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How do you create short-term change to ensure long-term survival? In his newest book, Market Mover, Bob talks about his turnaround of Nasdaq, a large electronic stock exchange market. Discover why some smart CEOs fail (hint: you can’t always get an A in everything), why you should see effectiveness first and efficiency second, and how to encourage someone to work in alignment with team goals while remaining autonomous.
Book: Market Mover
Bio: Bob Greifeld is former CEO and Chairman of Nasdaq. He is currently Chairman of Virtu Financial, a leading financial technology and trading firm; Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Cornerstone Investment Capital, a financial technology investment firm; and a board member at Capital Rock and Financeware.
This transcript is unedited.
Peter: With us today is Bob Greifeld. He wrote most recently the book market mover lessons from a decade of change at NASDAQ. Bob is the former CEO and chairman of NASDAQ. The book is great. He shares stories about his time there, the challenges he faced, the decisions he’s made. NASDAQ for those of you who don’t know, is one of the world’s largest stock exchanges. It was very, very focused on tech for a very long time. May still be. We’ll find that out in a second. Bob joined as leader in the early two thousands probably right when, from his perspective, he shouldn’t have joined, but we’ll talk with him about that. It was, you know, things were in turmoil and, and Bob’s is a story of, of turnaround and bringing in some big companies, kind of setting it up for success. He dealt with the.com bust economic headwinds, technology disruption, the implosion of the U S housing market, the global crash that followed.
Peter: And during Bob’s leadership, the NASDAQ market value increased by 2000%. So not bad by any standards. Bob, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast. It’s my pleasure to be here. We’re gonna, we’re gonna talk about your time. Like I oftentimes I’m interviewing thought leaders and we’re talking about ideas and, and here it’s much more interesting to talk about, you know, your own experience and what led to the ideas that are in your book. And I kind of want to take a walk down memory lane if you will, and your time. And I want to start with the opening book of the line. I’m sorry, the opening line of the book, which is, I’m six months too late right now. Why did you think that? What, what, what was the time and why did you think that?
Bob: Well, one is, I make very clear, not just in that situation, but in other situations. I do not possess a magic wand. And I also have a firm belief that the difference between success and failure are two sides of very thin dime. That is you are not preordained to succeed. You’re not proved aim to fail. So in that context, when I said I’m too late, that might not be enough good things I can do in the timeframe required to turn the ship around.
Peter: Got it. And what was happening, describe the moment that you were coming into NASDAQ?
Bob: Yeah, so when I got hired by NASDAQ, it was an unusual hire and that was born in the fact that there was some level of desperation there to reach out to somebody like myself. So NASDAQ had pioneered an exchange without a trading floor. The sec had changed the rules where competitors are popping up with technology. That was probably two generations forwarded what NAZA CAD. So every single day. And as that was losing money and we did certainly did not have an unlimited balance sheet every day we were losing market share to these upstart competitors. So we didn’t have that much time to one STEM the bleeding and then to reverse course and get it on a positive trajectory. Why do you take the job? Well, one is I, I, at first I didn’t want to take the job because I had been an entrepreneur for 10 years and I’d sold my company in 1999 and was with a great large company called SunGard data systems, which I assumed I would leave at some point and go back to my entrepreneurial roots.
Bob: And when you think about NASDAQ, you thought the opposite. You thought of an organization that was part of the regulator that wanted to spin out from the regulator and then go on its own for-profit public motive. But clearly the NASDAQ I went to in 2003 was a far, far cry from anything that would be small and entrepreneurial. So that was my hesitation at the time. And why do you end up doing it? Well, one I realized that it was an opportunity you could not pass up. Right? So as you thought about it, as I talked to my wife, I realized, okay, this is something that you have to try to do. And I had a clear thought in mind in my mind that I could in fact bring a lot of good to the organization. And after I was there for awhile, I recognized how naive I was in terms of what all the challenges were for NASDAQ. I understood part of the elephant in terms of what we had to do, but I certainly did not understand the complete part of the job required
Peter: You, you tell the story of how in your view you got the job. And I think it’s an interesting story about how you approached the interview process and, and it’s instructive for people. So if you could just share very briefly like what, you know, what your approach was. Basically you are up against a competitor where you felt like, you know, this guy had the edge on you in terms of the, the sort of form and and experience of someone who they were looking for. And so you took a certain approach.
Bob: Yeah. So what was interesting here, this fellow, I had interviewed myself when I was on the board of night securities to be the CEO of night. So I S I, I had a firsthand knowledge of how we performed in a one hour back and forth session. And he was quite, quite impressive. And I said, why should I compete on his ground rules? So the normal ground rules. So that last interview when I realized, you know, I knew I was had competition for the job and then I knew I really wanted the job. I said, how do you then change the substance of the interview, the meeting suit, what you can do. So I knew exactly what had to be done. So I took control the first 15, 20 minutes, I said, okay, these are the five things we’re going to get done in the first hundred days. And went through them point by point by point. So that was my strong suit, not the particular articulation that’s required going back and forth. Question and answer, but really said, here is your agenda, here are your problems and here’s what I can do uniquely to help solve them.
Peter: I love that. So now I’m going to tell you something you didn’t know which is I, right as you were coming on board, this is in the early two thousands, all of your direct reports who you didn’t know very well at that time were going through setting goals for their businesses. And and I was asked to come in as a, as a consultant to help them do that. And, and I sat down and it was a colleague of mine who had asked me to help her come in and do that. And so I sat down with all of your direct reports, who you didn’t know very well at this point, even maybe at all. And they were really struggling to set goals for their parts of the business. I mean, they really couldn’t do it. And I finally, I stopped the meeting and I said, guys, I don’t get what’s going on here.
Peter: You, you know, you’re the leaders of this business. Why are you unable to set goals for the next year? And they said, really? In unison, well, there’s a new leader coming in. We don’t know what he’s going to want to do. And so we’re waiting to find out what he wants to do before we set goals. And I said, how do you think he’s going to figure it out? You’re the leaders of the business. You got to go to him and tell him, here’s what I think we should do. And then let him ever reaction to that. You’re gonna like let him come in and just sit around and go, I don’t know. What do you want me to do? And I, and I really said it like that. I mean, like I didn’t pull any punches and we got somewhere. But I’m curious now, I’ve never been able to ask you this, but I’m curious like when you walked in, what you saw with your senior leadership team and what impression you had.
Bob: Well, this is certainly a different podcast I imagine. So that’s a great counterpoints. I would say in a certain way. The people you met with were not that incorrect. So when I cover it in the book, so I came in there and I acted as the autocratic CEO and I thought that was fundamentally necessary because again, we did not have the time to continue. So when I came in there, I knew exactly what had to be done on the transaction side, on the market side, right. So that point I was clear on, but to make myself sound a little more humble then those last comments where they didn’t know was really the listings business. The fact that government relations was a big part of the job and also the corporate communications, the publicity, the public facing part of it.
Bob: So there I was incredibly naive. I needed to be humble, direct Annise how little I know. But with respect to the transaction side, when I’ve been a software entrepreneur, we built our trading systems to tie into the NASDAQ marketplace. I was a founder of an ECN that competed with NASDAQ. So I knew more about what the task had to be the those those full extent. And the fact is that obviously a lot of those folks didn’t survive. And in the book recover, the two of the folks you met with didn’t make it all eight o’clock. The first day I started and I said, we’re going in a different direction. We appreciate your service, but you know, it’s best that we part ways now and not a drag it out. So I would say, and that’s one of the lessons of the book. You have rules that you live by and you have to run a, a really a organization that gets built on consensus. You want them to buy in from the troops. At the end of the day, the engagement of the people in the organization determines its success. But like any other rule, there are times when you have to ignore that. In the early days and NASDAQ, I said, okay, I’ve got a certain amount of time, I’ve lived this world, we’ve got to do this right. And so it was more marching orders back then and it changed as your organization itself along.
Peter: So that’s totally consistent with your, you know, you sort of said, here’s the first five, here’s the five things. You mentioned this earlier in our conversation. There’s the five things I’m going to do, get the right people on board, reduce bureaucracy, embrace fiscal discipline, overhaul technology, and stop being satisfied with number two. Right. So I’ve two questions here. One is, you know, so you just mentioned that you let go of a couple of people before 8:00 AM the first day and that’s a bold move obviously. And I’m curious about how you knew to do that. I want to give you a counterpoint, which is here’s what goes on in my head. I’m thinking, I don’t know if you’ve had enough time yet to know whether they can perform under your leadership. And the story I think of as Alan Malali, who was CEO of Boeing, of course, and then Ford and he T he had the same kind of turnaround as you did, right? He was looking at Ford and he turned around for it and he did it with I think 17 or 18 of the original 18 or 19 men. He lost one person, but ultimately he turned around the business with all of those senior leaders. I’m not advocating that that’s the right way to do it, but I’m curious to understand how you knew that I’m moving in a new direction and there’s a bunch of people who are just not gonna make it.
Bob: So I would say this one, I knew that the organization wanted to be engaged in a discussion and debate in terms of what kind of company we were and what kind of company we were about to to become. And I again did not feel at the time for that organizational discussion. So I knew that as soon as people came to work that day and that two of the senior people were gone, they knew that okay, was a different day, a different person in charge and all the discussions that people wanted to have about what we should be ended and they wanted to know what I wanted to get done. So we stopped that dialogue. I thought that was important. I need the whole organization to get to work that that day. Right? So that was I think probably a more dire situation than Ford there.
Bob: But I would say this that where I agree is the bast majority of the senior leaders led by a Dana, my successor were there who self identify self select and say, I want to be part of this culture that’s going to be performance space. We’re going to weigh, measure and count everything. We will be competitive. So those poll people revealed themselves, others obviously resigned. And one of my management mantras is we try to promote from within 80% of the time, right? 20% you go outside. If you don’t do a hundred percent you know, internally, then the culture gets too insular. It doesn’t extend, it doesn’t evolve. But 80% is obviously an overwhelming number of people coming from inside. And the feeling is very strongly that when you’re there, right? You basically had been interviewing for years, you know, the pluses and the minuses of the person, the developments and the strains as good as you can get at interviewing somebody, whether you want to do psychological tests, background checks, it’s still a relative crapshoot compared to hiring your own people.
Bob: So that’s kind of the North, sorry, go with. But then again, the message you’ll have in the book is you’ve got to do what you’re going to do when it’s there. So I didn’t have time, right? Our market share was down to 14% you know, we go below 10 then I lose the listings business, right? And then I lose the entire franchise and I didn’t have that much time to continue to burn the money every day. So that was, that was the dominant fact. I always say there’s so many good facts and the decisions you make are never black and white, right? It’s always some shade of gray. So the dominant fact here is speed of the essence. I’m not saying that is the proper management technique over over a period of time, but as the proper one and that period of time and certainly we survive, you know, to live the other days.
Peter: Bob, I love a love that frame, which is the dominant fact. I think one of the, one of the consistent things I’ve seen in the strongest leaders and, and you know, I know this intimately from really successful leaders that I coach, but also, you know, other leaders that I talk to is I think the number one thing they’re able to do is to distinguish signal from noise, right? It’s to say there’s a whole lot of things going on. This is the one we’re going to respond to because this is the one that’s going to make the biggest difference. And, and this idea of, there’s a lot of facts going around, but this is the dominant fact that we have to deal with. We have to face is a, it’s really powerful. It’s critical. Yeah. What
Bob: I would say with that and you know, directly related, you know, all you, you got a chance to meet many CEOs and so am I. And what I’ve noticed with every single one of them, they work very hard and they’re very smart. So why did they fail? Right? In my mind, they’ve failed primarily because they choose to work not on the wrong things. Well then the less right things, right? You have to pick the things that have the best levered use of your time, right? And you have to be comfortable with doing other things that don’t have a lever, not well or even bad, right? Your to do list, you can never get through the whole to do list. So you have to focus on the things that matter. You have to focus things that lever your time across the organization. And of course your customers there.
Bob: So that’s related to finding what is a dominant fact. Yeah. You gotta be willing to get BS and CS in some stuff. And for high achievers, we basically want to get A’s in everything. And what you’re saying is choose two subjects. You want to get an a in or maybe one subject you want to get an a in and be comfortable with BS and CS and everything else. You got it all right. I’m hoping that my children are not listening to this because I don’t think this applies to school in the same way as it applies to business, but I totally resonate with what you’re saying from business. What’s so interesting too is that this is so counter to so much of the sort of leader methodology that you hear these days about. You come into an organization and the very first thing you do is you go on a listening tour and you spend nine months, you know, listening to hearing whenever and what you’re saying is that might be great for an ongoing concern in which we want to make a marginal difference in the growth.
Bob: But we were in a crisis. And in a turnaround, you have to, you have to really make some drastic, edgy, risky, very bold, strong moves to communicate something. So a related to that, I say it in the book and you always have to seek effectiveness first and efficiency second, right? So you have to be effective. We have to survive. That’s the definition. When I first got there, the definition of effectiveness was survive. Survive meant we had to have growing market share. We had to be getting a path to profitability before a balance sheet ran out. So that’s important. Then after that on the efficiency, then you do the proper management things and develop that structure over time. And when I saw the delay in the model three I said, okay, they’re hyper efficient of how they want to make it. But first you got to be effective and make the thing and then you’re going to improve the manufacturing processes later. And so I always thought about that and we did 47 acquisitions. And the first thing I would always say, let’s make sure this acquisition is working for us. We can always make it more efficient. We had the rest of our lives to do that. That’d be said. We did it very quickly, most of the time. But you always have to keep those intents clearly straight in terms of what your job is. Right.
Peter: Let’s go to, so get the right people on board. That was your first thing. And, and was that primarily a function, Bob, of being very clear about what your message was and making some very quick decisions as to who was on board and who wasn’t?
Bob: No, I, I think the right people on board is a constant process. But why I say that is you have to develop a one, three, five year strategic plan of where you’re driving the bus. But you also have to recognize that you will be wrong every single time of where you’re going. The road will change, the circumstances change, the competitive dynamic, change the market changes. So you have to have the athletes, you know, the managers on the bus who can then respond to that. Right. And you can certainly pigeonhole yourself in terms of getting a content expert in one job, but that job changes, right? And if they don’t have that ability. So I fundamentally think that you are successful in life by responding to stimuli that’s presented to yourself. And I would say to our managers that your job is no more complicated than a single celled organism. And I said, a single cell organism knows how to respond to stimuli. That’s your job. Be alert to the stimuli, respond to it. So again,
Peter: Totally counterintuitive to what, you know, you, you read in a lot of leadership writing these days, which is you don’t want to be reactive to circumstances. You want to be sort of thoughtful and intentional and strategic about the direction. But you, you’re, you’re saying something very different. You’re saying actually you kind of want to be reactive.
Bob: Yeah. And you know, it’s not too hard to square that circle, right? So you’re reactive, you know, if you, you know, are on a path, right? And you want to be dictatorial. This is the only path and I think you’ll find yourself wrong more often than not. And so, you know, this is dwelling a little bit, but you know, my, my view of the world was that the customers gave us the small things in terms of where we had to go with our product and direction. And they’re important, right? It’s certainly important day to day. But in terms of the broad strategic direction, the broad product set, you have to come up with that. Your, your yourself, there’s no amount of market research. And then they say, well, how do you make that decision? Well, the end of the day you kind of make it in a gut feel, but the fact is you build your database, right? You get your databases, why does you, can you get all the material in there and then your artificial intelligence, your machine learning, we’re learning. And your brain eventually kicks in and tells you, okay, this is the path we have to go on right there.
Peter: I’m curious about. So I write, I don’t know how much you know about me or the work that I do, but I write a lot about emotional courage and the willingness to feel as a, as a, as a critical path to the willingness to act. And what I’m so curious about, Bob, is if you can bring yourself back to, you know, you’re stepping into this turnaround situation, you’re making some bold moves, you’re defining strategy, you’re driving it through. What were you feeling in that moment? I mean, were you scared? Were you you know, full on running the race as fast as you could and ambitious and it could be like a number of different things, but I’m wondering like you step into this huge challenge and, and I’m just curious emotionally what was going on for you at that moment. So I would say
Bob: A dominant thought that came back and sometimes I was sleeping is you felt like you were jumping off of a cliff where you could not see the bottom. So I knew I was taking steps where I couldn’t be guaranteed that it would get the outcome. We want it. And that ties back to my comment about success and failure is not preordained. So it really was a feeling of jumping off a cliff yet to do it. You know, you don’t want to do it, but you don’t have a choice to do it because you, you know, at the end of the day, you first and foremost have to survive. And the flip side of that, which I cover in the book is what I decided it was time to retire. I knew that the jumping off the cliff feeling was past. I knew the organization did not need me as much as it did you know, in 2003. And I think on a very positive note, the management team was very strong and was able to then, you know, and to carry on in a very successful way.
Peter: You you were, you said earlier you were 14% market share, you couldn’t drop below 10. When you left. What was your market share? We’re in the forties and the forties. Okay. So massive. And part of that, I’m assuming, was your acquisition strategy you bought 45 companies during your time?
Bob: No, I, I would describe it this way. So we knew there are limits to what the U S equity markets could provide to us. So once we one got our technology in order, got a market share solidified, and in slowly up over the years, we said, okay, what did we do next? We lifted our head up and they said two things. One, we had to get more assets. So we wanted to us equity options, right? We’ve been in pure equity play and we had to get more global, right? We’re clear, clearly just a U S play. So we went across asset across geography I think is how we really had our, our massive success. And then we also recognize that we had running our businesses was some of the best technology on the planet. And we productize that and we’re able to sell that to others.
Peter: And that’s one, that was one of your, that was your fourth, fourth point, which is overhaul your technology and that,
Bob: Yeah. And we, we didn’t, yeah, we wanted it all not to catch up, but to go go further right there. And we had to, because you know, our markets are so intense, the performer requirements are so high. So if we went to Africa, we went to the middle of the East, we went to Europe with Asia and we really were kind of stepping back in time in terms of what their requirements were versus what we had to develop in the States. So we were in a great position to lever that.
Peter: And your competitors weren’t doing that? A couple of,
Bob: We tried you know, LLC tried New York stock exchange, tried, but you know, we, you know we have a very, very high market share and provision of technology to other exchanges, to regulators and increasingly broker dealers.
Peter: Right. you talked about and, and I think about this in terms of your acquisitions but also just broadly about encouraging all autonomy while fostering integration. You talked about this in the book. I think that’s the billion dollar question. How do you encourage autonomy at the same time as you create integration? I’m curious if you could share it, because this is true, by the way, not only for integrating businesses, but for individuals. Like how do you manage someone so that they have autonomy and they’re part of a team and they’re moving in the right direction and they’re moving collectively and in alignment with everybody else. So you know, any, any hints or tricks or thoughts that you have around that?
Bob: Well, let, let’s start with the compensation side. So what I say is people don’t do what they’re told to do. They do what they’re paid to do, right? So it was crass as that sounds. So when you think about it, we had stock options for every employee. So stock on a compensation side was unifying, right? Because the stock was performance with determined by how the entire firm did and then when they had their individual goals. So we would have, as I said, our culture was the way, measure and count everything. And the last thing I wanted to do was to have a situation where at the end of the year, people had to be nice to me to get a big bonus. So at the beginning of the year, every single employee had the say in great detail. These are the 10, 15 things that will determine success in my job for this year.
Bob: End of the year, we said, okay, how’d you do on these 10 or 15 things? And it was a function and that would determine your pay. I didn’t have to like you, you didn’t have to like me, but we had a common understanding. This was the job. So we spent so much time in the beginning of the year focused on the job. Now part of that obviously was playing well with others because the further up you go the org chart, the more you become interdependent there. So we’d compensation plans associated with joint goals across different lines of business there. But I think the greater good was for these folks to focus on their burger King and Excel and that burger King. And then the icing on the cake was integration together. Now one unit had to work together with another unit all day, every day. I said, probably the organization chart is wrong. Right? So I looked, I came at it that way. I said, let me make sure this organization is smart with respect to what the daily work is like. Cause if you have to go across an organization boundary as well as you might have an integrated firm, there’s a friction associated with that. So I wanted to make sure all the proper work was within the smallest atomic unit possible. And that was, I think one of the key parts of our success.
Peter: You talk about trust and challenging decisions that you have to make, which angered peoples. And I’m specifically thinking about the conversation that you had with Jamie diamond that you, that you talk about in the book where you know, he cursed you out on the phone. Can you talk about that dynamic tension of, of the necessity to make hard decisions and at the same time to really maintain important relationships?
Bob: Sure. Well, one, the, you know, the Jamie diamond conversation, I think it was somewhat unique there because we were going through the lobbying for Dodd-Frank and there was a lot of emotion in the air and we were speaking for open markets and we wanted to have central clearing and JP Morgan with the strongest balance sheet, you know, central clearing wouldn’t hurt them, but it would kind of equalize them against some of their competitors. And that’s to be expected. But yeah, what you’re getting at is a great point is that exchanges have broker dealers as our customers and the exchanges are there to narrow the friction cost to spread in the market and thereby by definition, narrowing the profit opportunity for the market participants. So that has always an underlying natural tension to it. So we live in a world now where I think that’s easier to maintain relationships and people understand one competitors or also necessary partners, you know, depending upon particular role. So I think that was a bigger issue back in 2003 than it is in 2000 in 19 2020 because most everybody has a multidimensional relationship within their ecosystem.
Peter: No, I’m, I’m curious as I actually think about that story of JB dive in and I think about, you know, you don’t pull punches in the book so you know, you, you talk about specific people and they don’t always show up in the most beautiful of ways. And, and I’m actually also thinking broadly like in terms of concepts, my, so full disclosure by father was a specialist on the stock exchange. So you know, you don’t speak so glowingly about specialists. Like you know, you sort of think of them as dinosaurs and, and, and my grandfather talking about, you know, the cons of dinosaurs. It was also in the market and was a specialist. And I remember going down to the floor of the market when I was a kid and like watching people, you know, I mean they weren’t, they were doing this more in the American than the New York, but hand signals and you’re talking about that. And I’m just curious about what it’s like and what happens for you, again, either emotionally or psychologically or what the challenges, if there was any challenge of writing about people and things where you knew people would read it and feel, you know, criticized or like not painted in the perfect light that they always might want to be seen in. And I’m just curious about how that was for you.
Bob: So Le let’s make clear in the blog, Bob doesn’t always come out looking great, right? So we spend a full chapter on Facebook, which is certainly one of the low points of not the low point of my tenure. So we didn’t shy away from things that are difficult for Bob. But I would say this, you know, with respect to the specialist in particular, you know, it’s always difficult to me and I think unfair to do revisionist history, right? So the specialists in their day before the advent of technology you know, a trading floor, especially as the floor broker was a very efficient way of conducting transactions. Right? So you had the centralized that now computers and communication technology evolved to the point where you could do a better job than the physical specialist to full broker. And I would say that I knew our transmission speeds were always faster than the fastest runner on the floor of any exchange.
Bob: Right, right. So you have people literally running to get an order and I can move electrons at the speed of life. I said that’s, you know, not really a fair fight. So the specialist, the floor did their job for their particular point in history. It was time for the electronics to come forward and you know, really improve upon the market. So that’s nothing personal. It’s just a fact of life that happened there. So your grandfather and your father played a very important role in their time. Right. And don’t forget, we, we didn’t have computers in our hands back then. We didn’t have a tight communications network. We had a telephone basically.
Peter: Wait. But yeah, no I’m not, I’m not really that worried about my father and my grandfather. But I am curious about when you, like when you wrote about the conversation with Jamie diamond and he’s cursing you on the phone. I’m sure Jamie doesn’t want to be seen as a guy who’s sitting on the phone cursing it at you like, but I dunno, did you check that with him beforehand? Did you talk to him about it? Not, I did not, but I would take it this way.
Bob: Jamie diamond was a passionate advocate for their position. Right. A hard stop. And I was a passionate advocate for our position, so I had no no professional issue or personal issue with with, with Jamie’s feelings on that. So, you know, that’s kind of our life life goes right. And so, you know, JP Morgan’s a great custom NASDAQ. We use her investment banking services for many years in addition to being a customer on the market side there. But, you know, with respect to central clearing, we had different points of view. Right.
Peter: What was your hardest that you made over the time that you were there?
Bob: Well I think the hardest decision you make is when you have to let people go where they’re innocent victims, right? So to the extent that somebody is not doing their job right, the way it needs to be done, that’s easy, right? To the extent that you’re putting two companies together, right. And there’s two people doing the same job and both of them are very competent at the job and you just have to choose one. That to me was always the, the, the, the hardest decision to to me. Right.
Peter: So you were at NASDAQ 13 years.
Bob: What was your high point? Yeah, well, I think that the high point was somewhat in the, in the leaving in that I felt so proud of the management team, right. That, you know, I felt, you know, some paternal filming for it. So we’ve talked about, you know, the fact that 80% of the people he groomed, you know, I’d worked with the Dean of Friedman, my successor for 12 years and she had been intimately involved with the finalization, the team. So that, you know, I always said that was my final grade, how that team was going to do led by Dana some meal. I’m quite proud about that. So I think the beginning and the end, you know, at the beginning was clearly unique. I didn’t I was capable of making many mistakes which could have you know, basically represented an existential threat to the company. I certainly made some mistakes, but not so many that we didn’t, you know, be able to get to a broker
Peter: In some ways at the beginning. I wonder whether there was something a little bit easier than in the middle because yes, you could have made decisions that were an existential threat, but the thing was already on the ground dying. And so like maybe it would have continued, I don’t know that that would have been your fault. So there’s like, I’m wondering if you had more of an excitement and freedom to take risks than maybe you did later on when it started to breathe more life.
Bob: Yeah. I don’t know, but I, I hear the logic you’re saying, but that certainly wasn’t the block how it fell I had no, no, no. I owned it. You take the job, you own it. Right. So can you, it imploded. In my first week I might point fingers, but by the third week I owned it. Right. yeah. At that point. Anything you regret or wish you had done differently? Well, obviously Facebook, we wish we had done better and I certainly regret that. Can you tell us
Peter: Very, very quickly what for people who haven’t read the book what, what Facebook, you know, what you’re talking about with Facebook?
Bob: Well, the, the IPO day of Facebook was in, you know, basically unmitigated disaster, which we were primarily responsible for. And what happened to try to answer the question quickly, I recognize that the blame was primarily me, right? So it was primarily because I had established a culture where the technology people had too much of a free reign and the technology people developed this IPO software to be perfect and to be the enemy of the good, unique set of circumstances with Facebook. You could have the code could have run for another thousand years and never uncovered this weakness and it, but Facebook was unique and coming out of it, I realized that I had established the culture and the business unit that ran the business didn’t have any real power to stand up to the technologists. So I had to really change the culture in some dramatic ways.
Bob: And a classical CEO move when you have a problem like this is to fire everybody associated with it. So counted. And you know, it makes you feel good, but you know, in this situation that would have been the wrong, the easy but wrong thing. To do. I had to rebuild the organization and what happened? The technology people who are accustomed to be basically Lord of the Manor eventually, and it wasn’t too long, they quit. Right? Cause they wanted to go back to a situation where as less, less structured there and these are great people and if I had to do a startup business, they were the right people to do it. But NASDAQ was not that kind of environment nor was the market demanding it. So that was a difficult time because also obviously got a lot of general publicity outside of the business world and we felt, you know, responsible
Peter: And arguably look what you talked about in terms of the transition or the turning point that that was that oftentimes, you know, this, this statement, what got you here won’t get you there, that you needed to do the tech, the technology people needed to roll the reus for awhile in order to overhaul your technology. And at a certain point that probably never would have ended had there not been some kind of a disaster that says, okay, we got to make a shift here. Because otherwise, you know, it would, it might sort of draw away from your success, but never actually be big enough that it would force you to make a transition.
Bob: Well, that is incredibly insightful, so I knew, you know in 2003 I changed, you know, we would come out with a software release once a year and that software would be Bulletproof, so we had to look like our competitors who are coming out with software every week or month or day or something like that. So we went more to that side and that was the right decision. At that point we would have been out of business if we didn’t do that. Every day was a new day, but then the market had matured and we didn’t mature back, so I knew there were some of the software engineers from 2003 who no longer with us were saying, Hey Bob, I knew this was going to happen. You were wrong to change the culture, but I was right then but wrong that they kind of go full circle there and Facebook forced us to then recognize that we had to act more, more and more like a battleship as the market matured as opposed to a little PT boat.
Bob: Bob, what’s next for you? Well, right now I’m chairman of [inaudible], which is a technology trading firms on the other side, dealing with exchanges and complaining about how much they charge for market data. But you know, when I came out of and that wasn’t really directly in the plan, but it’s a great a great situation for me. And the founder is my longterm friend you know, many by Ellis. And so between Vinnie and Doug, we have a great professional and personal relationship. But I came out of NASDAQ, again, wanting to give back to my entrepreneurial roots, some more involved with FinTech companies, not really some startup at pretty much smaller companies where I invest personal money, I serve on the board, and we can really make a difference over time. That’s the, the most fun for me.
Peter: One thing that comes up for you that you wanna leave our listeners with.
Bob: Well, I would say this what I remember reading a business book on bill Gates early days, and he said, I’ve never succeeded in anything I haven’t tried to the first time. Right. So in terms of like what’s a guiding principle? I said, okay, bill Gates is saying that, you know, that’s good advice for me. So I, I think I have been successful by not expecting to be instantaneously, you know achieving what I want to. But by staying with it, I always believe great execution will be great strategy every day of the week. So you just execute, come to work every day. And then related to that, and I’ll, I’ll wrap up, is people always ask me, how do you get to where you are, Bob? How can you be as successful? And I said, wait, hold on a second. The first thing is I never had a career plan.
Bob: Right. What I did know though, is I wanted to do things that I really had passion for. And if you have passion for it, you’ll do it well. And then other opportunities present themselves. And I hate the concept of people trying to manage a career path where they’re, have a step on a ladder where they’re going to tie up a year or two of their precious life, you know, to do that right. You should not do that. You need to find things that you want to do. And it’s also important to recognize that when I say you have to have passion, that doesn’t mean at seven o’clock on a Monday morning you’re saying thank God the weekend’s over. Right? Because you know we all have ups and downs as human beings, but it means that by and large you’re very engaged. You had great satisfaction, great passion for what you’re doing.
Peter: You know, you remind me of one of the, one of my favorite quotes, I was just in London and I went to the Churchill war rooms, which is definitely worth going to if you’re London. Yeah, and, and there was this one quote that I remember from that that I really love, which is his quote, which is success is stumbling from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm or with no loss of enthusiasm, stumbling, stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. We’ve been talking with Bob Greifeld. His book is market mover lessons from a decade of change at NASDAQ. A Bob, fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for being on the Bregman leadership podcast.
Bob: I appreciate it. Keep up the great work.