Former Intuit CEO imparts wisdom to technology community

photo of matt rissell and brad smith
A bearded Matt Rissell, the founder of TSheets, interviewed Brad Smith, the former CEO of Intuit, at the Idaho Innovation Awards on Oct. 23. Photo by Sharon Fisher

Boise is no longer one of the country’s best-kept secrets, said Brad Smith, former CEO and current executive board chairman of Intuit, a few minutes before serving as the keynote speaker for the Idaho Innovation Awards on Oct. 23 at Boise Centre.

In fact, Smith said, he was planning to take developments he’d seen in Idaho’s technology communities back to West Virginia in hopes that they could serve as a good example to his home state, wracked by poverty and opioids. Smith grew up in Kenova, population of 3,000 “if you count the cows,” he said.

From $10 billion to $50 billion

The keynote itself was billed as a fireside chat between Smith and Matt Rissell, founder of TSheets, which Intuit bought in December 2017.

Smith described how, after deciding to step down as CEO in December 2018, he conducted interviews with numerous successful people in a variety of fields to determine how to choose what to do next. That includes forming a philanthropic foundation with his wife to encourage education and entrepreneurship, particularly through his alma mater, Marshall University in West Virginia. (Incidentally, he has no hard feelings about the Boise State game earlier this season, which Boise State won 14-7, and said he was grateful the game wasn’t more lopsided.)

In keeping with the event’s theme of disruption, Rissell asked Smith how he convinced the company to reinvent itself as a mobile app when it was already a market leader. What’s required is for the company to convince itself, Smith said, noting that he asked questions such as what the untapped opportunities were, what the risk was and what the pitfalls were. In the end, the company had a mobile version of the application within 90 days, he said.

Smith – who Rissell said took Intuit from a $10 billion company to a $50 billion company – said his primary metric for a company’s success is having customers who are willing to pay money for a product. Only after that does he worry about other metrics such as the size of the customer base and company profit, he said. “You have to be really clear about how you measure success,” he said.

Your title makes you a manager, but it’s what you do that makes you a leader, and part of that is determining how you spend your time, Smith said, when Rissell asked him how he decided which meetings to take. For example, Smith took a meeting with Rissell, before Intuit acquired the company because he was impressed with his performance, he said.

Work-life balance

Rissell – himself known as a family man – praised Smith for being such a good example of work-life balance, and Smith praised Rissell for his creation of a company “out of nothing,” as he put it.

For life-work balance, Smith praised his wife, who “graded on a curve,” and read a poem he had written to her when she had expressed concern many years before about no longer being important after quitting her job to be “only a mother.” He also cautioned that it was important not to miss one-time occasions with one’s children, although it was sometimes necessary to miss repeat occasions like recitals or ball games. Don’t ever prioritize work over a one-time event, he advised.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct Intuit’s former market cap. 

A growing TSheets rebrands itself as Intuit

photo of tsheets building
The giant T is no more. TSheets is now Intuit. Photo by Sharon Fisher

EAGLE — The giant T has been replaced by Intuit, the T-shirts now say Intuit, Boise Site and there’s a new person in charge at the former TSheets Inc.

But never fear, the beer keg is still there. And the time tracking software company is growing, though it isn’t likely to undergo any massive changes.

“I was part of the executive team that built this organization,” said J.D. Mullin, vice president of the time tracking segment at Intuit. “If there was anything I wanted to massively change, I would have executed it.”

Intuit bought TSheets in December 2017 for $340 million – the biggest acquisition of the year, according to the Idaho Deal Flow Report, produced by the Idaho Technology Council (ITC). As recently as October 2018, CEO Matt Rissell declared he had no intention to leave.

photo of jay larsen
Jay Larsen

But after the company celebrated the first anniversary of the acquisition, things started to change and there was a greater willingness to become more tied to Intuit.

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J. D. Mullin

One of the changes is that Rissell decided he was ready to move on, giving a year’s notice – which will end in December – and handing the reins to Mullin, who joined the company in 2013 from WhiteCloud Analytics.

“Matt and I started talking about this a while back,” Mullin said. “It was a very deliberate transition plan. It’s not like one week we came up for air and said, ‘We have to do something about this.’”

Employees were told earlier this summer, and the announcement came in early August in coordination with the rebranding of the building, Mullin said.

Rissell was not made available for interviews, but his Facebook page indicates that he had intended to be financially independent by 40. He closed the sale of TSheets on his 41st birthday, retiring at 42.

“Will I be retired forever?” he posted. “Not. A. Chance.”

Jay Larsen, ITC president and CEO, praised TSheets as “an amazing Idaho success story.”

“Matt Rissell is a fantastic entrepreneur and visionary leader that built a high performing company that will continue to be a strong economic force for years to come in Idaho,” he said.

Larsen noted that Rissell and Mullin met through the ITC.

“Matt and J.D. met through the ITC Software Alliance, which Matt started,” he said. “J.D. was a key contributor as they both focused on ways to grow the quality and quantity of software talent and companies in Idaho. Both Matt and J.D. are strategic leaders who build high-performing teams.”

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Matt Rissell

Another change at TSheets is that the Boise site (the T-shirts provide a pronunciation guide, “Boy-See”) will house more Intuit employees than those working on time tracking software, Mullin said.

“Economics-wise, Boise is a fantastic location,” Mullin said.

The availability of talent is another factor, he said. “There is a culture and a vibe in Boise that this company has created that makes people want to work here.”

Intuit employees from other locations have been applying for positions at the Eagle facility, and the company has added 160 positions since the acquisition.

“Right now we’re tiptoeing into it,” Mullin said. “Hopefully we’ll get into other disciplines like product management and design.”

Currently, supporting other Intuit roles is a pilot project, he said.

“When we started out, there were about four roles in the company,” Mullin said, noting that TSheets had fewer than 20 employees when he started. “There’s probably about 50 now.”

Within the next few months, the company will announce the acquisition of another Treasure Valley site, Mullin said. It will house about the same number of employees as the Eagle headquarters, which is currently more than 400. Mullin couldn’t say where it will be located or whether Intuit will construct the building or buy one.