right.

Jeff Standridge: Listen, we’ve got a great podcast guest with us today. I’ve known this gentleman for a long time. Chad Engelgau is the chief executive officer of Acxiom Corporation. He is providing strategic leadership through Acxiom to organizations, which focuses on helping brands better use data identity in technology solutions to understand people and create growth. Chad has served as a chief global data strategist at Kinesso, part of the IPG group. He served in a variety of product and marketing and strategy roles at Acxiom during my tenure there. Chad, it is fantastic to see you again, and it is awesome to have you with us today.

Chad Engelgau: Well, thank you, Jeff. And food to meet you as well. Jeff.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge: You’re with the Jeffs today.

Chad Engelgau: Yeah, it keeps it simple, right?

Jeff Standridge: It keeps it simple. That’s right. So Chad’s coming to us from Chandler, Arizona, and it’s really great that you battled a little bit of a time zone difference to be with us. But tell us a little bit about Chad and how you became a little bit about your story and roles that you played leading up to being the president and CEO of Acxiom Corporation.

Chad Engelgau: Well, thank you, Jeff and Jeff, really appreciate being on the podcast today. My background might be similar to many people in technology. It’s been about a 25-year journey for myself, getting into tech in the mid ‘90s, really understanding things and doing things like service and support for applications and old things like databases that ran on novel networks. Got out in the field and did a lot of work installing and connecting people to the internet in the early days with a company called Renaissance Systems Inc out of Austin, Texas. That led me to almost a ten-year stint at Dell, where I worked my way up through the engineering organization from manufacturing test engineering, from network install of servers and operating systems, move them into solutions architecture really got me into the internet early, probably right around 2000 with internet caching servers, which really aren’t needed anymore, by things like layer seven load balancing, which still is critical.

Chad Engelgau: And from there, worked through a variety of, as you said, product and engineering roles. Joined Acxiom almost 14 years ago in a role focused on product management and marketing. And subsequently worked my way through the organization. I ended up carrying a sales bag for a while, so I do understand the client’s needs and the challenges that it takes to continue to compete in this marketplace. But I fell back into my love of product strategy prior to being acquired by IPG and becoming the chief marketing officer of Acxiom. So since then, as you said, a year at Kinesso, and then coming back to Acxiom a little over a year ago, probably like 15 months ago to help drive Acxiom’s future. So very happy to be here, very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve ever been given. And really passionate about innovation and Acxiom, meeting our client needs and helping not only our business grow, but of course our clients as well.

Jeff Standridge: Well, that’s great. And what a great career trajectory really serving in a variety of capacities from the actual technology guy to the strategy guy, and now as the CEO. Well, what we’d like to focus on in this podcast, Jeff and I spend a lot of time in the innovation space. We bring together the concepts of innovation, leadership, and strategic growth to help organizations actually achieve sustained strategic growth. We know strategic growth can be explosive growth, but it’s also thoughtful growth as well. So talk to us a little bit about your perspective on how you see organizations or how they should pursue this concept of number one innovation, and then number two, how it intersects with strategic growth from your perspective?

Chad Engelgau: That’s a really interesting question today. And I think today’s answer is very different than it could have been five, even 10 years ago. My fundamental belief, and I think we can prove it out, talking about a variety of most successful companies around the world today, but if you don’t have a data-driven strategy as a business entity, regardless of the vertical you’re in, you will be displaced by a competitor who is consistently creating data, aggregating data, and leveraging data in every function of their business, create a differentiated outcome. And so being data-driven or being displaced is one of the key things I talked to our clients about. There’s three areas that I often talk about within innovation and strategy in terms of being data-driven. One is really a principle one is creating. Not only creating an enterprise data strategy, creating an organization that fundamentally believes in data, does everything it can to empower people with that data to make decisions.

Chad Engelgau: And then three, the other thing you fundamentally have to create today is an identity graph, a place to anchor those insights, whether they’re insights associated with people or households or cohorts or information associated with businesses, if you’re in the B2B space. My second principle in this area really is connecting. So connecting those insights across your organization to fuel decision-making and to share with your partners, connecting that data with actually second party data, data from your partnership ecosystem, those people that you depend on, your suppliers, your distribution centers, your partners, and or third party data providers like Acxiom or Dun & Bradstreet and others. And then of course, really connecting your technology stacks. For the last 10 years, people have invested a significant amount of money in MarTech, as well as Adtech. And those fundamental ecosystems are pretty much still disconnected. So connecting those two ecosystems, I think, is paramount for strategy and innovation.

Chad Engelgau: And then, from a third view, it’s really about activating it. So once you have all this data and you have it anchored into place, that makes it usable for everyone in your organization and allows you to manage consent and compliance where you really have to start connecting it. And you have to start connecting that data and those decisions across, not only your supply chain, your product strategies, your financial decisions, but you also need to connect to the costs of your paid earned and owned media, not only to inform those things with a consistent set of data and audience targeting, but of course, as you all know, measuring the impact of everything is as critical as reaching individuals.

Chad Engelgau: And so connecting the insights across the paid earned and owned media, things that are happening in your call centers, on your websites, through your apps, more and more. And of course, through either agencies that are managing significant amounts of money for your media and audience engagement, or the direct partnerships you may have with companies like Google or Facebook or others. So that strategy, I think, fundamentally covers the basis that most companies should be concerned with today.

Jeff Amerine: You know, Chad, there’s a lot there and clearly, you are a leader in this space. One of the things that we sometimes get concerned about when we think about just the plethora of data that’s out there is how to make it accessible and how to make sure it’s actionable? In terms of what you see as it relates to innovation, how is data being pulled from the data scientist, and made available to those people that have profit and loss responsibility in a way that they know what the actionable insights are and they can actually do something with it?

Chad Engelgau: It’s a really good question and it’s a challenge many customers face, and it’s primarily driven by the fact that they have not connected all those data sets into an area that is accessible to business holders. When building out what we call a customer intelligence platform, the ability to normalize both known data assets and or anonymous data assets that are often used by your data scientists, for privacy reasons and others, that enterprise data strategy is foundational to that. And the technology decisions you make to remove silos and to really manage the entirety of your stack again as they go back, the marketing technology stack being fundamentally different than the advertising technology stack and therefore having islands of information, is critical to overcome that. And it doesn’t mean you have to have one giant database or one giant data warehouse to overcome these things, but you have to have a strategy that connects the data, as you said, moves it into the hands of the people that need it in a format that is usable to them.

Chad Engelgau: So data visualization and the advances of data visualization are critical and so great tools that we’ve all been using for the last five years, like Tableau, Google coming out with the product like Looker for data sets that are stored in the Google cloud system, and other data visualization tools, I think are really critical. And you’ll see a lot of advancements in those areas because the needs, as you said, about financial analyst or a product planner or somebody who’s even working in supply chain, the types of reports they need, the types of data they need access to are fundamentally different, but you need to be concerned about those requirements and try to deliver on those as much as possible with as much information again, across those silos.

Jeff Standridge: So Chad, let’s talk a little bit about just innovation as a discipline. How do you go about making sure that the various teams, the various work units and groups within organizations that you lead are innovating, and are actually using disciplines and skills of innovation to make positive change?

Chad Engelgau: It’s a good question, and as we all know, it’s not necessarily an easy task. I would start out that over the last few years, I’ve really gone back in terms of some of the strategies that Dell employees throughout its entire history, which is collaborative innovation. And what I learned at Dell is, and I think it fundamentally rings true, it is impossible to completely architect everything you need in an ecosystem. And in fact, you need to really focus on the differentiators you can create as a business and then look for strategic partners in that area of the innovation to help you achieve your goals, and of course, help your partners achieve those goals. So we’ve been really focused on collaborative innovation at Acxiom. And in order to do that, I think there’s two separate processes you have to go through.

Chad Engelgau: Your one, as you mentioned, in all the innovation is understanding requirements or needs. And so we have established monthly forums between our product organizations and our sales organizations to not only clearly communicate the homegrown innovations that are occurring within our groups, the things that we’re developing ourselves, the feature function benefits of those things, how they tie into existing investments that clients have made, or how they tie into our partner ecosystems to make our partner solutions, whether it’s the CDP that we have partnered with on box ever to deliver, which is really focused on activating insights directly on your own properties, or the partnerships we have with inside of IPG that are tied together, MarTech and Adtech with Kinesso, constant communication and bi-directional client needs versus innovation, whether they’re internally developed or developed with your partners is key to making those things a reality. And so, the structure and the format and the process is as important as the innovation itself. And then of course, there’s always communication.

Chad Engelgau: Last thing I’d say, we really look at our business in three core areas. There’s the product delivering on what it needs. That product innovation, whether internal or partner delivered, is to go to market actually in place. Because if you’re not actually creating demand generation, messaging that resonates with your client, reaching the right type of prospects and customers, and of course, training your sales force to effectively position and sell that, you can’t be as successful as you ritually could be. And then finally, on the sales front, your sales team has got to execute on and be accountable to deliver on those new innovations and those new products and services. So those three areas are also critical to the execution of realizing innovation in terms of revenue.

Jeff Standridge: How do you say the role of leadership in driving innovation and ensuring the right level of innovation is occurring versus, and you and I’ve probably had similar experiences where organizations will start some kind of a big change initiative and then realize that maybe it’s not going to stick because maybe we didn’t solve the right problem, how do you keep leadership engaged in the innovation process?

Chad Engelgau: I think there’s two folds. You have to create an environment of innovation and a culture of innovation. I think we’ve all heard, and there’s a book around there, that culture eats strategy any day. And so a culture of innovation is something we all have been working on at Acxiom for a number of years, and it produced some really significant outcomes from that. Not only the creation of the first digital connectivity from the offline world and the acquisition of LiveRamp, as an example, and then the spinoff of that business into its own public entity while we took our core solutions business in data business and sold that into IPG. Innovation has to be something that everyone is bought into.

Chad Engelgau: As I said, there’s processing controls around it, and there’s a culture being built that allows you, as you well heard, to fail fast and certain areas, and that you ensure the collaboration that you’re doing or the innovation that you’re doing is driving business results. So that accountability is important. And again, just rewarding that innovation and especially innovation, that again, isn’t necessarily always homegrown to things that matter to your customers and create business outcomes.

Jeff Amerine: To follow up to the leadership question, everyone in technology, maybe everyone in every business that they want to survive is in a war for talent. What’s been your key point to find highly talented people that can help continue to drive the culture of innovation that you built?

Chad Engelgau: That is really a great question, especially considering the macro economic environment that we’re in and more specifically, the talent environment that we’re in, where, now more than ever, people can work remotely in any type of job. Historically, as an example, Acxiom was very flexible on remote associates. And in fact, we have people that were practicing today across 40 states and of course across six or seven different countries around the world. And that was a differentiator prior to the pandemic. We all wake up 14, 16 months later, and that’s not a differentiator. And so the war for talent is really hitting everyone. So some of the things that we’ve been discussing, some of the things we look at Moneyball by Billy Bean, I’ve heard Billy speak multiple times at the Disney data and analytics conference. Plus we actually had him speak at one of our own conferences at IPG. And as Billy said, you really have to understand the talent that you’re going after, and you have to have a way of measuring.

Chad Engelgau: And it goes back to that concept of being data-driven. If you cannot materially understand the types of people you need, that there’s a cultural fit for that, that they have the skills and talent that you need, and the strategy of kind of figuring out, “Well hey, maybe I can get people earlier in their career who are very, very talented, but don’t have a lot of experience, but we know we can teach them a few things?” One of our strategies that we’re trying to embrace is potentially being one of the best stepping stones for individuals on their career path, across the data and technology world. And so again, not necessarily going to the colleges or the universities that are constantly being recruited for a Google or a Facebook or an Adobe or Snapchat or SpaceX or whoever, but there’s plenty of amazing HBCUs. There’s plenty of mid-tier colleges. And there’s plenty of, in fact, junior colleges where there’s full of talented people who are very smart and passionate, who want to break.

Chad Engelgau: And we’re trying to bring those people into the data and technology ecosystem as well, to play a little bit of Moneyball. We get great talent for a lower price who’s more flexible, but hopefully we become a place they want to learn long-term or even become just a phenomenal stepping stone for them.

Jeff Amerine: The trick is finding out what equates to on base percentage.

Chad Engelgau: Exactly.

Jeff Amerine: No, that’s great.

Chad Engelgau: Plus, the different goals, because it’s different for an engineer than it is for a sales person or a sales support person or an HR person. The talent challenges are across the business. We’re not just talking to engineers here.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, we’ll be right back with the episode. But first we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our Growth DX. For a limited time, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to innovationjunkie.com\growthdx to learn more.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, I’m really glad to hear you talk about the two year and technical schools and the HBCUs. I came to Acxiom from a higher education background, so I tend to be a little bit of a contrarian when it comes to traditional higher education though. I know that there’s talent out there that may or may not have completed a fully accredited four year degree program. And the sooner the employment world figures that out, the much sooner our war for talent becomes a little bit less aggressive and a little bit less intense. And so I’m really glad to hear you talk about going after those talent pools.

Chad Engelgau: I totally agree with you, Jeff. And we haven’t solved it completely, but the activities we’ve planned were supposed to be in Central Arkansas going to Conway, going into Westlock, and then going out to Pine Bluff to meet people on the streets and introduce them to the data and technology world and evangelize the message you are talking about. And unfortunately, with some of the COVID numbers rising, we had to put that off from the end of July to the September timeframe, but absolutely, we got to bring this word to the street. We got to inform people and show them a vision that they can participate in the data and technology world. And they don’t have to get a degree from Princeton or Harvard to have a great career and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Jeff Standridge: Well, anything that I can do personally or professionally to help support that initiative, I stand ready to do that. So let me just go ahead and put that out there.

Chad Engelgau: Yeah, well, we appreciate it. You know we’ll be connecting when we come back to Central Arkansas.

Jeff Standridge: So you’ve also done some innovative things in the areas of inclusion, diversity, equity, and awareness, the idea council that you lead. And then the two business resource groups, the Acxiom women lead and the Axiom black employee network. Talk a little bit about the work that Acxiom, because your primary, not your primary, you’re in 40 states, but your largest employee base happens to be here in Central Arkansas. And so these are some unique and innovative things that you’re doing here that I think our listeners would love to hear about.

Chad Engelgau: Well, appreciate the question there, Jeff. Foundationally, we simply want each and every person who works at Acxiom to be their authentic selves. And I’m very proud to work for Acxiom and I’ve stayed here for 14 years because I fundamentally believe every leader that we’ve had at Acxiom has believed that, and we’ve done things potentially in some areas less structured, and in some areas, more structured along our path, but in today’s day and age, we absolutely have to address and create environments that ensure people feel this way, give them an active voice, and allow them to participate in the conversations on how we should be leading our company and what matters to us most. So I’ll give a few examples. One, very proud of Acxiom as an example, historically, I think it was around 1996 prior to myself joining, where we created domestic partner benefits. And we were a leader in the state of Arkansas to have domestic partner benefits for people who were unmarried or people who, of course same-sex relationships because they deserve to have the same benefits as everyone else.

Chad Engelgau: And of course, now we wake up in 2021, and in 2022, the Supreme court decision that you cannot discriminate on at any level at work with somebody because of sexual orientation becomes the final law in the land. But along that, whether again, it’s giving our black and African-American employees a greater voice and affinity, and the ability to better participate, and our ability to recruit talent and do unique things as we talked about, which is partnering with HBCUs, or going to the street to educate the next generation of people about how there are people that look just like them who did get degrees and, or did join the data technology workforce by going through a junior college program, we want to embrace community and we need new ideas coming from every one of our associates. But we do it across our military veterans.

Chad Engelgau: We want to hire more veterans. We want to hire more people with disabilities. And we have a great organization there and becoming part of Kinesso and Matterkind as part of IPG, they have a neurodiversity program that we’ve now embraced. And so even if somebody is on the spectrum and has a desire to work, if we can accommodate how they work culturally, how they may want to work physically in physical environments, or how they even want to interact with people by better helping educate those around them to be supporters, to have an advocate, to be sensitive of the issues they may experience because of the neuro-diversity. We know that we’ve had amazing people who are already writing patents for us. We’re creating amazing test environments. We have people on the neurodiversity spectrum who work in our marketing organization because they can really focus and output a tremendous amount of creativity.

Chad Engelgau: And so the spectrum of diversity is absolutely not about race. It’s about embracing who we are as individuals, the fact that each and every one of us, even though we may not look different, are unique and have unique experiences. And so it’s just creating an environment as we talked about from a culture perspective where people feel seen, they feel belonged. We come to it with an inquisitive attitude, an attitude that embraces those differences and tries to use those to create differentiated outcomes from our clients, as well as the people who work for us.

Jeff Standridge: Well, I think that’s a great perspective and really appreciate your leadership in that regard. It’s a rare thing in my experience for the CEO of an organization the size of Acxiom to take such an active role in ensuring that we’re looking at the humans uniquely, and that we’re building opportunities for employees, non-traditional opportunities for employees, to come into the workforce and add value, which each of us at our core want to do. That’s very good.

Chad Engelgau: Absolutely. No, I appreciate that. And as a technologist, when I found out my role is no longer considered a technical job, I definitely had to do some self reflection and evaluation on how can I create the greatest benefit for all of the associates at Acxiom. And this thing was close to my heart. And it’s something I’ve been very passionate about throughout my career. So I’m just very blessed to be in a position that enables me to focus on this.

Jeff Standridge: Go ahead, Jeff, I saw you getting ready there with a question.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I was going to say, we talked about one of the things that’s central, this intersection of societal issues with what we do to be good stewards of the corporations that we lead. And another one that is topical that we’re hearing a lot about, and I’d be interested in your take on how Acxiom, how data plays into that, is the whole movement towards the SG, doing better in many different ways, governance and sustainability and environment and all that. How do you see that the data play in all of that? What’s your take on ESG?

Chad Engelgau: That’s a really great question. And so when we think about the broader discussion, I will start with diversity, equity and inclusion. Data, as we know, is imperfect, the methods at which it is collected have to be improved. Things like consent have to be captured, clarity of the value exchange that’s happening between people and the companies they interact with and how that data is used, needs to be more transparent. And Acxiom has always been at the forefront of those discussions, but implementing as we know, the rules in the code is how you ensure compliance over time. It’s not what you wrote down on a piece of paper, it’s what you activate in your code and in your process. So we’re continuing to focus and be at the forefront of how you do that with our identity graphs, with the partnerships we have around consent management tools, but as well, we have to look internally and reflect. Even though our data is used for marketing purposes only, we’re not deciding people’s worthiness of credit or anything like that, that is very sensitive and potentially damaging to them.

Chad Engelgau: We’re simply trying to empower people to understand, should you show them a sedan or a pickup truck or a minivan, but in doing that work, we know that bias can be created in the data. So we have partnered with a variety of universities, specifically the Acxiom side, we’re working with the University of Illinois and their information sciences organization. And we’re looking for new and unique ways to remove or reduce bias from data sets. Not only the data sets that we sell as third-party assets to help inform marketers on a better audience for their products or services, but then to allow us to do that with our client’s data as well. And so we’re early days in doing those techniques and aspects, but just going beyond census level data to normalize data and information, I think is key with where we’re at in society today.

Jeff Standridge: So let’s talk about the future. What do you see in the future for, not just Acxiom, but for the data world, particularly as it relates to the kinds of data that Acxiom is involved in on a day-to-day basis? And then what are the implications for Acxiom?

Chad Engelgau: Yeah, I do believe, and I’ve been communicating publicly for years, that the United States must have a centralized set of policies surrounding the collection and use of data. I’ve also communicated that I fundamentally believe that that policy should be very similar to GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation that is enforced across the European Union and the 30 plus countries there. I say that because marketing is a supported use case in GDPR. And I think the use of data for marketing purposes is critical to create efficiencies for businesses and meaningful content for people. And of course, if you’re working on a platform that is fundamentally ad funded, it allows people to have a tremendous amount of free services. Think of Google Maps as an example, the search engines that we use each and every day to find out information, not only about products and services, but about the status of the global pandemic, or research things so we can all become smarter.

Chad Engelgau: And so this education and awareness of marketing use cases, I think is critical and they need to be maintained and freely managed where the value exchange between people and businesses can be given through free services in exchange for their data. I do think also in GDPR, there’s the role of what’s called a controller, somebody who actively works with individuals or companies and collects those data. There’s also what’s called processors. Acxiom is a processor of data on behalf of our clients. We’re a processor of data on behalf of others to create our data assets. And processes are critical because it’s simply supply chain management 101. There is no company in the world that I’m aware that actually owns the entirety of their supply chain anymore. And so from the raw materials to the end product, we are all dependent upon a collaborative environment and therefore processors have to be allowed to exist with, again, controls around that for the data ecosystem itself.

Chad Engelgau: And so I do hope that there’s a future in the near term, within the next few years, where our legislators at the federal level normalize a single set of policies that are governed equally across the land, because the cost impacts of not only supporting California’s privacy legislation, but Virginia’s, now Colorado’s, and potentially other states, is economically damaging to our economy, and in fact, disadvantages smaller businesses over the larger businesses, which never is positive for our economy as well in the US.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Thank you for that. So let’s shift here as we start thinking about landing the plane here toward the end of our episode. Relatively new CEO, you’ve been in the role about how long?

Chad Engelgau: 14, 15 months now.

Jeff Standridge: 14, 15 months now. Yeah, so relatively new in the span of your overall career. What guidance or advice would you tell someone who’s moving into a new senior level role like that with an organization the size that you’ve moved into? What did you do to get your handle on the organization? And what did you learn and what advice would you give to folks in similar roles, stepping into senior leadership roles and being able to get a handle on and understand what are the key strategic actions that need to be taken first, second, third, what have you?

Chad Engelgau: Well, hopefully this is beneficial advice to the listeners of the podcast. I’ve been a lifelong learner, and Jeff, we’ve known each other forever, you’re a lifelong learner as well as a lifelong educator of others, which I think is just phenomenal. And I did look for resources that exist and I’ve used throughout my career. The First 90 Days is an incredible book to read that sets up a framework of the things that you should be doing and evaluating as you take on any new role in your career, and especially one that’s as large as mine. Even though I had already been with Acxion for 12 years and had been gone for a year, still worked directly with Acxiom as part of the IPG holding company, but was really focused on a different product line and different strategy and a different company, I had to come back and first and foremost, listen.

Chad Engelgau: Although I had opinions and viewpoints of what we could do to make Acxiom a better place, I had to not only gain the trust of the leadership team that reported to me, I had to listen to everyone within the company on what was Acxiom really like now after I’d been gone for a year and even through the two year transition of being acquired by IPG. And I reached out to my own personal network of trusted friends. I had that advantage coming back to Acxiom, but I did formal research and surveys. And then I also sat down and discussed and listened to what the perspectives are with key leaders across sales, across delivery, across HR, across legal, across privacy, across our IT organizations and finance to get their viewpoints.

Chad Engelgau: And then I synergized that into a perspective based on my own thoughts and experience and challenged them to come up with a model. I created a framework, but not the decision. And then of course, there was a negotiation, although not a negotiation that ultimately ended in everyone agreeing and being happy, but we quickly came to a decision on the best strategy, not only for where we all wanted to drive the company, but how we take care of our people the most and implemented that and started making changes. And we did make some structural changes around focusing our business units. As I mentioned earlier, we focused on a framework that created accountability for the product organization, created accountability for our go to market strategies that impacted four or five different organizations, and then continued to create accountability for sales and continue to modernize that organization in different ways to deliver the results we wanted.

Chad Engelgau: And then again, the process around that, how do we ensure through strategic processes, and in fact, meeting structures, that we had that two way dialogue happening at every touch point, we had areas that we were focused on that were being measured and actively monitored by key leaders, and that we’re reporting back on that to our peer group on a consistent basis? So it was a tough year last year for everybody, very tough coming into a CEO role and then having literally 100% of our employees go remote. Even though we had 40% before the pandemic, there’s a big difference between that and 100. And then working through those changes as a leadership team. But I’m very proud of everybody at Acxiom, each and every associate that we have, and of course our leadership team, on embracing that change and continuing to drive us forward. It’s definitely been paying dividends as the economy has been turned back on.

Jeff Standridge: What are you reading today?

Chad Engelgau: Well, we just revisited Essentialism. So that’s been one of my favorite books. We went through the women lead program and had a great conversation and tips and tricks about how to be essential. And essentialism really is the ability to learn how to say no on things that are less important so that you can focus on the things that are more important. And that just really aligns with what I just talked about. There’s a lot of great things each and every company can do. What are the key things that you’re going to do that’ll make a difference, not only for your clients, but your business, and of course your associates? So essentialism has been key. I love a variety of topics and so I do read business books. I’m also reading a new book that was put out by Bruce Lee’s daughter about his life’s work called Be Water. And then the last thing, of course, I love reading autobiographies and biographies from famous musicians. So It’s So Easy: And Other Lies by Duff McKagan is currently in the queue as well.

Jeff Standridge: Great. Well, Chad, it has been a pleasure having you with us and with our listeners today. Of course, I have a big passion for the work that you do, the work that Acxiom does, the role that it plays in even our own local community here. And I was so pleased to hear that you were taking on the mantle of leadership there several months ago when you did. And so I know I speak for Jeff Amerine and others here in the community. If there’s anything that we can do to support you and your leadership, Acxiom and its growth, we stay ready to do that at any time.

Chad Engelgau: Well, we appreciate it. So great to meet you, Jeff Amerine. And Standridge, great to see you again, and always great to work with you. So looking forward to future collaborations.

Jeff Standridge: Fantastic. Thanks so much. We’ve had Chad Engelgau, President and CEO of Acxiom Corporation. Fantastic guest, Chad, thanks again.

Chad Engelgau: Thank you very much. Appreciate being on the show today.

Jeff Standridge: All right ladies and gentlemen, we’ll see you on the next episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. Thanks so much.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine, we want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies podcast, please do us a huge favor, click the subscribe button right now, and please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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