Make Friends First and Pretend You’re Switzerland: 7 Tips for a Successful Business Partnership

Striking up strategic partnerships is a proven and powerful way to tap new markets, leverage an organization’s presence and ability to scale, and build a brand and bottom line.

That is, if you plan, pick and partner with the right organizations in pursuit of a mutually beneficial relationship. At DocuSign, that’s meant setting the salesman’s hat aside and truly making friends with people respected in their industries. The goal should always be to over-deliver in order to build a long-term, trusted partnership.

Read article at Entrepreneur


Hard-earned Lessons from Silicon Valley Veteran, Keith Krach

Listen to the Full Episode on SoundCloud:
Hard-earned Lessons from Silicon Valley Veteran, Keith Krach | #50
Chairman and Former CEO of DocuSign, Keith Krach, pioneered numerous categories in the tech space including mechanical design synthesis and business-to-business electronic commerce. General Motors, Rasna Corporation, and Ariba are among the forward-thinking companies Keith has served during his storied career. Today, Keith leads DocuSign to unprecedented growth; the DocuSign Global Trust Network has surpassed 200-million unique users with 300,000 new users joining daily. From parenting advice, to the most valuable lesson of Keith’s career, this episode of Entrepreneur Weekly is loaded with practical wisdom from a game-changing businessman. Listen now!

DocuSign Chairman Explains How The Company Became An Integral Part Of The Tech Industry

“We eliminate paper in [processes], which is the first and crucial step before you can leverage other technologies such as big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence,”

Krach said.

“Speed of implementation and getting results is crucial to overcoming the cultural resistance to change during any type of transformation.”

Read more about Keith Krach On

Keith Krach’s thirty-five-year quest to increase the world’s productivity

“These same principles that Krach outlined at Ariba were also applied at DocuSign, which means being a category kingmaker isn’t luck or fortune. It’s a playbook….  A combination of academic, professional, and personal experiences have made him realize that successful category creation is teachable, duplicative, and all about pattern recognition.”

Click here to read the full article on Profile Magazine


A Look at the Top 5 Traits of Digital Transformation Leaders

businessmanFor the most part, companies are no longer wrestling, as they once did, with the question of whether or not they need a senior executive in a digital transformation leadership role. Countless corporate case studies over the past few years have demonstrated the clear need for strong leadership when it comes to designing and implementing digital strategy and transformation efforts. But now, companies are facing an even more challenging question: what exactly sets successful digital transformation leaders apart from other senior executives? In other words, what traits do these leaders have that others don’t?

To help companies answer this question, Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA), the global executive-level recruitment consulting and advisory firm, conducted an intensive assessment of 28 of the world’s most successful digital transformation leaders and compared their findings with data on other senior executives in more traditional roles. RRA’s analysis revealed a remarkable 21 different attributes unique to digital transformation leaders; indeed, RRA analysts were struck by the significant differences between this cohort of top executives and other groups. When compared with other executives, digital leaders are far more likely to have the following traits:

  1. Innovative

Innovation is perhaps the defining characteristic of top digital transformation leaders. Thinking outside the box, challenging traditional approaches, experimenting with new ideas, asking inquisitive questions—these are the hallmarks of leaders who are looking towards the future.

Digital transformation leaders are not just there to provide answers, they’re there to ask the questions that will help the company move forward and to develop solutions that are ambitious but still within the bounds of what is possible. Sometimes, conceptual or abstract thinking is what helps bring ideas into reality, and digital leaders excel at this kind of metaphorical work.

But don’t mistake these leaders for impractical dreamers; they are relentless in linking innovation to clear business outcomes, recognizing that the primary purpose of new and untested ideas is to drive revenue growth or cost-reduction goals.

  1. Disruptive

Steady-state management is not how digital transformation leaders like to operate. While many traditional executives prefer the known to the unknown, digital transformation leaders thrive on ambiguity and uncertainty, with little regard—or even tolerance—for the way things have always been done.


One of the main ways in which this trait manifests itself in digital leaders is in their inclination to cut through bureaucracy to speed up the pace of decision-making and action. While a certain amount of bureaucracy may be necessary, particularly at large companies, in order to properly manage risk and take advantage of economies of scale, digital leaders are adept at bureaucratic decluttering, cutting through unnecessary, long-established processes to identify what the current situation calls for.

  1. Bold

This comfort with ambiguity is perhaps what gives digital transformation leaders their reputation for boldness. Recognizing that to be a game-changer, one must be able to set direction without fear, digital leaders are more than ready to take initiative and to test and push the limits of their companies in order to unearth hidden capabilities and bold, new ideas. In addition, digital leaders are more likely than other senior executives to lead from the front, embracing the high level of public visibility that comes with being a change agent. For digital leaders and the companies they serve, it’s not only important to succeed, it’s important to be seen succeeding.

  1. Socially adept

socialThe ability to come up with innovative and disruptive ideas is all well and good, but it’s of little use without the social skills needed to be able to communicate these ideas effectively. That’s why today’s top digital transformation leaders are highly socially adept.

They know that the key to garnering support from their diverse constituencies and stakeholders is to be able to clearly and confidently share their vision, outlining how change will affect different groups and earning buy-in through careful listening and addressing questions and concerns. Digital leaders know it will be fruitless to attempt to implement change in spite of or against the will of the organization, so they have learned how to leverage their social capabilities, including the ability to adapt their communication style to different audiences, for maximum effect.

  1. Determined

The pace and demands of digital change are ruthless. In response to this, digital transformation leaders have turned determination into a fine art. The role of a digital leader is not simply to develop a vision for the future, it’s also to guide a company and its people into that future, and this requires a strong sense of commitment and a deep resolve to see things through.

Through this determination, the best digital leaders are also instrumental in helping others become transformational as well; the right combination of bravery and optimism can be infectious, creating a change-ready atmosphere and attitude within an organization that is a key ingredient for digital success.


By: Keith Krach


How to Deal with Digital M&A

In their quest to find new ways of delivering products and services and connecting with customers in today’s digital era, many incumbents are turning to M&A—that is, buying or partnering with startups—in order to integrate a much-needed digital component into their business operations. But, increasingly, these companies are finding that the M&A process itself has been impacted by digital disruption and that digital M&A requires a different approach and different considerations than those associated with traditional M&A.

When global management consulting firm Bain & Company recently interviewed leading European M&A executives, three-quarters of respondents said that digital disruption had strongly impacted their M&A strategy, even to the point of requiring a complete strategic overhaul. However, very few executives described themselves as prepared to meet this challenge; only 11% of interviewees self-identified as either “mature” or “advanced” on the digital learning curve.

So what do incumbents entering the world of digital M&A need to do if their efforts are to be successful?  A recent article from Bain & Company breaks down the process into the following four critical steps:

  1. Identify an explicit M&A strategy.

startupCompanies that have the most success with digital M&A are extremely clear about the precise role that digital M&A will play in supporting and enhancing their overall corporate strategy and objectives. A good place to start is by evaluating how the established value chain of the industry in question has been distorted by digital disruption, and then working out the specific ways that M&A would help the company to gain a strategic position within the new value chain—by enabling digital customer engagement, for example, or by protecting the company against the business models of digitally disruptive competitors.

Key questions that companies can ask themselves about digital M&A strategy include the following: Are both offensive and defensive M&A moves are being considered? Is the screening approach for digital targets forward-looking and value-based? What steps will be taken to help the company fill the role of thoughtful parent for the acquired digital company?

It’s also important for companies to be aware that M&A strategy is not a one-off solution. Rather, it’s an integral part of a global growth strategy, and is therefore something that needs to be consistent and repeatable.

  1. Be smart about corporate financing.

There’s no question that digital assets are expensive—many companies would say too expensive—so it’s important for companies to understand how a digital acquisition will affect their equity profile and the growth-value profile of their stock. Ideally, a digital acquisition will signal to the market that the acquiring company is committed not only to adapting, but also to becoming a digital leader in its industry; such a signal should serve to influence the market perception of the company and consequently its price-to-earnings (PE) ratio.

However, the question of how to finance a digital M&A deal remains a tricky one. The high price of the targets limits an acquirer’s ability to use stock (in order to avoid exposing existing shareholders to a high dilutive effect), but a cash-only deal could result in overvalued goodwill and future write-offs for the company. Acquiring companies must be prepared to evaluate and consider all potential financing solutions, including adapted payment terms or deferred payment mechanisms.

  1. Look to the future when doing due diligence.

timeIn some ways, digital M&A due diligence is a reverse version of traditional due diligence. That is, rather than evaluating the past business performance and current competitive status of a target, digital M&A acquirers need to look ahead, evaluating what the future success of the business model is likely to be under different scenarios, and screening the target before value has been monetized.

To help with this task, successful digital M&A companies build a strong community of external experts to serve as a vital connecting link between the company and the digital ecosystem it wants to be a part of; these experts provide invaluable diligence support in areas where objective assessment is challenging. Some areas that require particular attention in digital as opposed to traditional M&A include the capability of the acquirer to serve as a strong corporate parent and the scalability of the people, technology, and business models of the acquired assets.

  1. Use a “scope” model of merger integration.

In the vast majority of cases, digital acquirers are most successful when they approach digital deals with a “scope” mindset instead of a “scale” mindset. (Scope deals, as their name implies, increase a company’s scope through the addition of new products, customers, markets, or channels, while scale deals add similar products or customers, thereby increasing a company’s scale.)

Part of the reasoning behind this is that scope deals, for the most part, require only selective integration, thus preserving the autonomous, unique identity of each company and avoiding the problems that can arise when two highly different corporate cultures attempt to fuse. Nevertheless, smooth integration tactics, such as instituting cultural exchange programs between companies or including digital acquisition leaders in central governance forums, are a good idea even in scope deals.

computer servers

Spotlight on Governance in the 4th Industrial Revolution

internet switchThe Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting almost everything about the way we live, work, and do business, including the way we make the rules and laws we use to govern industry and society. Historically, public policy and decision-making systems evolved in a strictly top-down, linear fashion, with decision makers having ample time to study a particular issue in detail and develop and implement an appropriate regulatory framework. But this style of approach is far from feasible today, given the incredibly rapid pace of change and the sweeping scope of impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As a result, today’s legislators and regulators are rushing to find new ways of building legislation that preserves and protects the interests of consumers and the general public while ensuring that innovation and technological development remains supported. And, as argued by Gillian K. Hadfield, a professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California, it’s critical that we get this question right: if we are not able to properly govern the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will not be able to fully realize its true economic and social potential. In a recent World Economic Forum article, Professor Hadfield shares the following thoughts on governance and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Why is governance important in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

It’s a widespread, but dangerous, assumption that economic progress will happen no matter what the governance environment looks like. As common thinking has it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening anyway. Figuring out how to govern it will just ensure that it happens more effectively.

But Hadfield argues that seeing governance as a luxury rather than a necessity is the wrong perspective. Instead, we should be thinking of governance as a form of infrastructure—an invisible and interconnected platform of rules and practices that allows us to make cooperation and planning part of our economic activity and social interactions, and without which, just like any other kind of infrastructure, economic progress does not happen.

Who will be the key players in implementing governance policies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

codingWhen considering the rules of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, people put a great deal of emphasis on what the rules should say and how that will be agreed upon, but they give much less attention to the question of who will be doing the agreeing. However, determining who the key players are is a critical step if the rules are to be not only designed, but delivered on in this new and complex space. It’s not an easy question, though: governments tend to lack the necessary expertise, but relying on the innovators themselves, who do have the appropriate experience, could lead to difficulties with the effectiveness of self-regulation.

How can we solve this government/innovator governance conundrum?

The tension between governments and innovators when it comes to regulation has led to the emergence over the last two decades of a trend known as the “new governance theory.” Under this model, rather than writing the rules themselves, governments define what the rules should achieve, and then delegate the responsibility of writing those rules to the entities that are going to be impacted by them.

A good example of this model is the recent “right to be forgotten” decision. After ruling that individuals should have the right to have references to themselves removed from online search results, European courts tasked Google—which was clearly in a far better position to know how to do this than any government—with figuring out how to achieve that objective.

Hadfield further speculates that this type of legislative collaboration between governments and private-sector bodies could be made even more effective by introducing third-party competition and innovation into the process. At present, for example, many jurisdictions are debating how to handle the advent of self-driving cars, which are set to bring a host of never-before-considered issues to our roads and our courtrooms.

What if, rather than having either governments or self-driving car companies writing the rules, they were created by a number of private bodies who then had the responsibility of persuading governments to approve them and self-driving car companies to agree to them? Incentives like this could be a big step in ensuring that goals are achieved in an effective and cost-conscious way and that the results remain accountable to the public interest.

What will governance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution look like in 2030?

Hadfield emphasizes that one of the leading challenges for governance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the pressure to create globally harmonized rules—something that makes perfect sense in an age where global companies have no interest in dealing with dozens, if not hundreds, of different sets of regulations. Hadfield imagines that, by 2030, we will have tackled this challenge by harnessing market incentives to create private regulation providers that compete on a global level, thus building a world-wide network of regulators for governments and companies alike to choose from.