As part of my series about “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Mittler, vice-president of the Account Management Organization at Oracle NetSuite where he leads a team of 450 people and is responsible for revenue growth from all NetSuite customers in North America. Prior to NetSuite, he held a variety of sales and sales leadership positions at BusinessObjects / SAP (SAP acquired BOBJ in 2009). He graduated with a Bachelors of Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia and lives in Whistler, BC with his wife and two daughters.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve been with NetSuite for almost 10 years now which is hard to believe. Previously, I was with SAP via the acquisition of Business Objects. As for how I got my start? Well, I finished university and I needed a job! I was struggling with where to go in my career but I found a job in software sales not too long after and quickly came to love the ever-changing nature of the industry. It’s never boring.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I wouldn’t necessarily call this funny, but a huge learning experience for me. I showed up day one for my first ever sales job and I was full of excitement to begin my career. It was with a software startup and they had a cool, open office concept which also meant we were all within earshot of each other. There was a CEO, 7 VPs, a lot of product colleagues, and….me. I had no idea what I was doing and I wasn’t given any guidance.
I picked up this old school thing called the Yellow Pages and started making cold calls. I was rejected time and time again and had to experience that in front of the whole company. I walked out of there a little more disheartened than I came in but I told myself another day, another opportunity. When I experienced this public failure, it set me up for how I do my job now, fail fast and bounce back.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of my favorites is Invictus, which is about Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and how he used the Rugby World Cup in 1995 to bring together a divided nation. It’s an amazing story and a good reminder that we are all better together than we are apart.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of leading a team?
After many years of being in leadership positions, it’s very clear to me that team success boils down to the people. When you have a team of talented, motivated, and supportive individuals, they naturally foster an environment that people want to be a part of. If I can hire people with those qualities and ensure we have that type of environment, then the execution of the strategy will take care of itself.
Can you share a few of the biggest challenges your customers are facing during this pandemic? Can you share how you advise them to address those challenges?
I know the word “unprecedented” is overused but I don’t think there’s a better way to explain just what we are all going through. Our customers have had to overcome enormous challenges and are continuing to do so, but we’ve also seen them turn these into opportunities. I’ve seen some amazing stories come out of our 22,000+ customer base.
We have some customers who grew really quickly because their businesses solved a need that accelerated during COVID-19. Others recognized that their products weren’t essential but they had the infrastructure to help so they altered their manufacturing lines to make PPE equipment. Others who had to close their doors and ramp up their ecommerce presence. One of the really interesting things we saw was that some of our B2B customers started selling directly to consumers. A lot of these customers already had plans to do the above in the future but the pandemic made them hit fast forward x10.
At NetSuite, we are focused on being the best partner to our customers by providing resources and guidance on issues that matter most to businesses right now. We launched a resource page on our website called Business Now, created a Community Exchange, which connects customers and partners with the goods or services they might need, and launched the NetSuite Workforce Case Interaction SuiteApp to help businesses track potential illnesses in the workplace .
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I have been so impressed with our customers and how they have already been able to adapt to the extraordinary amount of change we have seen this year. These businesses were faced with dire circumstances but innovated quickly, started making supplies people needed, and turned what was a difficult challenge into opportunities.
I think that we will continue to see that same level of commitment, determination, and resilience from companies going forward. This is the biggest opportunity I see — that even though these were trying times, we can take the skills we learned and the “can-do” mentality into the next phase of the economy.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
A few different things come to mind, but the biggest impact I can think of is how we work. We’ve seen many businesses announce permanent work from home plans and many talking about a hybrid approach moving forward. Thank goodness for collaboration tools like Zoom as I’ve still managed to keep that feeling of connection with my team, although I am excited to see them in person eventually. Technologies, like cloud, were already picking up steam in businesses adopting them, but the events of 2020 have accelerated it dramatically.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in a Post-Covid economy, how do you plan to help your customers address them as they rebuild?
We’re always trying to be the best partner we can be to our customers. Because our technology is in the cloud, our customers have been able to seamlessly adapt to this new work from anywhere reality. Beyond that, we continue to provide our customers with guidance on how to tackle the challenges they are facing today while helping them prepare for the future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I just watched ‘Notorious RBG’ with my wife and two daughters. It detailed the life and legacy of supreme court justice, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and was full of life lessons. She has a great quote: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” I think that quote speaks for itself.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me on LinkedIn! https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronmittler/?originalSubdomain=ca