Eric Roza | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Eric Roza

Background:  

A division of Oracle, Oracle Data Cloud aggregates massive amounts of data around consumer interests and uses it to enable better marketing for advertisers and publishers. 

Eric Roza joined Oracle after it bought Datalogix, the digital advertising data company he led as CEO, in January 2015.

The Mistake:

I was too concerned about outcomes and not always enjoying and trusting the process.

We went through a very challenging period at Datalogix around the time the board asked me to take over as CEO – I had been COO. It wasn’t clear that the company was going to make it. We had to basically rebuild our business model, and this was all in late 2008 and 2009 when a lot of people were going through very difficult situations.

It was a really hard time to take the lead of a company like that. My first act as CEO was to cut salaries by 20 percent across the whole company. That was not a great way to make myself popular.

At the same time, our revenue was declining rapidly, and we didn’t know where the bottom was. We were investing a lot in a new product launch, and we didn’t know if it was ever going to work. We needed to find a new bank to lend us money, and we didn’t know if any would lend us money. We had to sell our story to investors, and we weren’t sure it was a salable proposition because the business was in such bad shape.

The founder of the company, who later ceased to be involved, once told me, “If the business fails, the blood will be on your hands.” It was motivating in a way, but that’s not what I needed to hear, and it made it hard to enjoy the process. I understood the situation. I didn’t need that external pressure.

While formative, there was a six-month period in there that was really, really hard. I didn’t sleep enough; it took a physical toll on me.

Things wouldn’t have worked out any worse or better if I had gotten more sleep. That was all my mindset.

If you spend too much time in a fight-or-flight mode ... you can miss out on a lot of the richness of challenging times.

The Lesson:

Whatever happens, it’s going to be OK. Things wouldn’t have ended up any worse if I had got myself more sleep during that six-month period.

Independent of where things end up, there’s so much personal development to be had in these kinds of challenges.

If you spend too much time in a fight-or-flight mode or an I-must-save-the-world mode – both of [these] things were going on for me – you can miss out on a lot of the richness of challenging times.

On top of that, if you, like me, sometimes identify yourself too much with the success of the enterprise, then you’re adding almost existential risk to these issues. You put yourself in the position of saying, “If the business doesn’t succeed, I personally am a failure.”

If you can just detach a little bit and see it all as part of a game, everything is interesting and it can even be enjoyable. That’s what I try to do now.

As for how I do it, it’s so much about process goals. We live in a complex world. There’s so much bull---- around us that can distract from those goals. Here’s an example: Our company got acquired by Oracle two years ago. Oracle has treated me and everyone we brought over really well, but it’s challenging to go from CEO to not CEO. It would have been easy for me to create ridiculous narratives about myself – “I used to be this important CEO, but now I’m just a cog” or “I’m not a big company guy” – but those things are just bull----.

If you can really focus on what’s true to you and if you don’t feel entitled to anything, it helps you get through it. When something really hard happens, you can take a step back and say, “This is my truth right now.”

That can help you become happy, healthy and successful, which I think is what we all strive for.

You can follow Eric Roza on Twitter at @rozaeric.

Photo courtesy of Oracle

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