Podcast

Scaling Up [S4.E2]: A Modern Day Wonder Woman with Therese Tucker, Founder, Executive Chairperson, and former CEO of BlackLine Inc (NASDAQ: BL)

Filled with insights at every turn, learn from Therese Tucker's unconventional journey founding a NASDAQ-listed market leader. This episode is a masterclass on building an enduring, diverse, business.

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Ed (02:20): Therese, welcome to Scaling Up. This a treat for me. Your story is incredibly inspiring to many around the world. It’s a great example that you can write your own script, that there are no barriers to success. I’d love to hear about your upbringing on a farm in Illinois driving tractors, herding cows with your three sisters and then of course maybe some colour when you first discovered the computer and technology.

Therese (02:52): Absolutely. Well as you mentioned, I am the youngest of four girls and one of the beautiful things about that is were the only free labor that my father had. Therefore, were never told that we couldn’t do something because were girls. So, I was able to learn how to work on cars and change oil and tires and rebuild engines. I was able to drive tractors, again we were never given that message that many young women are given as children, which is you are a girl and that’s not something that girls do. So, I think that that actually ended up being a huge advantage just from a I can do perspective throughout my life. Never ever told there wasn’t something that I couldn’t do and that’s very helpful.

Ed (03:48): I think that will emerge right throughout this podcast. And perhaps moving on to when you did discover the power of computers and coding you went to college, you were the first one to do so of your family and you discovered, as I mentioned, the power of technology.

Therese (04:06): Well I was a business and French major actually. I had had my first accounting class at 8:00 AM in the morning. And that’s how I ended up being addicted to coffee because I couldn’t stay awake

Ed (04:18): Makes two of us.

Therese (04:19): I was actually considering switching to the art school. Thank God I didn’t because I’m not a very good artist. But along the way as a general ed course, I took one of the first Apple computer programming basic courses and it was taught in a very supportive, nurturing way. My very first application was a blinking Christmas tree made out of asterisks. Okay. Randomly turn on and off, different asterisks on different lines. And that was the beginning of just this love affair with computers because it was like, wait a minute, programming means that you give the computer a set of instructions and it has to do what you tell it to do, and it can do it a million times a minute and it’s super-fast and it’ll do anything you want it to do. You just have to give it the instructions. And I was so amazed by the power of that I immediately applied to, for a transfer to the University of Illinois because they had an actual degree in computer science.

After spending my first two years at a liberal arts college, I actually transferred to U of I now very, very different approach and I think one that it would be good for them to look at today. It was not taught in a particularly caring way. It was not taught in a particularly real-world way. It was very theoretical. In my very first class there I was struggling. I went to the instructor, and I said I’m really struggling in this class, and he said this the class where we tell the sheep from the goats, we expect about half the people to fail. And I was like, That’s it. No help. No help, no nothing. So, I ended up, I did graduate from the University of Illinois, but with seriously the lowest possible grade point average that you could graduate with.

In fact, I had to petition to be able to graduate, which was pretty sad. But I always just thought, if I can just make it through this, I know how much fun programming can be. I know what a great career it’ll be if I can just make it through this degree program. And that was a correct assumption. It is still, I just finished taking a Python course. Okay. I have not been sort of allowed to program at BlackLine for the last eight years or so. I mean, we’ve been public for four years, but I didn’t know if I could still program. So, I just recently took a programming class and I had so much fun at it. I was telling people, my God, this so much fun. I might make a career out of it. Okay.

Ed (07:14): Maybe it could be the founder of another enterprise software company. You’ve got another act in you perhaps.

Therese (07:20): That could be a correct statement. Okay. But only if I get to code again.

Ed (07:24): Exactly. Okay.

Therese (07:25): I mean it’s really so much fun when you actually have the ability to create something out of nothing.

Ed (07:32): Your lifelong passion for technology is coming through the screen here. It was a correct assumption because you did have a wonderful career as a technologist, as the CTO working your way through SunGard treasury systems and then you’re retired, you had two kids, you thought enough was enough, it was your turn to be a mom and at that time a single mom. Maybe you can give some color as to what happens next.

Therese (08:01): Well, it was great to take that year off, but what I found very quickly is that I was bored, and I don’t work for money. I work for learning. I worked to continue to grow and learn. I was in fabulous shape. I mean, I did more yoga than you can possibly imagine, but after a while I was just bored at the time. I had a wealth manager, and he couldn’t answer the most basic question for me, which is what’s the tax implications of these different kinds of options? And I thought, gosh, I can write software for that. I sat down and started writing the software and that was how BlackLine got started. Just that there’s got to be software to be able to do this easily. And there wasn’t. Now, we ultimately did not end up staying in wealth management. It’s a tough market to crack into.

And instead, we had one of our wealth management customers ask us if we could build something to help them with closing the books. And that was the first National Bank of Nebraska and that was back in 2004. We said will you pay us? Because by then I’d blown through most of my money, which is usually what happens in the first few years of a startup you don’t spend well, okay. But I had blown through most of my money, and it was very important to have somebody pay. They said yes. And as we started to look at this more, we realized that this a pinpoint that most businesses out there have. They were doing everything in spreadsheets, and we ended up almost by accident, well not really by accident, we ended up creating a brand-new market because we listened to our customers. That’s it.

Ed (09:53): Listening to your customers is another theme that will come out. Cause it has really shaped the strategic direction of BlackLine over the years. But I find it mildly humorous that you found the wealth management software market hard to crack. So, you decided to create a new market altogether.

Therese (10:11): And sell to accountants of all things.

Ed (10:13): Well, let’s get onto that. So, at this point in time, completely bootstrapped and you are for many years until in fact there’s a secondary transaction. So, people shouldn’t underestimate the pain at times of having to borrow money to make payroll and the stress of all of that. But added into that, you’ve decided to sell to, as you say, big enterprise accountants who don’t like change, gray hair, gray suits. And of course, the classic enterprise sales cycle is long, it’s complex, and as I said, only exacerbated by the people that are buying your software. So maybe some color into those early days of completely funding your own business because it also feels as though you were writing your own playbook and, in many ways, it defined the company for years to come.

Therese (11:03):The early days at BlackLine were really hard and the stress was unbelievable because even if I only had three or four employees, which is what we had for quite a long time, as the CEO, you are responsible for them. They have mortgages, they have rent, they have car payments. And you cannot simply walk in and go, Yeah, by the way, I don’t have payroll this month. We used to only do payroll once a month because I never knew if I would have it. And I only wanted to spend maybe three nights a month being completely stressed out of my mind and not sleeping as opposed to doing that twice a month. The early days were really difficult because the other thing about selling to enterprise is not only does it take a long time to actually get a sale, but once you get the sale, it takes them a very long time to pay.

It’s not unusual for a large company to take 90 days, 120 days. Right? And when you are this close to the edge, that can mean life or death for the company.  back then I had a couple of just wonderful friends of mine on my board, two very successful businessmen. And I would basically tradeoff between the two months after month if I was didn’t have payroll. And I would ask them to loan me $30,000 so that I could cover my employee’s payroll. And I remember one of them, his name is Lee Reams, and I would call him up and say, Reams can you loan me $30,000? And he would go, oh, Tucker, when do you need it by? And I would look at my watch and it would be about 10:00 AM and I’d say, I need it by 11:15 or my payroll will bounce.

And he would go, Oh, for God’s sakes. Okay, meet me at the bank in 15 minutes. I would get in my car, drive to his bank, get a cashier’s check, and then walk over to my bank, which was about a hundred feet away, and deposit it so that my payroll would not bounce. And then the second I got a check in from one of my customers, I would pay them back first. Sometimes it would take a few weeks. But it was always terrifying. You didn’t want to let down your employees, you didn’t want to take money from your friends and not pay it back. You never knew and back then it was like paper checks in the mail. So, I’d be like checking the mailbox day after day, just like praying that something would be there. It was frankly pretty horrible.

Ed (13:47): I can imagine an incredible anecdote to share. I’m sure both those men have done particularly well. Cause I’m sure they probably had some options in the company along the way.

Therese (13:56): Oh yes, they did. They both did very, very well. They’re not, they did not complain at all. And they are both still my dearest friends.

Ed (14:04): What a great story. It’s almost counter intuitive, this selling to big enterprise. I’m just trying to even think real time of other bootstrapped enterprise companies. And the one that comes to mind is obviously Atlassian, but a completely different model product led bottom up. This classic enterprise sales, but counter intuitively the flip side of what you’ve described is these deep partnerships, deep stickiness and loyalty of this customers that actually creates this annuity style cashflow that in fact is perfect for bootstrap companies.

Therese (14:36): That’s what I love about software as a service, okay, is that it really is about the ongoing servicing of your clients. It’s not like in the old days when people sold enterprise software and it sometimes it got implemented and sometimes it didn’t. But with software as a service, you have to have an ongoing relationship with your customer, or they walk away. If they’re not using the software, they’re gone. From that perspective, being a SaaS company is absolutely the best of all worlds if you are truly interested in serving your customers. Now, in the beginning we did both initially we sold both on-prem and hosted software. At the end of 2007, we actually had to make a decision. We were starting to look at architectural things that needed to be one way or the other in the software. We looked at it and we said, wow, SAS software is easier to implement because we control the hardware.

It’s easier to support because we can look into the back end. It’s easier to sell and contract for because the amount that the customer is spending is less upfront. So, their risk is less. It’s easier to upgrade. We don’t have anybody screwing up their own things, Okay. Which they did. All right. The only problem with it was that you didn’t get a big chunk of cash up front. What we did to cover that sort of cash shortage, first off, we decided that SAS was definitely better. This was at the end of 2007, turned out to be a great decision at a great time because then there was a financial meltdown and nobody had money to spend on great big software projects, but SAS software that could help them reduce their cost was something that was very appealing. So, we made that decision, turned out to be a great decision. And then we ended up covering sort of our cash, we bridged with our cash by billing a year in advance upfront. And that’s how we sort of covered the loss in what we would’ve gotten from a big enterprise sale.

Ed (17:03): I want to come back to the technology leapfrogs that you’ve lived through just purely out of the nature of having a software company that has been so durable over two decades now. But back to the early days and the setbacks, obviously the entrepreneurial mindset is permanently over indexing on optimism, single mother of two, bootstrapping a company and curve ball after curve ball. No doubt. I’ve heard you talk of the anecdote of your first customer and that being Costco and the story around a former employee in fact stealing lines of code.

Therese (17:41): I try not to make accusations about stealing. So, the former employee walked away with all that we had and created a competing product. And then when went head-to-head with Costco, they offered that product up for free. And I was so blown away by what a cool company Costco was because I got on a plane, I went and I met with their CFO and they basically said, You know what? We believe that a good deal is a good deal for both sides. If somebody’s giving something away for free, then it’s probably not a good deal. They actually became a terrific customer of ours, and I really appreciated that.

Ed (18:31): And of course, this competitor validated the market. So, in many senses, you turned lemons into Lemonade. Again, something that happened right throughout the next 20 years.

Therese (18:40): Well, if you ever read Crossing the Chasm by Jeff Moore, enterprise companies need something to compare to before they will typically make a decision. At the time prior to having this competitor, we would get a lot of wow, that’s really interesting. Who’s your competitor? Nobody. Huh? It must not be a thing, right?  yeah, I do think you need more than one player in any given market to validate that that market is a real ongoing concern.

Ed (19:18): As your business scaled, your passion for technology has emerged. Often these enterprise sales are founder led, but there’s incredible value in a high caliber, high experience enterprise sales lead that really unlocks that next step of the journey. Was that your experience with BlackLine?

Therese (19:39): Absolutely. Our first real sales leader was a gentleman named Dominic DePalo. And Dominic joined the company from Oracle, and he immediately turned around and hired three salespeople at 120,000 a year, which is 20,000 a month. And basically, more than doubled my payroll. And I almost died on the spot because I had no idea how I was going to make payroll at that level. But we did, we made it. And it was such an interesting thing because he knew how to hire enterprise salespeople. He knew how to guide them, he knew how to get through the entire sales process, what all the different pieces would look like. And I had not had that experience before. We really started to get some momentum after Dominic joined.

Ed (20:37): You touched on it before, but the leapfrogging of technology from on-prem to the cloud. And for you that happened in 2007. This a big deal for the non-technologist listening. This like refitting a jumbo jet at 30,000 feet. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe you can give some color as to the challenge and complexity of shifting from on premise to the cloud specifically to BlackLine.

Therese (21:06): So, with on-prem software, typically you sell software to a company, they go out and buy hardware, they go out and buy SQL Server or whatever else they need, and then you would go to their premises and actually put discs or thumb drives into it and load the software and make sure that everything works. Okay. With SAS software, you typically will have a bank of servers and all of your customers run hopefully the exact same set of software. Now, some companies will call themselves SaaS, and the difficulty is you can’t have 5,000 copies of the software over and over. You’ve got to have everybody running on the same set, which means that the software itself has to be smart enough to be able to tell client a’s data from client B’s data and never show client B’s data to client A because this their financial information. You have to really architect the software in such a way that you can utilize the same software for all of your clients, no matter how many you have. And that can get a little complicated at times, especially when you’re dealing with very sensitive information like company’s financials.

Ed (22:52): I think it’s worth rounding out this story before going deep on scaling the people in your own leadership because it has a wonderful ending, and most people probably know the ending. There was some secondary funding in 2013, I think, but the big hoorah was of course listing on the NASDAQ in 2016 and being one of the very first female founders that were still leading the company to ring that bell. Maybe you can give some color into the IPO roadshow some insight into the efforts that go into a prospectus and the process of everything before that moment of ringing the bell.

Therese (23:30): Well, we actually started that process almost a year, maybe a little more before we actually rung the bell. All right. And it often starts with, you start talking to different banks, you start building relationships with them. Then with those various teams, you start doing what are called NDRs non-deal roadshows where you go out and you tell investors what it is that you’re doing and why you think you have a great value proposition, so on and so forth. What you very rapidly learn is that you’re not very good at articulating what it is that you do. And one of my favorite ones was where an investor just sat there and grilled me and he said, So you’re a database software? I’m like, No. He’s like, you’re accounting software. I’m like, No. And he kept peppering me and I was like, no, you’re and I wanted to say you’re not listening.

But what I realized later was that I had not communicated well what our company did and why were in business. The first feedback that you get from investors is typically very critical and really, really valuable. I still laugh about it. I, this investor happens to still be an investor of ours, and every time I see him, I tell him how much I hated him after that first meeting. And yet as I came to think about it, how much I actually had learned from him, more than any other investor that I spoke with. So, you start doing NDRs and you try to better articulate what it is that you do. What you find out is that this actually helps you in sales and marketing because you get much crisper in what you’re doing. You just get much more direct and exactly why people are buying and what it is that you do for them.

And you say that in a way that’s more effective. So as part of that, you start building out that messaging. Then as you mentioned the prospectus, that’s an absolute nightmare. That is like sitting in a room for months writing this script, and then you have everybody changing cats to kittens. And then the next day everybody has thought about it overnight and decides to change kittens back to cats. Okay? And you feel like you’re in a loop that is never going to end, and I’m not kidding, every single word is looked at and could it mean this, could it mean that every single risk? It’s unbelievable how tedious that process is. And that is basically you’re sitting in a conference room with like a dozen lawyers and your best people and everybody just sits there and tries to write and argues nonstop.

And a lot of times after they’ve argued through everything and change cats to kittens and dogs to puppies and everything else, what you have is not even readable. It’s just like, Oh my God, this awful. Let’s start over. All right. Then after that, timing is important. Sometimes the markets are open to IPOs and sometimes they are not open to IPOs, okay. We sort of did a delay because there were some various things happening in the economy and whatnot. And then at one point it just opened up and the investment committee of the private equity group that were with at the time, they were like, you got to go now. You got to go. We geared everything up and did the very necessary filings. You do about a two-week road trip before you do the IPO, and this to do what’s called building your book.

You go and you sell yourself to investors and you go in and you tell them what you do and everything else. And then they either put in an order on your book or not. Now it’s important for your pricing to be oversubscribed, and you really want to be oversubscribed by like 10x, okay? You want people to really want your stock because that drives the price up. You do that until you’re utterly exhausted. And then you arrive in New York the evening before, and you decide who gets to have your stock. You bring up all the orders and everybody has a horse in this race. The bankers have special people they want to give stock to. The private equity investors have people that they want to see get stock. You have people on the road that you’ve met that you think would be really good long-term investors.

So, you have to speak for those people. So, there’s a, there’s about a three-hour meeting where you determine the allocations that these people get and you’re already exhausted. You have, you have no idea even what city you’re in at this point. And then the next morning they shuffle you over to the exchange and you stand in front of a TV monitor, and you look, everybody’s excited and then you say, Okay, open the market. And they shoot confetti, right? And you’re absolutely exhausted. And then they have you lined up for about eight interviews. Then you talk to CNBC, you talk to all these different outlets and newspapers, and you basically get your name out there. And that’s one of the reasons that you do an IPO is to raise your visibility and the overall marketplace. So that’s how it went for us. Then that evening, we happened to have a celebration, a black-tie event at the New York Public Library. And again, we partied and had a wonderful time, but I was utterly exhausted by then. But it was great.

Ed (29:42): The hard work was worth it and probably only just began at that point. Obviously, the business has done terrifically well and in the public markets, but probably due to the preparation, I think people underestimate what is required to get a business public market ready, both from a reporting and rigor point of view, but also just the back-office systems and processes. And as you say, that was a year in the making for you. But you’ve reaped the benefits in the public markets. I think since you’ve listed,

Therese (30:11): One of the things that I’ve learned, one of the most important things you can have is an experienced CFO. I mean, somebody who really understands what investors are looking for, knows how to find and court the right investors, Okay. Knows how to message, how to build the earning scripts. I mean, how a strategic CFO who’s experienced makes all the difference in the world because BlackLine went through a fair amount of pain. We did essentially a whole management turnover while in our second year of being public, or was it our first year? It was terrible. But having a CFO who very transparently managed investor expectations, told them well ahead of time, what we were going to be doing, why we were going to be doing it, why it was good long-term business to do what we were going to do, made all the difference in the world. I could not have done that. CFO is the most important position you could possibly have if you want to do an IPO and be public.

Ed (31:25): Wonderful color. In fact, our next two interviews on this podcast are two very, very experienced CFOs for that reason. Cause I don’t think they get the exposure that they should as to the role that they play in these wonderful founders led stories. Let’s spend some time on this next topic. It’s something that we are equally passionate about. I think scaling your team, and you touched on it then around having different management teams for different points in your scaling journey. But let’s start with the culture because it feels from the outside that BlackLine has real soul. And you can’t say that for most businesses, but this real soul for its people and its customers, and it’s something that’s been fostered from day one. In many ways it’s emanated from you and your vision. Maybe give some color as to the culture as it’s evolved over time and what you set out to achieve in creating it.

Therese (32:19): You know in jobs prior to BlackLine, I saw that most software companies, most customers hated them. Software was oversold, it was under delivered. And frankly, the companies didn’t care. I mean, the software companies didn’t care as long as they got their money. And BlackLine was a bit of an experiment to see if we could create a company that could create software that the customers loved and got value from, and create a place where people really loved to come to work. Now I have a strong belief that you don’t have to wear a suit to work to be productive, and that you don’t have to put makeup on your tattoos or dress a certain way. I feel like you’re going to be the most productive when you can bring your authentic self to work. That’s when you’re going to be most productive and most happy. We never hired people based on a particular look in fact it’s been really interesting because we’ve had some really strange people work at BlackLine. And it’s been a lot of fun, especially in the early days because we used to say you can have good cheap or not crazy, pick two and it’s true. We always went for good and cheap, but we would get some real characters in there and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s awesome if people can be themselves at work.

Ed (34:02): It feels as though your famous pink hair is a symbol of this and bringing your authentic self to work. Is that how it came about?

Therese (34:11): Well, the hair has only been pink for about five years. Okay. But yes, actually, if I want to have pink hair, I’m going to have pink hair and it does not matter one bit to how well I do or don’t do my job. Yes, you will see a lot of different colors of hair at black Line. You’ll see a lot of piercings; you’ll see a lot of crazy dress. I mean people feel empowered to be themselves and I like that about our company. I like that a lot.

Ed (34:46): Yeah. There’s, there’s a wonderful natural diversity to the city of, LA you see it sometimes from New York and the melting pot there as well with their software companies. Do you feel as though that added to your cultural diversity?

Therese (34:59):Absolutely. I mean, Los Angeles is one of the coolest places on earth, simply because it’s not a segregated city. It has neighborhoods, but people mix and blend all the time. And that leads to as you, I think you put it, natural diversity, if we ever walk the offices again, I like it when you walk through the offices, and you can hear 10 different languages spoken. Right. That’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s just people getting along and being comfortable and being accepting that there’s a lot of differences.

Ed (35:35): Maybe you can give some advice to operators and founders, because I think we’re now in a position that we understand the power of diversity and the power of that it can create in organizations, and many prioritize it but don’t know how to enact it. You’ve lived and breathed this now for, for 20 years. Is what advice can you give to those that are just starting out their journey on creating a diverse workplace?

Therese (35:59): Well, it doesn’t happen by accident. That’s the thing. Even within BlackLine, yes, we have diversity because we’re in a lot of different countries and because we’re headquartered in Los Angeles, however, I don’t think we’re as diverse as we could be. But it’s one of those things that does not happen by accident. If you decide that only 10% women in the company is not a good thing, you have to decide that for future job openings. You’re going to interview women and you’re going to keep interviewing women until you find somebody to fill that job. Now, what typically happens is people will say, well, we’ll just get the best candidate. And they have 10 men apply and one woman, and they go, All right guess what? We’re hiring a guy. So, it has to be very intentional, and it has to start with a commitment to looking for candidates of diverse backgrounds, diverse genders, diverse choices, so that you can actually have a pool to select from that will ultimately result in more diversity. And you’ve got to measure, you’ve got to look at it and you’ve got to count it because if you don’t count it, you’ll never get there. You’ll say you’re intentional, but it will never happen.

Ed (37:24): Imagine it’s also about creating a pipeline. Cause we’re so far down, particularly in in the technology landscape of past operators who end up as mentors who end up as founders or board members to break the cycle. It’s actually about deliberately creating a pipeline.

Therese (37:40): It is about creating a pipeline. It’s also about nurturing people in their own career paths. I recently, at the end of the year stepped down as CEO from BlackLine. Sadly, sadly, but not sadly, because I love, I think he’s wonderful. But sadly, my successor is a middle-aged white guy. Okay? Now the problem is I could not find somebody of a similar skill level that was diverse because people have not been raised up to those various levels throughout their career. It’s a pipeline from the outside, but it’s also a pipeline to making sure that you’re helping people build out their careers so that they can advance internally. That’s just as important.

Ed (38:35): Maybe while we’re talking on people in culture, there is one little tidbit of your son obviously worked for you for, while you’re the CEO, as the chief product officer, maybe some color on that interaction and how you manage that. It is a unique situation.

Therese (38:51): it was, he was very, very good at his job. Unfortunately, it was a great opportunity for him, but it was also difficult because no matter how hard he worked, no matter how smart he was, people would still like to call it nepotism, okay, he had great opportunities. I mean, he did very well at BlackLine as well. He was promoted by the director of the board at the time, not by me, and learned a great deal. He was probably the one who did the most on our SEC filings, frankly over time. So, I think it was a double-edged sword for him. Lots of great opportunities, but also a lot of prejudice to sort of have to work against. Now, from my perspective, it was a blast. I mean, it was nothing better than being able to work with somebody smart and fun and cool that also you happen to be related to. All right. I mean, that was absolutely wonderful.

Ed (39:57): And imagine having a deep ownership mentality of the business, having seen it grow from the ground up. You touched on it, this changing nature of the role of the CEO from founder and four or five employees to scaling up through to the public market CEO and now chairperson. Maybe you can give some description as to the ebbs and flows of your own role and what led to you ultimately choosing to step down as CEO?

Therese (40:25): Well, it’s been the most interesting thing because in my very early days, being CEO meant that I was the one that would go in on the weekends and clean the bathrooms okay. And vacuum the floor because we didn’t have a cleaning service because that would’ve meant more rent. And I look at that was one of my earliest duties as CEO. The job has never stopped changing from being a private company, fast growing CEO to being, preparing for being public, going through to being public. One of my goals is to continue to grow and learn. And I believe that I am best suited for smaller enterprises where I’m building, bringing in somebody like Mark Husman who was at NetSuite when they were 3 million to over a billion in sales. He has a very different approach. He is all about what does it take to scale this up to the next level. I don’t find that fascinating. I don’t find creating new processes to be something that really gets me going up in the morning. So, I like to build, he likes to scale. So, it’s actually a beautiful time for both of us because now he’s running the company, he gets to do all the things that he loves around scaling, and I get to go back to how do we build some cool products? Okay, that’s actually kind of the best of all worlds.

Ed (42:01): There are so many founders and CEOs that that can’t let go. But to understand I’ve built this incredible business, but to go from 400 million to a billion in revenue, it’s not me. I’m sure that mirror time well might have come easily to you, but interested in, in that self-awareness piece and how you went on that journey of discovery.

Therese (42:22): Well, there is a difficult part to that and there’s a reason that most founders don’t usually stick around. You have to set your ego aside; you have to fade back into the wallpaper as you’re preparing to hand off the CEO role. You have to be less vocal in your management meetings. You have to offer up the decision-making process to somebody else. There’s a whole transition that happens a year or even two before the title actually changes. And during that entire time, you really need to suppress the ego that kind of got you there in the first place, right? I know what to do here. I can lead this. I’m dun da da. You got to put all that aside and kind of push it towards someone else. That was not easy. And I’m actually very proud of the fact that I was able to do that in a very healthy way. But I knew that I’m going to be 60 this year. Okay. I’m like really old.

Ed (43:32): You don’t look 60. That’s the good news. Thank you. It’s all the yoga that you do.

Therese (43:36): Yeah, well and hiking. Oh my God. I’m getting old and so do I want to keep doing this for the next five or 10 years running the company, doing investor conferences, trying to get it to the billion in revenue? No, let’s give it to somebody who thinks that is the absolute dream job. Let’s make sure they’re prepared for it and then let’s assist them in any way that we can so that they can be successful. So yeah, it’s like, okay, it’s time. Right? It’s good to know when it’s time to hand it off.

Ed (44:11): Such wise words. I’ve got two last smaller themes. One is the recency of Covid. And many great CEOs decided after they had to play a little bit of defense to play offense and BlackLine played offense. You doubled down in in your R&D and really emerged stronger. Do you think that attitude was born out of everything that the company had been through over the previous 20 years of turning lemons into lemonade?

Therese (44:41): Absolutely, because we knew that when everybody went to work from home, that so many companies were going to struggle with trying to do things manually. We knew from the very beginning that this could be part of a much longer change. We’ve seen digital transformation start to pick up some steam. Okay. And now I really think that this going to be a boom to companies having even a bigger appetite for digital transformation. Now they know it’s possible. Now they know that they might have to have everything done remotely. Do one of our customers, they told us at our user conference last year, they actually to close their books, they had everybody meet in the parking lot. This was before they were a black line customer. They had everybody meet in the parking lot to sign paper on hoods of cars in order to get their books closed. Yeah. And they were like, Okay, we can’t do this again. We must have a system like BlackLine. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a boon over the longer term for us. No doubt about it.

Ed (45:52): Last question, as you mentioned about to turn 60, what advice would you have given Therese Tucker age 20. And would that advice still apply as a 40-year-old about to embark on a journey of an incredible pioneering technologist who builds what is just a wonderful business?

Therese (46:14): it’s hard to give any advice when it all worked out, right? I mean, that’s the reality. I liked the fact that I was an old entrepreneur because I had a lot of experience to bring to the table. So, there’s always the thing about age and wisdom versus youth and energy. There’s definitely room for youth and energy. That’s a beautiful thing as well. But if you’re going to be an entrepreneur when you’re young and you have a ton of energy, make sure that you get some really wise mentors because they can keep you on a good path when you wouldn’t necessarily know those things on your own. So, I guess that’s my advice. Get a wise mentor.

Ed (46:56): Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time. This has been an absolute joy, wise words, lots of pearls of wisdom. And I’m sure all those that have the joy of listening will, will think the same.

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