Innovating with an eye on business goals is the mark of a successful entrepreneur. CIO Look recognizes innovative entrepreneurs who make an impact in their field, and Jim Finnerty is a pacesetter when it comes to marketing automation platforms. He is the Chief Operating Officer and a founding partner of 4Cite Marketing, which continually innovates to help retailers compete with behemoths like Amazon in today’s increasingly data-driven retail landscape. 4Cite empowers retailers to acquire, retain and reactivate customers through its industry-leading web visitor identification technology and delivery of real-time personalized marketing across multiple channels.
Highlights of the interview between Jim Finnerty and CIO Look:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.
I’ve loved playing around with new technologies since I was a kid, but to be a proficient leader in the tech space, I’ve learned that you need to be able to understand and digest technology in the broader context of business goals. I still love the technology, but it’s important not to let the tech steer the business – the business goals should do that.
At the same time, it’s important to lead with an appreciation of new ideas and develop a culture where a mistake is not the end of the world. You need to give yourself, and the people who work for you, the freedom to fail. You can’t innovate if you can’t explore, and you can’t explore if you’re afraid of the dead-ends – and there will be many. Probably more than anything, I’ve learned to surround myself with the best people I can and take the time to communicate with them regularly to understand their strengths, as well as help them see how our tech fits into the broader context of our business goals. This helps them succeed and maximizes the contributions they bring to the table.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to your target audience?
As your target audience evolves, you can quickly develop new products that appeal to them if you clearly understand your core value proposition. When you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own technology, know your people’s capabilities, and build a company culture that embraces change, you can be aggressive when new opportunities arise.
What are the basic but crucial traits that every innovative entrepreneur must possess?
Be fearless in trying new things and don’t be afraid of failure. Know it’s okay to be wrong, and when you are wrong, acknowledge it and change direction. Think critically about the broader picture of where your technology lies and think laterally to see connections others might not see that lead to opportunities. Love the technology, but don’t let it take over so you’re just doing things for technology’s sake.
What is your take on roles of the entrepreneur on product innovation performance?
In most cases to truly innovate, you must think outside the box, take risks and move quickly. You also need to understand the inner workings of your own technology well enough so that when others see roadblocks to innovation, you can help them navigate around them.
In your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges are faced by an entrepreneur? And what is your advice to overcome them?
Many people tend to be averse to change, but without change, no innovation can take place. Every day, you need to work to build a team and culture that accepts change and embraces constant improvement. It helps to align incentives with improvement.
How do you cope with volatile technological trends to boost your personal growth?
Keeping informed of top-level industry trends and patterns is important, but it can be distracting noise if you try to keep up with everything. You also need to stay wary of the latest and greatest. It’s best to build a team that can help you understand the trends and determine what’s truly impactful, creating an environment that supports everyone’s personal growth.
What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
As a technology-focused business navigating volatile technological trends, it’s increasingly critical that company leadership make nimble decisions with a full understanding of the technology components involved. As such, I see myself expanding into more responsibilities in overall business leadership.
As a leading technology architect in the media information and communication sector, what is your contribution in its evolution?
My primary contribution has been to deliver marketing automation platforms that empower personalization at scale and reasonable cost.
What advice would you like to give to the budding entrepreneurs in various organizations?
Never rest or settle. Continue to focus on improvement. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t accept roadblocks.