The B-Western movie heroes’ Cowboy Code emphasized principles that still have value today.
I love old Westerns. Not just any old Western but specifically the old Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies and TV shows. Although I wasn’t yet around during the heyday of Gene and Roy, they both live on in my DVD collection, which includes many of the movies that each of them made along with their television series. I’m particularly fond of the television shows, where every action-packed half-hour episode promised at least one fistfight where no one’s face or hands were ever injured and at least one gunfight, in which the hero shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand or, in extreme cases, shot the bad guy but only wounded him. There was never any blood visible even when Gene winged the bad guy with his trusty six-shooter.
Out of all the B-movie Western stars, Gene Autry is my all-time favorite. Not only was his horse, Champion, the smartest horse to ever ride the range, Gene had a code of honor that he lived by and he insisted that his young buckaroo fans live by it, too. First recited to his fans on one of Gene’s radio show adventures in 1947, the Gene Autry Cowboy Code is as follows:
1) The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage.
2) He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3) He must always tell the truth.
4) He must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.
5) He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6) He must help people in distress.
7) He must be a good worker.
8) He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.
9) He must respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.
10) The Cowboy is a patriot.
My guess is that people today look at Gene’s code as being innocently quaint and reflective of a time when life was much slower and much less complicated. Still, I think there’s value in Gene’s code even today, and it actually popped into my mind as I sat listening to one of the keynote addresses at Engage, Verint’s customer conference that was held in Las Vegas this past June.
The speaker was Dan Bodner, Verint founder, president and CEO. There was nothing complicated or misleading in his presentation. It was a straight-ahead overview of the company he founded 20 years ago and a discussion of the principles that have driven the company to reach the level of success it has achieved today. There was no bluster and, in fact, I thought Dan was soft-spoken and humble, the polar opposite of some of the empty-suits I’ve encountered during my career as an industry analyst.
Dan Bodner’s presentation intrigued me to the point of wanting to find out more about what drives him and how that, in turn, drives his company. Fortunately, I was able to arrange for an interview with him and ask some of the questions that came to mind as I listened to his keynote at Engage. What follows is a transcript of my conversation with Verint CEO Dan Bodner.
Stockford: Listening to your keynote at Engage I got the impression that you have a management style that is atypical for the contact center industry. How would you describe your management style?
Bodner: My management style reflects the culture at Verint. Technology comes and goes, but our people are critical to innovation and to developing new solutions, so we treat people well and we treat each other well. We hire carefully with the long-term in mind and we prefer to promote from within. But to be clear, Verint isn’t a place where you can just come to work. We look for people who are passionate about what we do and will work hard toward making our vision a reality.
Stockford: At Engage, you spent quite a bit of time talking about Verint’s core values. For the benefit of the readers, what are those five Verint core values?
Bodner: They are:
We developed these core values when Verint was still quite small and we created them ourselves. We didn’t hire a consultant to help us with developing the values. They were, at the time and still are today, simply reflective of who we want to be. These core values guide us as an organization just as our vision does. The vision is not the end of the journey, it’s just the beginning.
Stockford: I’ve heard some of these core values cited by other companies, but there is one Verint core value that, frankly, I don’t often see listed or hear discussed: Humility. Why is humility important to Verint’s core values?
Bodner: Humility reminds us that yesterday’s success is not a guarantee of tomorrow’s success. It helps us stay on top of our performance with an eye toward the future.
Stockford: In the many years that I’ve been following Verint as an industry analyst, I don’t recall ever seeing Verint joining in on some of the negative marketing campaigns that some vendors seem to favor. What’s your philosophy relative to sales and marketing campaigns?
Bodner: We don’t look for short-term gains; we want to be recognized for our long-term view, our vision and our concern for our customers. We want people to know and remember what kind of company Verint is. If we engaged in borderline ethical tactics, it wouldn’t be serving our long-term purpose of building the Verint brand. It’s just not in our DNA to mislead the market about anything.
Stockford: During your Engage keynote, you said that “actionable intelligence” has been the company’s vision since the beginning. Twenty years later, you still have the same vision. Why is this vision still valid, still working?
Bodner: We established our vision with the idea that it would be applicable for decades. There are two reasons why our vision is still valid; first, the explosion of data in the market and, second, business complexity.
Growth in the type and amount of data in the enterprise requires us to be constantly innovative. Business complexity is growing in tandem with the amount of data being generated and used. Businesses today want quick access to information, and they want information that can be acted upon. These trends keep our actionable intelligence vision very much alive. I believe we’re still in the early stages—that actionable intelligence solutions such as customer engagement optimization will continue to be critical in helping organizations maximize the data available to them, address business complexities and challenges that arise, and better serve their end customers.
Stockford: Witness Systems was a Saddletree client when Verint acquired the company eight years ago. Many of the people I knew at Witness, I know today as Verint employees. Why wasn’t there the typical exodus of employees from the acquired company following the Witness acquisition?
Bodner: The technology business is a people business, and the people at Verint and Witness shared that same belief. We approached the acquisition as a marriage of equals. We didn’t have to have one side win and have the other side lose. We took the best attributes of each to build a stronger company.
Honestly, I don’t remember today who came from where. We’re all focused on winning together.
Stockford: If you could put your finger on one or two critical factors that have helped Verint grow into the respected market leader it is today, what would they be?
Bodner: I’d say strength of vision and the commitment to make our vision a reality. Lots of companies have a vision but don’t have the commitment to follow through. Also, we don’t have a management revolving door. We have stability in the management ranks. In a nutshell, we have great people, shared values, a focus on customer success, and the commitment necessary to drive our business.
As I was wrapping up my discussion with Dan, I mentioned my interest in the old B-Western movies and how nice it is to still see the good guys win. Dan replied, “I like to believe the good guys always win, too. The truth is, sometimes the other guys win, but that doesn’t change my mind about how we conduct our business. We’ll stay true to ourselves.”
I think Gene Autry would be proud.