SalesAgility, headed by CEO Dale Murray, provides open source CRM solutions to a global market. Murray joined the company as an intern in 2011 before taking over as CEO in 2017. Digit spoke to him about how he rose through the company and what advice he has for people at similar stages of their careers – starting out or at the top.
With a background in software engineering, Murray joined SalesAgility when it was a small startup. “I was employee number four,” he said. As the company grew, there was enough work to for him to be brought on full time.
“I was a software engineer for about a year. But when I was interviewed for a full-time position, I made it clear that I wanted to move into the customer-facing side of the business.”
Murray soon transitioned to the company’s consultancy and business analysis team, where he was responsible for scoping and managing transformation projects. “It gave me the opportunity to travel the world,” he said. “I was customer facing and we were a growth company, so I got to visit a lot of different businesses in a lot of different sectors.
“This provided me with a lot of invaluable experience of different processes, workplace cultures and different business models. I was able to absorb a lot of information in a fairly short period of time.”
In 2015, Murray became head of the company’s consultancy before becoming CEO at 27 when the former decided to step back from the business.
During his tenure, he has seen the company grow and its revenues increase on the back of new products and services.
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Having moved through so many different roles within the same company, Murray has faced diverse challenges over his career. His journey also mirrors the company’s, from a small startup to now hiring more than 50 employees.
“In a startup, you’re responsible for your own learning,” Murray said. “In a lot of my roles, I was either the first person doing it, or I didn’t have a huge amount of experience, so there was a lot of self-learning.”
To meet this challenge, Murray worked to build up a network of relationships with people that could act as mentors as well as working hard on his own learning.
Moving out of project-based roles to working as CEO provided a challenge as well. “As a CEO, our business strategy and culture are continuously evolving – that takes a very different mindset. Part of that challenge is probably not getting involved in all the specific operations.”
However, the biggest challenge of Murray’s career, and of most people’s, has been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. “I had to really redevelop the strategies we had for this year,” he said.
“We had to work very closely with our customers to understand how we can continue to support them through this time and also to give them confidence in our own stability as a partner.”
Having had time to adapt and grow in different roles, Murray understands the importance of learning and developing as part of a career. “If I could speak to myself back when I was first started, I would have liked to have understood that you’re not the finished article early on in your career,” he said.
“I’d want to attack everything that you do with that fail-learn-succeed attitude, of not being afraid to experiment and not to worry too much about what people think of you.”
As a CEO and head of consultancy, Murray also learnt the importance of understanding colleagues and delegating responsibility. “For my leadership roles, it would come back to not underestimating the value of your relationships and people.
“If you fail to understand those individual motivators, strengths and weaknesses, you will not be able to create a cohesive team or culture that will help you achieve your goals.
“Part of that is also to try to be very self-reflective when you’re working in that type of environment to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to build a team that reflects those or actually challenges those because that’s going to help you grow.”
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Company culture is important to Murray, as a way of creating a strong and fulfilling work environment. “For us, culture has always been a very strong point, and we really wanted to create an environment which enables people to operate at their best. Without a good workplace culture, you’re not going to be able to attract and maintain talented people.”
As such, one of Murray’s roles as CEO is to nurture a good company culture. To do that, a leader first needs to identify employee’s feelings about the company. “One way to assess your company culture is by speaking to people,” Murray said. “You can do anonymous surveys, workshops and meeting and see if people’s opinion of the culture is the same as yours.”
After this, Murray’s goal was to refine the culture. “What I looked at was where we wanted to be and what our vision was,” he said. “Then I looked at the behavioural traits I wanted that would allow us to succeed and achieve that vision.
“We focused a lot on things like collaboration, transparency and accountability and flexibility and built essentially our culture framework around those core values.”
Working in the tech industry, Murray needs to keep his eye on developing trends when creating SalesAgility’s strategy.
He pointed to the recent emphasis on data – how it’s used, stored and, importantly, how it’s protected. “What you’re really starting to see is people’s, companies’ and countries’ concerns about the control they have over their own data. When we look at how work has changed recently, technology is helping people to operate remotely and a lot more data is going into cloud and remote systems.”
As the CEO of a company that uses open-source software, Murray pointed to this as being a solution for data concerns. “Open source means you can guarantee control and transport over your data.”