As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Ayedun, CEO of TruGrid
Peter Ayedun is the CEO of TruGrid, a company created to simplify technology adoption without sacrificing security; it makes enterprises invisible to hackers and makes remote work simple, secure & scalable.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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 was studying Architecture in college when I fell in love with computers. It was 1989 and the professor for our English class had insisted that our term paper be typed on a computer rather than hand-written. Our college had a computer lab with several Apple IIe computers and it was my first time using a digital computer. By the end of that first week using a computer, I found myself teaching others how to use computers and fixing printer problems in the lab. I found the use of computers so intuitive and effortless that I switched my academic major from Architecture to Computer Science. That passion and love of computers has led me to start two successful companies.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I started my first business, an IT Consultancy, in 1998, I had boasted to my mentor and investor, Roger Fisher, that we would be profitable within 24 months. He looked at me and smiled, and then said “I will consider you a success if you are still around after 60 months”. Needless to say, I was still trying to find my footing after 24 months and I quickly realized that running a successful business is not quite easy! The lessons that I have since learned are that running a successful organization lies in the people one hires. It took a bit more time for me to realize that hiring the best people for key positions is easier said than done.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Of the several books that I have read — mostly business books — Jim Collins “Good to Great” stands out for me. Of the many concepts discussed that have made good companies become great, the concept of “First who, then what” was illuminating to me.
The basic concept is that focusing on hiring the best and most qualified people for a position is critical to running a successful organization. The book used the concept of “getting the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before figuring out where to drive the bus”. It turns out that when an organization has the best people in key positions, they self-manage themselves in that position and are usually able to figure out solutions to problems on their own. An organization structured this way can more easily adapt to a changing world.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
The driving purpose of my current business, www.trugrid.com, is to simplify remote work / work from home for businesses. Our tenacious focus on simplicity drives everything that we do. I have refused to sign off on product releases unless they were easy enough to use by our customers. This has served us well when the COVID-19 pandemic caused many employees to work from home. We were able to sign up hundreds of companies and on-board tens of thousands of employees in a short time.
Whenever we have asked our customers what they like most about our software; simplicity — and the fact that our software contains all they need for security and requires no VPN — ranks very high.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Personally, my passion for my work keeps me going at all times. From a business standpoint, focusing on serving our customers and our unwavering faith that we will prevail in the end, guides us through the ups and downs of running a business.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I consider myself fortunate in that our business grew during the pandemic. My wife and I work in industries that easily support remote work. The guidance that I gave friends that had job difficulties was to use the opportunity to find their passion and explore opportunities they otherwise would not consider.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The business challenge that we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic can best be described as a “good problem to have”. It was essentially to support a 500+% increase in adoption of our business with the same team. To overcome the challenge, all of our employees adopted an understanding that we were fortunate to be in demand and we instead turned our energy to making sure that our customers were well taken care of. Even though our typical customer support schedule is 9AM to 5PM, we instantly switched to 24x7 support because we realized that our customers needed us the most as the crisis emerged.
We recognized that many of our customers would be working odd hours to get their employees ready and we were there to support them. Many were surprised to find us responding to live chat questions at 2AM. We would lighten the mood by telling them they were dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) beings! It was our little way to make the lives of our customers easier during a very trying time for most people.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
While I was incredibly fortunate to be very busy helping customers during the early days of health restrictions, I became aware of conflicting reports of how to stay safe. For family and friends that I interacted with, I suggested focusing on advice from experts and to look at situations from a practical versus emotional standpoint. And to overcome uncertainty and fear, I suggested to family members to meditate and stay positive.
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?
Research studies that we have reviewed (some from Gallup) indicate that about 62% of employees that have been able to work from home during the pandemic would like to continue to do so (full or part time), and about 52% of companies are open to this idea. Fortunately, our company makes software that simplifies remote work, protects company data and employee privacy. As a result, we are poised for continued growth that we experienced during the early days of the pandemic. Our plan is to continue to focus on making remote work easy and safe for our customers and letting other businesses know how we can assist.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Whatever happens, my fervent hope is that the COVID pandemic does not permanently affect our physical human interactions.
However, I truly believe that the pandemic will reduce business travels in a more permanent way. Whenever possible, more businesses will be conducted via video conferencing. Video-conferencing has the effect of cutting cost and saving travel time for many business situations.
My belief is that the COVID pandemic will have a temporary effect on personal travel and vacations, and that due to our shared need for human connections, vacations and social gatherings will gradually return to normal after an effective vaccine is developed.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Personally, I plan to continue to grow our business by focusing on our employees and the needs of our customers.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage business leaders to make concrete efforts to focus on hiring the best people for their key positions, and to focus on the needs of their customers (even the needs customers don’t know they have). To maintain financial stability, I encourage businesses to get adequate funding for rainy days (before they actually need the funds).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite Life Lesson Quote is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. While it is not always easy to practice, I have found that when followed diligently, I am able to resolve conflicts. Our country can use a bit of this “life lesson” right now.
I know you only asked for one — but there’s a very close second that I believe is essential to living a meaningful life. It is this quote from Steve Jobs that I try to impart in my children and I think it is useful for almost everyone. Here it goes: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
How can our readers further follow your work?
I can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/peterayedun/ and on twitter at https://twitter.com/trugridapp