Addteq: Lessons From a Leader

Addteq Helps Define NJ Tech Turnaround, Achieving Stunning Growth, Enterprise Recognition from Atlassian, New Products Lines, and New Offices.

2014 has been an interesting year for the US economy. While the lasting damage caused by the 2009 crises is ever further in the past, many still struggle to move forward. A newly formed air of stability is comforting, though not terribly exciting. However, from Fargo, ND to New Brunswick, NJ, one hears the persistent rumors of economic miracles all over the country. Where are these success stories, and what makes them work? Addteq, founded in Edison in 2006 just prior to the financial crises and headquartered in Princeton as of 2012, is a case study in how to do things right. Showing strong growth in financials and hiring, Addteq is a great example of a few things NJ can do to help grow its economy.

Lesson #1 – Pick an Enablement Industry

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, things are changing faster than ever right now. Between drones, 3D printing, wireless, and data driven marketing, contemporary wisdom suggests that the industries of tomorrow are still forming. Although structure is rather better defined than the past, say 2004, it is obvious that there is much innovation, disruption, and development of tomorrow’s economy that must take place prior to anyone’s ability to call the winners or losers of 2030 and beyond.

What IS clear is that providing the types of highly developed resources these future industries will need is going to be very lucrative. Delivering infrastructure, platforms, and the human or machine based automation to run them is what is going to make tomorrow’s economy tick. From physical supply chains of rare earth metals to the creation of highly educated workers, the enterprises that flourish will be the ones that deliver specialized industrial and commercial materials – even human resource or digital materials.

Addteq specializes in Software Configuration Management, Automation, Continuous Integration, and Atlassian tools. This means that Addteq spends its days writing software to assist other people who write software. Regardless of the vertical, digital disruptors and future technology titans are going to need support getting there. While it is difficult to spot the next Google, Goldman Sachs, or General Electric, becoming an important supplier to all of them secures Addteq’s future. Rather than attempting to predict winners and losers in technology and then betting accordingly, savvy companies position themselves to be at the center of the supply chains that underpin innovation in industrial, commercial, economic, and financial activities.

Lesson #2 – Community is King

If you believe 80’s movies, competition used to be between archetypal nerds and jocks. One group was smart and hard working, the other group was strong and popular, and everyone knew where they stood. Nowadays, as competition has grown even more fierce, commercial communities that coalesce around specific verticals have delivered community leaders that combine aspects of both the old archetypes – smart, educated, stylish, and downright cool people who drop the latest knowledge on data structures over $15 cocktails.

These new community leaders merge the two old ‘-ocracy’s’, the meritocracy of the engineer and democracy of the popular crowd. By employing a network of social capital in which events, parties, and loyalty control access to business but assigning that social capital based on who brings the best knowledge and skills to the table, product leaders/ evangelists represent the next generation of business thought leadership.

Addteq’s growth has been centered on this new combination model that delivers expertise via social relationships. Much of the company’s hiring is done by visiting local competitions and meetups for aspiring computer programmers and grabbing the talent that shows the perfect blend of intellect and willingness to learn. Addteq is able to cultivate relationships with future star developers before they command 3 figure hourly rates, influence their growth to reinforce their own technical practices in the market, and make connections with others in the tech community. Participating in users’ groups around the country, sponsoring public events, even creating purely entertainment oriented parties is the new business leadership. Addteq’s pursuit of this policy is paying off. This past year alone, the company grew 25%, and is on target to grow another 28% during 2015. Many engagements come from the chance encounters that happen at events sitting at the intersection of business and entertainment.

By noting the difference between thought leadership, community leadership, and technical leadership, and defining itself as a community leader in its field, Addteq is able to ensure it has access to information before competitors, and in fact, is able to define future market trends itself.

Lesson #3 – Find Partners

In today’s economy, having partners can mean the difference between staying in the game and losing. Having good partners means the difference between staying in the game and winning. Addteq’s tremendous growth has been supported by its strong partner network. In addition to its Atlassian services, Addteq offers super custom software development environments. This means packaging and integrating idiosyncratic components for highly educated customers.

Since these partners support their domains exclusively, both for Addteq and for other clients they bring superior knowledge to the table, carrying Adam Smith’s division of labor into the digital age. As Addteq delivers superior offerings to its customers by leveraging and integrating the capabilities of its partner network, likewise, it profits financially by monetizing its relationships through service delivery.

In other words, the line between client and consultant is blurring. Increasingly, companies that succeed are those that recognize that trading value across any channel is a great way to optimize practices. Relationships grow and change. Sometimes partners are giving currency and receiving services and sometimes they are giving services and receiving currency, but they are always looking for ways to integrate to find efficiencies.

Lesson #4 – Don’t be Codependent

Things are changing faster than ever. Partnerships are great, but companies should be careful not to become overly dependent on one particular relationship. Additionally, when partnerships aren’t working out, speak up.

One partner wanted Addteq to purchase more licenses for a product Addteq almost never used. Through a series of high pressure tactics, the company tried to suggest that if Addteq did not purchase more licenses, the company would get pushy, even legalistic. Luckily for Addteq, the solution was simply to uninstall the offending software from all of its environments, and replace it with other tools. If Addteq had not taken the time to develop a diverse set of partners that could offer solutions to fill the gap, negotiations might have gone very differently. Likewise, if Addteq had been acted out of fear, it would have been stuck with an inferior product, an unscrupulous vendor, and ultimately, lower value for its customers.

Sometimes the right thing to do is move on from relationships that aren’t working. This is less to do with principle than business savvy. Leaving bad partners behind isn’t about proving how much better your company is. Instead, it’s about paying the cost of moving on from a bad relationship as soon as possible in order to define what capabilities and supply streams need to be replaced. If your company tries to lessen the negative impact of a partner’s poor performance by continuing to do business with that partner, that fear will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Lesson #5 – Work Hard, Stay Relaxed, Don’t Pay Opportunity Costs

A key characteristic of the modern business climate is information overload. As IT increases humanity’s ability to and proclivity for creating data, this trend will only increase. While it is both appropriate and necessary to respond by working hard to stay on top of the latest trends, it is more important than ever to stay balanced. Try to get all the info, but don’t worry about decision making. Avoid making decisions until you must absolutely pick an answer.

The more time an issue is allowed to ruminate in thought, the more likely that will be the beneficiary of insight. Furthermore, human creativity and insight work best when situations are approached from a centered perspective. Regardless of how important a decision is, its result won’t benefit from a manic or strained approach. Using data to generate metrics to inform process is one thing, getting bogged down in the management of that data is something else entirely.

By choosing what to focus on, and what to let go, businesses chart their course through the economic waves that pervade the market. When determining focus, think carefully about what consequence you are trying to avoid by pursuing a particular result, or what goal you are chasing. Next, think about the literal state of your world if those fears manifest or dreams come true. What does it mean for your company, and can your goals be better achieved by letting go? Most importantly, could you do a better job by letting go and pursuing other interests?

Addteq is buffeted on a regular basis by all sorts of information. New marketing campaigns that partners want to execute, invitations to speak at trade shows, and new business opportunities all vie for attention. Detailing whether each poses a benefit for business is easy. However, determining which is best for business is tough. Companies that get lost in the analysis risk paying more in information processing than they gain by selecting the ‘best’ option for any given time period. Successful organizations create rationals for behavioral choices based on strategic interests. For Addteq, areas of strategic focus are: Automation, Community Leadership, Growth/ Scale, and Innovation. Opportunities are evaluated according to those themes, decisions are made, and resources are committed. Barring serious red flags, lessons are learned on a post hoc basis, saving energy for execution.

Review and Future
Currently, New Jersey has many assets it can leverage towards tech leadership. There are more scientists and engineers per square mile in New Jersey than any other place in the world. Our highly educated workforce, diverse population, role at the center of the Boston-NYC-Philly-Washington Mega-region, and well developed state government all mean that NJ can be a leader in tech. In order for the to do so, individual companies will all have to subscribe to the lessons above, and then let the State’s fundamental strengths do their work. Be confident, work hard, get connected, avoid enmeshment, and your business can share Addteq’s 25% annual growth.

In summary, being successful in today’s changing, technology based economy is about thinking strategically, occupying a central role in a community, working with partners, avoiding entanglements, and becoming indispensable to others trying to get their work done. Focus on clarity of mission, company philosophy, and understanding the greater business environment won’t automatically make you a leader, but it would be a tough wager to find leaders not getting at least a few on the list accomplished.

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