Today, we chat with Marco Gottini, a Berkeley Columbia Executive MBA class of 2011. He is an IT executive with more than years of international experience in IT strategy, IT operations, and management consulting. He is currently a Managing Partner at Bizal, portmanteau for Business (Biz) Alignment. He is also a board member of the Berkeley Haas Los Angeles chapter.
In this episode, Marco shares his younger years growing up in an Italian family who owns a winery, packing his belongings and moving to LA, his career in the IT industry, and deciding to go to business school as a challenge.
He also narrates starting Bizal, explains what business alignment is all about, and the importance of having a business framework and clear business goals.
On alumni engagement – “It was just so amazing to see happy people having great experiences. So, it wasn’t just about the school. It wasn’t just about allegiance. It was about having a good time with people that are technically your family.”
On having clear business goals – “When you know where you’re going, you can figure it out better, and you can put KPIs in place that are significant and meaningful.”
The importance of human factor in technology and business – “People forget about people more than anybody else. They think that technology solves everything. There are phenomenal technologies out there. And then where everything fails most of the time is people using them. People not following the rules, people doing other things, people breaking what technology was. So, you also have to consider the human factor. It’s absolutely important. It’s probably the most important enabler out of all of that in a company.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today we’re joined by Marco Gottini. He’s a Berkeley Columbia Executive MBA class of 2011 alumni. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:24] Marco Gottini: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:26] Sean: Yeah, Marco, how do we meet? We met at an alumni chapter event, right?
[00:00:32] Marco Gottini: Yeah. It was a leadership event. You have to promote yourself saying that you’re a leader because you’re not just volunteering. You are leading Haas alumni into this new year. Hopefully, it is going to be nice and brighter and getting out of this crazy situation.
[00:00:50] But the interesting part is everybody is working together to find a way to stay engaged. And that was the whole point of getting together with the leaders, from all the Haas chapters in California and some other parts of the counties that were somebody from Boston. Even if it was late at night, it was great to see so much engagement. So, pardon for my wordiness, but it was so awesome.
[00:01:15] Sean: No, actually, I want to talk more about that. You’re a leader in the Los Angeles chapter, correct?
[00:01:20] Marco Gottini: That’s correct.
[00:01:21] Sean: We just want to hear kind of what does that involve because I’m sure there are a lot of alumni that, one, are not engaged or as engaged as they could be and, two, just some thoughts on how we can really activate more of our alumni.
[00:01:37] Marco Gottini: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve been engaged with the board of the LA chapter for the past three years. They actually call me once because they want to do an event at my family winery in Los Angeles and I helped them organize that. And then I got sucked in. I helped my friend, Chris, organize a fun lawn bowling event in Hermosa Beach where I live and it was just fun. It was just so amazing to see happy people having great experiences. So, it wasn’t just about the school. It wasn’t just about allegiance. It was about having a good time with people that are technically your family. And when I got engaged, it was let’s find a way to have people be engaged with our alumni and not just show up at an event because they want to support the chapter or show up at an event because I haven’t really been involved.
[00:02:38] So, I just want to go and do something or just donate some money. Actually, show up and have fun and then enjoy the experience, because some of the events are a lot of fun. I mean, you go to a winery and you actually have somebody who is part of that family, even if not involved in the business, but it gives you a much better experience.
[00:03:00] He can give you backstories that you will never hear about. You can get some special treatment during the event. And that’s something that is special. We did a brewery event that was so much fun.
[00:03:13] We got special stories. So, what we’re trying to do now, it’s to get new blood into the chapter because you need more energy. You need people from different generations bringing different perspectives. People need different things. But LA is such a difficult place to get together because of traffic because it’s so big.
[00:03:36] Sean: Pre-COVID.
[00:03:36] Marco Gottini: Exactly. Let’s leave COVID this for a second. It’s not easy. You organize an event and people who are nearby show up, unless it’s on a weekend and it’s something special maybe at the museum or maybe a sport event, it’s really hard to get people out.
[00:03:52] So, what we’re trying to do is exactly trying to differentiate events, bring different people with different backgrounds who lived in different areas into the board, and be champion of new events that bring new ideas. The more we keep people engaged, the more everybody’s having fun. And that’s the whole thing you don’t want to see, always the same people. What we want to do is just bring the spirit of engagement and happiness and help each other.
[00:04:24] Sean: I really like that mindset that you share because very often when we think about alumni or engaging with alumni, it’s in a professional capacity or it’s a business capacity, right? There’s some motive behind it. I need to broaden my business network versus just thinking you’re absolutely right.
[00:04:41] This is our family. And we should just be having fun together. And I think starting at that point of building a relationship is a much more meaningful starting place as well. If you want to talk business and you’re Italian. I mean, in Chinese culture, similarly, it’s all about building that relationship first, before we start talking about business.
[00:05:04] Marco Gottini: I mean, you know, besides the cultural diversity part, is also how you approach the welcome reception for the new Haasies, for the new admits of this year. It wasn’t just about, let’s talk about career, let’s talk about the industry, it’s okay, you might be new to LA or you might be that you’re coming back to LA because of COVID.
[00:05:27] And before you were there, it was more like, how can we help you at the human level? If you need to get in touch with somebody in LA who can help you with life matters, not necessarily academics, not necessarily career, but life, normal life. So, sometimes people forget about that element that you can reach out to alumni for personal problems. They might help you with something that is happening in life, not just professionally.
[00:05:59] Sean: Let’s, you know, we’ve heard a little bit about, you mentioned your family winery here in LA. Let’s hear about your background, where you’re from, where you grew up.
[00:06:25] Marco Gottini: My hometown is Bergamo. Not many people know about it. It’s a small town. I have a foothill of the Italian Alps, so yeah, that’s technically fifty kilometers away from Milan, but nobody really ever heard about it unless you’re flying Ryanair from London to Milan, in that case, you actually land in my hometown. But I grew up on a vineyard, or better, I split time. Like I was studying in the city and living in the city with my parents, but I would spend every weekend and all my summer vacation in my grandparents’ vineyard. And it was just fun. It’s a farm-y type of situation, but it was just great. The wine was good.
[00:07:09] First time I tried wine, I think I was two, by mistake, I grab a glass of wine and I drank it and apparently, I liked it. And, it all started from there. But it was just a magical time for a kid to be able to have the open mind of a city and being in touch with many different people and seeing the latest technology and the latest in society, but also spend some time away from the craziness.
[00:07:39] And, just playing in a vineyard and then trying to help the family. And, sometimes, play with animals, the b escapes from the barn and that chase you and your grandfather hits the bull in the middle of a head so it doesn’t kill you. A lot of fun, a lot of fun stories.
[00:07:56] It definitely affected me as a human being because I always have with me that spirit of happiness that comes from my childhood and that’s my pursuit of happiness. I know I sound like Harold & Kumar if you will, but it’s really, you try to find happiness in everything.
[00:08:14] And if I am the find your happy place, and when I moved to LA, I decided to live by the beach because it makes me happy. I love to play beach volleyball. And this is my happiest part. And yeah, my American side of the family actually owns the San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles.
[00:08:34] My great grandfather came over around 1910 with two brothers and one of the brothers, my great-granduncle Santo Cambianica founded the winery in 1917.
[00:08:44] Sean: Wow.
[00:08:45] Marco Gottini: And it has been there in that very same block since then. It’s more than a hundred-year-old, is one of the oldest things you find in Los Angeles.
[00:08:56] And it’s actually an interesting story. I mean, when people come to visit, I love to take them around and tell them the story, especially when prohibition put every winery out of business or pretty much every distillery out of business. And my uncle stayed in business because he got a special exemption from the Catholic church to make sacramental wine. And he was able to stay in business. Everybody else had to move on with their lives. So, after 10 years of probation, he was the only one in business. The only one making wine. And since then has been pretty much the only one in the downtown Los Angeles area. So, it’s interesting to see how family circles back in my life anywhere I go.
[00:09:42] Sean: I’m really curious. We talked a little bit before this call. And you mentioned that you had picked the Berkeley Columbia Executive MBA program because of the fact that Berkeley is very popular in Asia, right? The name is very well known in Asia. Whereas the Columbia name is very well-known in Europe because of its proximity to Europe, but it makes me wonder how did you pick to come to Los Angeles all the way from Milan.
[00:10:15] Marco Gottini: Pretty much after high school I moved to a big city and I went to Polytechnic in Milano. it’s pretty much like Italian MIT. So, it was an interesting experience and the commuting every day, because you don’t really live on campus, really party like in that crazy animal like you do over here. You just go and study. You get up early in the morning, get on a train at six or six-thirty in the morning, go to school for twelve hours. And then you spend the rest of the time doing your homework and preparing for exams. And you do that for five years. Because at that time there was no concept of bachelor degrees.
[00:10:56] You would go and get a Master or walk out with nothing in your hands. And it’s definitely a different, a different thing. And people who were pushing were pretty much just doing that 24/7. The average age for people to complete their courses, so, just exams, not counting with thesis, was 28.
[00:11:23] And I said there is no way I’m going to stay and study for almost 10 years. I get even the value of an MIT degree, but still, it’s not gonna work. So, I push it as much as I could. And I actually graduated finishing my one-year thesis at 24. So, I push up to that and said, now I’m out for good.
[00:11:46] Sean: What did you study there?
[00:11:48] Marco Gottini: I studied electrical engineering and specifically telecommunications security. So, interesting stuff.
[00:11:56] Sean: And then, so you worked in Italy pretty much all the way until you started the program. It looks like.
[00:12:03] Marco Gottini: From 2001 to the beginning of 2008 I worked in Italy and around Europe. And then I moved to the States. I just, my plan was actually different, Sean. I wanted to go to the UK. That was my plan.
[00:12:19] And, I was working for actually an American consulting company in Milan. And we got acquired by BT British Telco. So, I said, okay, if I go to London, working for BT, I’m pretty much going to work in a post office and just be a bar code, be a no one. I don’t want to do that.
[00:12:37] Sean: Yeah.
[00:12:37] Marco Gottini: So, I spoke with some people in the company. And, I said, well, you know, I love LA. I visited my family. I have two branches of a family there, so I would love to go there.
[00:12:48] Actually people were very helpful and took everything seriously. So, we started working on things. I was in Las Vegas, I think it was July 2007. I was speaking at a security conference and I guess they liked me and they were impressed. And we had a serious conversation about relocating.
[00:13:08] And that was pretty much what I did. I moved on the 6th of January, 2008. And I was lucky enough to have an early flight because that day there was actually a major earthquake in Italy and they shut down a lot of airports. It feels like being back in the 1800s like probably immigrants at that time brought more stuff.
[00:13:29] Sean: Well, you really knew how to pick your places. You pick from one earthquake zone to another earthquake zone.
[00:13:37] Marco Gottini: Yeah, and I like a little rattling.
[00:13:39] Sean: So, tell us more about your work; what do you do?
[00:13:44] Marco Gottini: So, as I said, started with an internship in a consulting firm and I was doing my security research, developing some fun stuff, some gateways to make security systems communicate. So, very nerdy stuff at the beginning.
[00:13:58] And I like to be completely honest. It was a lot of fun, was doing a lot of the security work, and little by little, I transition more into a consultative role.
[00:14:09] So not just looking at the tech side, also looking at the business side, looking at managing projects. And when I decided to work for a more international company and started working for INS that was based in Santa Clara, California, we were like a hundred people in Europe, so just a small team.
[00:14:28] And we were working together a lot, getting together a lot. I was all over a place in ____. I’m not just in Europe, actually. I had some crazy project in the Middle East and I was like, one day they call me in the office and say, Oh yeah, tomorrow you have to go to Bahrain. Excuse me? Yeah. You have to go to Bahrain and we got this project and we need you to go down there.
[00:14:50] And I said, okay, what about the other project I’m working on? Can you send somebody else? And then you have to go and take care of that. It was some crazy political situation. So, they needed my Italian schmoozing capabilities, I guess. But it was a, yeah, one of those crazy stories. Got tossed into the crazy environment. And, there’s when I realized, I dunno, I’m personable and people like me.
[00:15:18] And, it was fun. Actually, people were like very old style of the beginning and they had some crazy friction with our partners over there. And, I just stayed there, invited people out for lunch, for dinner, and just show that I was a human being, not just a professional. And at the end of the project, they actually invited me as a special guest to the Formula One circuit in Bahrain that normally is closed to the public. They actually took me there and gave me a tour. So, it was absolutely awesome. And when I went back on that, I said, Oh, my God, this is awesome. The world is such a big place.
[00:15:57] And then they put me to manage global programs for BT. And for some reason they think the accent helps, being less threatening when you’re working with other people, especially when you’re working with somebody around the ward who might have a language barrier. And, they said, no, you’re perfect for that stuff. I got kind of stuck in that role for a little bit.
[00:16:18] And I decided to go to business school as a sort of challenge because I was just too comfortable in that position. And, that’s when I decided to go to business school, study for my GMAT, with a couple of my cousins here.
[00:16:33] And I have a few options. I was debating between UCLA Anderson and Berkeley Columbia. And then I decided, I’m going to go for Berkeley Columbia because I can really span the Columbia degree in Europe. And span the Berkeley degree on the West coast and the Asia Pacific. And that was the beginning. I flew up for a couple of meetings and I just loved it.
[00:16:57] After a while, I just needed to change so I switched to another company, an ex-coworker that moved there was building a new team. So, he called me over and helped him out for a year and a half.
[00:17:10] And then I said, I need a break from the corporate world. I have this idea of integrating more traditional strategy and management consulting, methodologies, with something different, with something that makes things more agile and more flexible. And being blessed enough that my entrepreneurship professor at Berkeley was Steve Blank and that I was able to go through a Lean Launchpad, that was the only year that Steve Blank taught the Lean Launchpad at Haas.
[00:17:42] I mean that changed the way I look at every single business problem and looking at the overall business model, looking at the real big picture. Every single time I look at a business problem. So, I said I need to do something to integrate this into my day to day methodology. And so, putting all the pieces together and coming up with something that is way more comprehensive and way more flexible than a step-by-step approach that many consulting companies use.
[00:18:15] And usually they go by the script, they just try to reuse the same things over and over, and I wanted something that was flexible enough to be applied to any company from startups to established businesses. And that’s when I came up with the idea for Bizal. It is my company.
[00:18:35] It’s a boutique management consulting company and it stands for business alignment and it’s pretty much like aligning all of the components of a business. And the two main areas are business strategy and IT strategy. That’s pretty much the focus. I speak about aligning and optimizing business, as much as I can.
[00:18:54] I was a speaker at the Cal State LA last week, for professor Mark. Last year, interesting enough, they call me, Cal State Fullerton for international business to speak about diversity and cultural difference, and inclusion. So, I guess that the diversity part of me comes out, no matter what. Probably is the accent, it doesn’t go away.
[00:19:17] But it’s what I love to do to be completely honest. It’s to solve problems. And I call myself a technology anthropologist. I like to observe real-life problems, observe people, serve companies, and see what’s going on, understand their needs, and then use technology to solve those problems.
[00:19:37] So, I never think of technology first. First is always a business problem. So, that’s a real passion and what I love to do. And it’s trying to find ways to do things in a better way.
[00:19:51] So, if you are non-methodical, you are wasting a lot of effort. So, you want to go for trial and error, that’s totally fine. I mean, that’s part of the agile approach, right? You have a hypothesis, you test it, and you decide if that is working, if it’s not, but you do need a framework. You need a baseline. So, you can test against that. If you don’t have that, you’re just shooting arrows here and there with no real targets.
[00:20:34] Sean: I guess there’s a million ways to say this, but what gets measured gets managed, what gets measured gets done. And let’s dig into that a little bit if you don’t mind, because I’m just really curious. What are some major frameworks that you advise on?
[00:20:51] Marco Gottini: I put together my own, to be honest, and because I love to take one view of a company and have my framework in mind, what I always recommend to do is to find a framework that works for the state of mind of a founder. Everybody thinks differently. I’m very framework oriented.
[00:21:15] So, if I speak with somebody, I am just going to pretty much create a framework in my mind and put all the information into that framework. But some people are not that organized. Some people are a little more creative, so they need something that works for them.
[00:21:31] But what I always tell people is, start with the basics, and to me, the business model canvas is the way to look at a business, in a very holistic way.
[00:21:43] It’s not comprehensive for everything, but the gives you a very good idea of what the big picture is. It helps you understand that there is more than just a sexy marketing side of an idea and of a business venture. There is more there is the operational side. You have to figure out how to monetize. What’s the revenue stream, but also what’s your cost basis.
[00:22:08] So, there are so many different things that come together. So, having a framework that works for you is really important. So, start with the basics. When you’re looking at strategy, it’s not that you are going to forget about the three Cs, the four P’s, Porter’s Five Forces. You still use that because you’re going to attach all those elements. Otherwise, you’re not going to be comprehensive. But if you bring it into something that works for you, that works for your mental approach to problems, that’s the most important thing.
Some people that are more on the product side might actually like the product management canvas that is derived from the business model canvas, but it’s a little more specific about the interaction between the different components of the other business model.
[00:23:16] So, instead of only focusing on, let’s say customer segment, the value proposition of interaction with the customer, how you’re selling, it’s actually the interconnections between all these elements and it’s interesting. Professor Sarah Beckman actually, I think, came up with the idea and it’s fascinating. But there are also people that are working more on specific stages of a company and that they’re working maybe just on the growth side, which is always exciting, but it’s also very chaotic and confusing sometimes. So, a growth hacking canvas. Very interesting, offer products. The hook model is fascinating. So, there are so many things that you can put in place.
[00:24:03] So, you just have to find something that worked for you to create, as I said, that baseline. So, you can move forward from one state to another knowing what you’re doing and not just coming up with random products. Another thing that I always love to talk about is the alignment between simple things like, okay, you have a business model, you know what you’re doing?
[00:24:27] You have maybe a business strategy, this is what we have. This is our idea. This is how we’re structured, these are our goals, and this is the way to reach those goals. This is what we are going to do to get there. Clearly, it needs to be aligned with a business model. You cannot have a strategy that is completely misaligned or completely disconnected. It just like shooting for the moon but you’re driving a car instead of a rocket. It doesn’t make any sense, but then there is another element which is actually the product strategy and the product mix and product-market fit. Some, especially with smaller companies or with companies that are expanding their product line or trying to grow too fast, they’re coming up with ideas that might be a good idea per se. I may be absolutely the wrong product for that company. I helped some startups that were starting with five products and it’s like, why are we starting with five products?
[00:25:28] It doesn’t make any sense. You want to have a core product and maybe it’s a little complex, so it may be a combination of three different elements that you might want to call the product. But then you have this ancillary one and then you have this accessory one that is on the side and you’re just wasting so much time and so much effort doing other things that are not core.
[00:25:51] The interesting part is, sometimes these products are actually cannibalizing other products. Cannibalization is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re trying to innovate. If you think that a product is getting old and that you’re getting attacked by competition, you want to actually cannibalize that product that is going to be under attack and innovate and eat it yourself before somebody eats it. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, that’s a thing, but you don’t want to do it early on when you haven’t launched that product yet. So, it doesn’t make much sense. Or when you are creating a product that puts so much pressure on the operational side. You have limited resources, especially when you are a startup when you’re a small business.
[00:26:36] And, if you consume too many resources on an additional product that is not driving revenue in the right way, you’re just wasting opportunities because you might just want to grow the products that are actually driving margin instead of driving other products. There are products that are not supposed to be monetized. There are products that are just enabler. You might attach them to some other products or you might just leave them for free maybe to create network effects. So, you really have to consider all these elements and this alignment of three things, business model, business strategy, and product strategy is absolutely fundamental.
[00:27:16] So, drawing three circles and put them in alignment as a mental state, as a mental framework, is very useful. And then you have a complexity of running a company with all the enablers and with enablers, I mean, you know, I love technology, so I always start with technology, but there is also a process.
[00:27:52] There is also talent. There is also organizational structure and even the same way you can look at all the different functions. You can look at sales, you can look at marketing. You can look at finance and everything needs to be in alignment with your model, with your strategy, and with your product.
[00:28:11] So, just that simple framework to tell people how they should look at the big picture, how they should look at things, and don’t forget about pieces here and there. And I get it when you are so busy with an idea when you’re launching a company or when you are a small business and everybody is working 15 hours a day, 16 hours a day, their head is down crunching and looking at the day to day and dealing with craziness sometimes, It’s easy to forget about that, but you need to remember that. That’s why it’s so important to have a framework or have somebody who reminds you that you need to look and then realign things, because when you start having that disconnect, the trajectory starts going, going far away very quickly. And, it’s hard to bring it back.
[00:29:03] Sean: I have a couple of questions around this. So, you know, you talk a lot about alignment, right? Do you often see startups or companies having more than one goal and how to prioritize your goals?
[00:29:18] Marco Gottini: That’s difficult for any company to have a clear goal in mind. Some companies have clear goals depending on who is the person you talked to. So, you have sometimes two founders are two partners in a business and you talk to the person and say, Oh, yeah, we want to grow the business, like two or three times in five years and say, Oh, wow, that’s very aggressive, but at least you know what you want.
[00:29:44] And then you talk to the other one and the other one says, I want to double the business in the next 12 months. I was like, okay, great, what’s your growth plan? What’s your strategy for that? I was like, ah, for that you might want to talk to my partner and say, yeah, I talked to your partner and the idea was completely different.
[00:30:01] So, it was kinda gone over here. So, it happens. It happens very often because playing with numbers is hard and easy at the same time, it’s hard because to come up with realistic numbers and numbers that make sense. So, you have to be realistic with metrics. It can be really hard to come down with something that actually makes sense, but it can be really easy to throw out the number right there.
[00:30:27] And sometimes you don’t know. So, the one lesson from Steve Blank is you want an idea that is gigantic and so much opportunity that at least at the beginning, you are not focusing on finances and creating financials and projections and spending hours every day, updating and updating.
[00:30:49] You actually want to work on the model. You want to go out of the building and talk to people and test ideas, test hypotheses, make your product better and better and better. And at some point, when you actually have a product, you actually start selling. At that point, you might have a better understanding of the numbers and the projections.
[00:31:08] So, many numbers of start-ups are completely based on assumptions and up in the air. They don’t make any sense. It’s okay, how do you validate these numbers? I love that you did your pro formas. And I love to do that usually late at night, because that’s my mind, it works that way. But how do you come up with the numbers?
[00:31:33] What are the assumptions? Okay. Have you tested the assumptions with the market and have you ever talked to some potential customer or is this just an idea?
[00:31:43] What are the metrics that you’re using to measure success and to align to the business goals? So, if you start in enablers, way up there, where, what are you aligned with absolutely nothing?
[00:31:56] So, you need something that is crisp. Can be right. Can be wrong. It can be just in the ballpark with a certain error. That’s fine, but at least it’s there. And then, okay, our technology investments are going to be this and need to drive these numbers that are aligned with our growth strategy.
[00:32:15] And the same is going to be for the hiring strategy. You’re going to need the top talent in these areas. We are gonna need, maybe just to cut costs in these areas and then maybe outsource offshore, but when you know where you’re going, you can figure it out better and you can put KPIs in place that are significant and that are meaningful. Let’s put it that way.
[00:32:39] Sean: That’s a really good advice because when we look at the business model canvas, at least when I advise entrepreneurs on the business model canvas, sometimes it becomes a little overwhelming because you realize, Oh, there’s so many shiny things, right?
[00:33:06] There’s this piece and this piece, but what I think you’re reminding everyone is that you need to look at this more holistically as well is like, just find a goal, pick a goal, and just start going at it versus being indecisive. And I think that’s where, at least from experience as an entrepreneur, you have the curse of choice, right?
[00:33:29] Marco Gottini: Absolutely. You are absolutely correct. And that’s the thing is, you can look at a business from many different angles but it’s like, some companies don’t even know what they want to be. So, how I actually started my framework and I don’t want to dissipate too many things, but it’s pretty simple. It’s like a pyramid and it starts at the very top with the vision.
[00:33:53] Sean: Yeah.
[00:33:54] Marco Gottini: And then the mission. And then you go down to the strategy and the goals and how you align things. It’s extremely simple.
[00:34:00] But the top of the pyramid of the vision and the mission and what are the company values? And what is really important to you as a business leader, needs to be crystal clear, and everybody should know about that. That is like the part that cannot be uncertain.
[00:34:24] It needs to be crystal clear. If you don’t know what’s your vision and what you’re aspiring to, and what’s your mission, people are going to be at a loss and say, Oh, we are getting a good product. What you’re trying to do is not creating a good product. What you’re trying to do is make the world a better place or revolutionize the way people grow food.
[00:34:48] You need to have that top of the pyramid. Absolutely, shiny, crystal clear. Otherwise, everything on there is going to fall apart.
[00:34:59] And that’s why it’s so important to establish that sooner than later and have that the culture, the company culture, figured out. It’s not like when you have a business idea and you’re trying to figure out what to do. If it’s viable, I mean, you need to get a little bit into the company, but when you’re shaping, envisioning the future, you need to think about those things.
[00:35:25] You need to think about the people that you want around you early on, because if you get the wrong founder, you’re going to get in trouble and how many startups blow up because they have the wrong people because at the beginning there is a great synergy between the co-founders and then they fall apart.
[00:35:46] So, it is crystal clear not just what you’re trying to achieve, what’s aspirational but also the moral, ethical dilemma that comes with that. That’s like who you want to be and how we want to go there. So, I made maybe I’m a little too philosophical.
[00:36:07] Sean: No, this is very true because I think co-founders don’t think about alignment early enough. Between their own values between the co-founders, right, between the teams. It’s just not something that’s top of mind when you’re in the honeymoon phase and everything’s exciting and shiny, but you’re absolutely right.
[00:36:29] Marco Gottini: Yeah. And there is one thing that maybe people forget about when they get together as partners, not necessarily founders, it can be just any type of partnership is, how do you slice the pie, essentially? So how do you eliminate the resentment that sometimes comes out of working as a partnership? I’m working harder. I should deserve more. My partner is stupid and coming up with bad ideas or my partner is not doing anything and I’m doing everything. How many situations like that you hear about every day almost, it’s insane. So, you want to also set up a structure that allows you to work in that way. Think slicing the pie, the title of a book, or actually address the problem. Chris Pope actually talked to me about that a few years back. And I think it’s something that the business owners that have partners should look more into, especially when you are in very early stages.
[00:37:37] And as you said, honeymoon time, it’s fantastic. But then reality strikes and having something in place, a structure, a framework in place also to move on as partners is very important.
[00:37:55] And if at some point you decide to part ways, if you had a structure in place you know exactly where you are. You know exactly what one is entitled to. So, I think it removes a lot of uncertainty because there is already enough uncertainty. So at least, the things you are in control of, try to control.
[00:38:15] Sean: I like it. We’re coming full circle in this conversation talking about managing relationships, something that, you know, very early on that you realize that you’re passionate about. And that’s something I think startups and entrepreneurs forget about, is the people element, not just shiny ideas and building technology.
[00:38:37] Marco Gottini: So, this technology. Technology, people actually forget about people more than anybody else. They think that technology solves everything.
[00:38:43] I mean, look at the cybersecurity world. There are absolutely phenomenal solutions, phenomenal technologies out there. And then where everything fails, most of the time is people using them.
[00:38:59] People not following the rules, people doing other things, people breaking what was technology. So, you also have to consider the human factor and how you actually prevent that. What can you put in place? It’s not just control sometimes. It’s about don’t frustrate people. So, they don’t break rules. Actually, think about the customer.
[00:39:22] Think about the users. I mean, have this kind of customer-centric type of approach. So, people are not frustrated and there is no push to break the rules or do something stupid.
[00:39:34] Yeah. So, that comes with thinking about who’s using your tools, your solution, your products. Yeah, don’t forget about people. It’s absolutely important.
[00:39:45] Sean: That’s an important message to end on. So, thank you so much, Marco, for coming on the podcast. This has been a real pleasure chatting with you and learning about your past.
[00:39:56] Marco Gottini: Thank you so much for having me. I really, really appreciate it. And this has been great. I think people need a little more inspiration these days and thank you so much, Sean.
[00:40:06] Sean: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please remember to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review. If you’re looking for more content, please check out our website at haas.fm.
[00:40:26] There you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time. Go bears.