Working at a growth stage company usually presents its own set of daily thrills and growing pains. With the expansion of staff, clients, and offices comes the introduction of new teams, functions and processes that must support these changes. At DemystData, the responsibility for ensuring the seamless integration of new people, ideas, and clients lies in the hands of the operations department.
This week we spoke with our Chief Operating Officer, Michael Gertsch, to learn about his experience navigating these obstacles and to discover what brought this Swiss executive with a 25-year career span in the insurance industry to join a fintech firm in the heart of Silicon Alley.
What led you to take on this operational challenge at DemystData?
I had just moved to the US from Dubai for family reasons and heard of DemystData through a good friend of mine who is in the adtech space. I was immediately attracted to the company’s strong value proposition and the challenge of turning a very successful startup into an impactful global technology provider. Even though I had never worked in fintech before, I knew my experience was very relevant and could easily be applied to the role.
In my previous life in the insurance sector, I was always in the shoes of our clients, the buyers, so I perfectly understand the situations they face. They must select a software provider out of countless options under specific time and budgetary constraints and take responsibility for the success or failure of their choice once implemented. It’s no easy task and we need to help them in this process. I’ve also spent the better part of the past two decades building teams and companies. I know what it takes to steer a small firm in the direction of a large organization.
You’ve now been with DemystData for about eight months. What was at the top of your to do list when you initially came on board?
The first crucial step was to implement more structure to support the business side and allow the company to scale without creating confusion or overlap. A startup, by definition, is still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s typically very reactive and often changes course based on external factors and new customer needs that come to light. Switching that mindset to a more stable and proactive approach is a necessity for success but it also requires having the right resources in place to deliver a specific set of services and client outcomes.
In our case, it meant doubling the number of staff across several regions within months while simultaneously changing the organizational structure so that each employee could be as effective as possible and contribute to the success of the company. As an example, we introduced a whole new onboarding system, with a 60-day plan for each new hire. This ensures that new employees have a clear understanding of their roles and objectives, and that those are aligned with the rest of the organization.
So let’s just say I’ve been very busy!
What do you find most stimulating in your day-to-day?
Providing the staff with an environment in which they can grow and develop is definitely up there. We’re very lucky in that we have a high concentration of talent within the organization, and working with this group of smart and driven individuals is really exciting. As the company grows and continues to evolve, my role is to keep making sure that their skill sets match their functions and that the conditions are in place for them to succeed.
The other aspect is teaching the team that we can (and must) become more selective when it comes to client opportunities. A startup’s survival instinct often incentivizes its leadership to do whatever it takes to satisfy the buyer. Training the team to build a more equal relationship with our customers is also an exciting process, and a good position to be in.
What keeps you going?
At the end of the day, there is nothing like seeing the success of our various initiatives over time to make it all worthwhile.
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