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.
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.