Adam Miller is the founder & CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand. He started Cornerstone in 1999 in his one-bedroom apartment to help people realize their professional potential. Under his leadership, Cornerstone has grown to over $500 million in revenue and is one of the largest cloud computing companies in the world.
Insights and key takeaways from Adam Miller
Perspective is essential with challenging sales cycles and near-death experiences: “We were very bad at sales back then. We had lined up this great pipeline of potential clients in August of 2001, all northeast financial service firms. While we had very little capital, we had raised no money, and we really needed these sales to keep the business operation,” remembered Adam Miller. “Then, September 11th happened. I was told by the management team, by every advisor, by every investor, ‘Adam, you have to cut the business. Cut the staff down to the minimum number of people.’ We had very few people to begin with. Cutting the staff down would mean we wouldn’t be able to deliver to a client. So, on September 15th, 2001, we started hiring more people. We ended up closing three deals. Those accounts ended up being the capital for the business, and we grew the company from there.”
Culture change is inevitable: “One year we were going to go from 45 to 51, and then from 51 to 150. So, we’re going to triple the size of the company. What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s never about the absolute number of people. It’s always about the relative number of people,” said Adam. “Are you adding 10% more people, 50% more people, 100% more people? The higher the percentage, the more of an impact that influx is going to have on the culture of the business. And if you don’t do it by design, you’re going to end up with a culture you don’t want.”
As the business scales, there are always new skills you need to welcome: “At Cornerstone onDemand, we try to do a 50-50 hire from outside and promote from within. It’s important to advance those who have invested in the company as well as bring in fresh perspectives at each new stage,” said Adam.
The stock market demands precision in your business forecasts and revenue: “If you’re thinking about going public, every quarter, write on a Post-it what number you think you’re going to have at the end of the quarter and put it in a drawer. You should do it, your CFO should do it. After you get it right three quarters in a row, you’re ready to go public,” said Adam. “It’s much harder than people think.”
Entrepreneurs need passion, persistence, perseverance, and persuasion: “I like to say that good entrepreneurs need to have the three Ps,” said Adam. “They need to have passion, they need to have persistence, and they need to have perseverance, and I’ll even throw in a fourth one. They need to be persuasive because you got to persuade employees, investors, clients, partners, all the time.”