“Adaptability” With Douglas Brown & Tera Davis | Critical Start
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“Adaptability” With Douglas Brown & Tera Davis


An interview with Douglas Brown of Thrive Global and Authority Magazine.

As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tera Davis. She applies more than a decade of sales and technical experience to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with CRITICALSTART’s strategic business partners. Her expertise spans a broad range of cybersecurity technologies including threat prevention, mobile security, next-generation firewall, and threat intelligence. Throughout her career, Tera has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of manufacturers, distributors and clients.

Davis: I entered network security from the industrial controls industry. My fiancé at the time worked for a cybersecurity company, and they seemed to be having fun in a lucrative field. I got an interview at a network security reseller, and the rest is history. I never looked back. It is an exciting, ever-changing industry.

Davis: As one of the founding members of CRITICALSTART, I can honestly say that navigating a global pandemic has been the most interesting thing in the last 8 ½ years. Like many others, we had to quickly shift to having everyone work from home. We navigated that beautifully, allowing a seamless transition for our customers. Our ability to quickly change and adapt during a global pandemic, and many other times along the way, is one of the reasons we continue to grow so quickly. We abide by our founding principles: 1. Do what’s right for the customer. 2. Don’t do things that suck. 3. Do what’s right for the employee.

Davis: Well, I regret to say this has happened more than once — but sending an email to the wrong person can be funny or horrific! Luckily, mine have been good for a laugh on occasion. I’ve learned to slow down and always double-check that the email address didn’t automatically populate, but isn’t the one you wanted.

Davis: Having started a business, it was definitely waiting for the sales to come in to balance the outflow of cash paid to vendors. We would pay bills from our personal account and reimburse when we got payment from the customer. It was a passion for the way we were entering the market that kept everyone going. About 18 months into the journey, sales started coming in at a rate that turned things around. It hasn’t stopped yet!

Davis: I have been in sales for most of my working days. I worked for someone early on that was very focused on customer follow up. He taught me to follow up with the customer even if I didn’t have an answer — just to let them know I was still engaged in the process. I adopted that, and it has helped me be very successful. People want to feel like they haven’t been forgotten. It’s a small detail that makes a huge difference.

Davis: Life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna’ get.” I love this because it’s true in so many ways. If you expect things to turn out a certain way, you will almost certainly be disappointed. Having wonder about what you might find along the way keeps things more interesting and positive. And, in case you think I’m just pulling a quote from a famous movie, I literally use this phrase as my status message in Microsoft Teams!

Davis: CRITICALSTART is a world-class Managed Detection and Response company. We resolve every security alert and alleviate the pain point of alert fatigue for security analysts.

Davis: We have a proprietary software platform that allows end-users to select from multiple vendors that plug into our service. That, along with our Trusted Behavior Registry (allowing us to automatically resolve what is known-good) put us in front of the competition.

Davis: COVID definitely put a damper on it, but we have a Women in Technology group that meets quarterly to discuss things that are challenges specific to women in this industry. Through those meetings, we raise funds to aid the Treasured Vessels Foundation. This organization helps teens in our community get out of sex trafficking.

Davis: I actually think there are some very powerful women making huge strides in Tech right now. From my perspective, things are moving in the right direction and organizations like this that bring awareness help move the needle.

Davis: We have actually had this topic at one of our Women in Technology happy hours. While I think things are improving, there are some challenges that women may always face. One is coming back to a career after maternity leave. I am seeing increased numbers of men taking paternity leave, so that is encouraging. Women seem to inherently struggle more with a work-life balance. Neither of these is specific to the tech industry. At CRITICALSTART, I feel that we do an amazing job of empowering women in the workplace. Having been there for the last 8 ½ years makes it difficult for me to see the major challenges that some others might face.

Davis: Change your methodology. If you have a program or set of guidelines you’ve been using, read something new and give it a try. There are constantly evolving sales strategies out there — might just be time to shake yours up.

Davis: Hold them accountable and make their compensation plan easy to understand. I have never heard more complaints and seen a more unmotivated sales team than one who cannot decipher how they are going to get paid. Good salespeople are motivated internally by the desire to make more money.

Davis: Honesty. That sounds simple, but so many people out there are trying to sell customers another service or another tool/product. Sometimes, doing nothing is the right answer. If you are willing to turn away a deal and show unabashed honesty, the net of that is usually a loyal customer. In the early days of CRITICALSTART, our CEO told a customer in a meeting that they shouldn’t buy the particular tool that was being pitched. Trust me, we needed those sales, but the sentiment was that the customer would end up irritated that they didn’t have the time and resources to fully utilize the tool in the long run. When they had completed some recommended tasks to get in a better place, they returned and became a happy customer.

Davis: For our MDR — it is all about ease of use, which is why we created a mobile app.

  • Customer Service — ALWAYS get back with a customer within 24 hours. Even if your update is just to say you are still working on something, at least let them know you haven’t forgotten.
  • Stand up for the customer — if there ever is a situation where a vendor isn’t being forthcoming or fair in negotiations, always fight for your customer’s best interest.

Davis: Keep them happy — it isn’t always easy, and sometimes a situation is outside your control, but that is the simplest answer. Do customer satisfaction surveys and pay attention to the answers. Make changes where necessary. A happy customer may not always say something to a colleague, but an unhappy customer almost certainly will.

Davis:

  • Integrity — If you don’t have integrity as the backbone of what you do, things will come crashing down like a house of cards. This goes back to my previous example of telling a customer not to buy something knowing that was the right thing to do.
  • Culture — Build a business that has a culture that makes people want to work there. At CRITICALSTART, we have had countless employees hired that is a referral (and sometimes even a relative!) of a current employee. That speaks volumes about the culture we have.
  • Adaptability — Don’t be too set in the ways behind how you started the business. At CRITICALSTART, we have pivoted many times with our business. We could see that a managed service would be the direction things were moving in, so we created that component to our business. We have also created many other service revenue streams seeing that selling products wasn’t going to continue to be the highest margin generator for the company.
  • Honesty — This ties in with integrity, but can go a bit further. One example at CRITICALSTART is the pivot to work from home, and navigating a global pandemic. We made the promise not to cut jobs due to COVID, and we kept that promise.
  • Teamwork — If you have teams of people inside the organization working against each other, you cannot achieve your goals. At CRITICALSTART, all of our teams align and work toward the common goals of the company.

Davis: Honestly — I would just say that people need to spread more kindness — can we get behind that? I read something once that said “kindness is free, sprinkle that sh*t everywhere” . . . I couldn’t agree more. Do something kind for a coworker, a neighbor, a stranger — watch how it changes their demeanor . . . . and probably the rest of their day.

Davis: Well, I did dance on stage once with FLORIDA — and I think it would be nice to have a follow-up conversation from that.

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