Balancing a Core Business with Product Innovation with Fayez Mohamood

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This is a podcast episode titled, Balancing a Core Business with Product Innovation with Fayez Mohamood. The summary for this episode is: <p>Doing two things at once can get complicated. How do you efficiently prioritize resources while also pursuing new opportunities?&nbsp;</p><p>Today on the podcast, Matt chats with Fayez Mohamood, founder and CEO of Bluecore, about how to balance product innovation with the core business. You won’t want to miss the advice in the episode!</p>
⚖️ Balancing scaling products
02:31 MIN
🧱 Building the team as you scale
01:33 MIN
📝 Establishing a workable operating system
02:01 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. Each day we welcome transformational executives to share their real world experiences and practical advice about scaling yourself, your team, and your business.

Matt Blumberg: Welcome to The Daily Bolster. I'm Matt Blumberg, co- founder and CEO of Bolster, and I'm here today with Fayez Mahmood. Faye is the founder and CEO of Bluecore, an AI driven retail marketing platform that he started about 10 years ago and has scaled pretty significantly since then. Fayez, good to have you here.

Fayez Mohamood: Good to see you, Matt, and thank you for being a believer in us from the first time we met.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, absolutely. And that's actually a good launching point for our conversation today. You've been at this a long time. You've built a very substantial business. How many employees are you now?

Fayez Mohamood: We're about 350.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, so big SaaS business. And I know over the years as you've built out your core business, you've also been very successful at growing the business by innovating not just new features on the core business, but actually some new applications and new use cases. And so you've done something that I know I did a bunch at Return Path, which is you had to operate in two different worlds at the same time, constantly the world of the scaled product and everything that comes with that, being much more rigorous about execution and process, and also the world of innovation and startups. And I'd love for you to give your top three of how to get that duality right.

Fayez Mohamood: Yeah, and I think for us, that part became exceptionally important because we were always vertically focused SaaS right at the outset, which meant that we were basically shrinking the total addressable market in order to be exceptional in that one industry. But that over time, we would be able to capitalize with multiple product lines or product capabilities to expand in that market over time. So the idea of thinking on different time horizons came probably earlier in our business being a vertically focused business than a horizontal business. So I think the first thing is just having the vocabulary to recognize that there are some... We operate on two horizons almost at every point in time. One horizon is proven. It's got product market fit, and it's got a lot of things that we need to scale, versus another horizon that is experimental, and it's a bet and a lot of things that are unproven. So that's number one, which is recognizing that you're on two different horizons. The second part boils down into not over specializing in certain areas that aren't proven yet, and that also boils that into the people. We can talk about that as well. And then the final piece is how do we think about the different metrics and the cadence and the pace and the urgency on those horizons as well? Because they're very different as well.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, and look, also, all three of those things come down to acknowledging that you're trying to do two very different things and doing them differently. Let's dig in a little bit on the second one and the third one quickly. So in terms of people, have you found as you've scaled, that you have people that are really capable of doing both well? Or do people gravitate naturally to the more innovative and experimental, and then the more process oriented and execution oriented?

Fayez Mohamood: Yeah, I think in the general scheme of things, I do think they exist and they exist in enough quantity. In fact, I would argue that in the early stages of the business, almost everybody lives in that bucket. They can think in the fast time horizons, but they're building for a vision that is going to be longstanding. But I think what happens is over time, a lot of the investment in the business goes towards that first horizon that's working and working well, and you build your executive team and your second line of leadership with people who are more process oriented, with folks that are specialized in areas that require certain level of expertise. So it's less of the individual. It's more that the organization loses the muscle of working on experiments at a pace that's required. So I think it's true that in a mature state of the organization, there's more people that are specialized. But I don't know if it's necessarily because those folks aren't out there versus it's confirmation bias of what we've already built. And then you wake up and go, " Wait, I need to figure out the next act."

Matt Blumberg: And then last question, what's one difference you can point to in a successful operating system between a more proven product and working on innovation, like rhythm of meetings or different leadership structure or?

Fayez Mohamood: Yeah, I think the one thing that comes to mind is probably the pace at which individuals and teams operate and the size of those, by virtue of... If you're working on something unproven, the moment you see a team that's larger than seven or eight, I start to question things. And I'm not saying that's a general truth, but for a company of our scale, that's certainly been true. The coordination that is required to achieve something. The other thing that comes to mind is how unstructured those can be. For example, for more proven parts of our business, I work through our leadership and our executives do as well. But for certain parts of the business that still need to be proven out, it's okay to go talk to that engineer directly or that product manager directly, or the two reps that are trying to figure out how to sell this new thing into a market that is unproven. In a proven part of the business, that might be considered disruption when you're leaning in and poking your fingers in a few different places, or it brings up more questions than clarity. So I think giving the organization the understanding, again, going back to the first part, that in areas that are recognized, we need to be able to sustain ourselves, but in areas that are unproven, it may be a bit more unstructured by nature because that's what leads us to new ideas or changing things on the fly, that leads to better results on experiments. Makes more sense.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, that's right. And as you said, it all starts with acknowledging that you're doing two very different things and getting your company to acknowledge that you're doing two very different things.

Fayez Mohamood: Yep.

Matt Blumberg: All right, Fayez. Always good to talk to you. Thanks for joining.

Fayez Mohamood: Of course. Thank you, Matt.


Doing two things at once can get complicated. How do you efficiently prioritize resources while also pursuing new opportunities? 

Today on the podcast, Matt chats with Fayez Mohamood, founder and CEO of Bluecore, about how to balance product innovation with the core business. You won’t want to miss the advice in the episode!