CRO Spotlight

What to Expect In The Chief Revenue Officer Role, with Avi Zimak

June 28, 2022

CRO Spotlight

A B2B podcast for current and aspiring CROs, CEOs and other leaders. In each episode revenue experts Warren Zenna and Lupe Feld are joined by a guest as they set out to explore every last area of a business that you can leverage to generate revenue and drive meaningful change. Warren and Lupe speak your language - join their revenue crew.

Sometimes our goals coming true result in unexpected outcomes, and the CRO role is no different. It's time to do get some deep-dive insights on what's really awaiting you in the C-Suite.

In this episode of the CRO Spotlight Podcast, Warren and Lupe are joined by Avi Zimak, Chief Revenue & Strategy Officer at The Arena Group. Avi has had a fascinating revenue career spanning more than 20 years (featuring New York Magazine, Time Inc, and Condé Nast).

He'll be sharing his invaluable knowledge and experience, including how he 'hopscotched' to his CRO role, seeking to understand the role beyond the title, when the right time is for a CRO, the CEO:CRO relationship, and ideal personality traits of a CRO.


Connect with Avi on LinkedIn.

Find Lupe and Warren on LinkedIn.  

Help your sales team succeed by helping them become the best professional salespeople they can be. Find out more about the Create Pipeline course from Sales IQ here.

Warren Zenna
Co-Host @ CRO Spotlight Podcast + CEO @ CRO Collective
Lupe Feld
Co-Host, CRO Spotlight Podcast
Avi Zimak
Chief Revenue & Strategy Officer at The Arena Group

[00:00:00] Warren Zenna: Hi and welcome to the CRO Spotlight podcast. I'm Warren Zenna from the CRO collective and I'm here with my co-host Lupe Feld. Hey Lupe.

[00:00:15] Lupe Feld: Hey Warren. This is Lupe Feld, and I'm glad to be here with you.

[00:00:19] Warren Zenna: So this podcast is really for aspiring CROs and CEOs and current CROs whom are interested in learning from not only us, but the great guests that we're going to have.

[00:00:28] Lupe Feld: We're here to tell you that there is other areas of the business that can drive revenue and we're going to look and inspect and come up with some great ideas for us to bring in as much revenue as we can, and drive some meaningful change for the business.

[00:00:41] Warren Zenna: So tune in, we have some exciting opportunities coming up for a really amazing conversations and any B2B leaders I think you're really going to enjoy it. So thanks for tuning in and we look forward to seeing you.

Okay. And welcome to our latest episode of the CRO Spotlight podcast. Hi Lupe.

[00:01:04] Lupe Feld: Hi Warren. Good afternoon.

[00:01:05] Warren Zenna: How you feeling? Good.

[00:01:06] Lupe Feld: Good, good. It's it's a good day.

[00:01:08] Warren Zenna: I've been on the road. I just, I literally landed. At the airport an hour and a half ago. So I'm like kind of in that weird mode where I was sitting in a plane.

So I'm, it's good to be here. I wanna introduce our G our guests. So a guest Avi Zimak, is a, is a good friend of mine. We've known each other now for about four or five years. Like-minded very, very successful. Very a cool background. I'm gonna do a little intro Avi, you gave me here, I'm gonna read it off to everybody to really impressive.

So Avi has served as the Chief Revenue Officer and head of global strategic partnerships for the arena group since December 9th, 2019. Before that Avi was the Chief Revenue Officer and publisher of New York media, which is New York magazine from March of 2017, through 2000. Prior to that, Avi was the vice president of sales of north America for out brain, and also served as general manager for the Americas for out brain.

Prior to that Avi served on various management RO teams at Hearst corporation, and he there, he worked toward the launch and oversight of the Hearst AB app lab. Avi also served as national sales roles for Conde Nast and time Inc advanced publications and Z Davis. So there's a really strong.

Public publication publishing background, but more importantly, Avi, thank you for being here. We're we're looking forward to talking to you.

[00:02:23] Avi Zimak: My pleasure, and and thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

[00:02:26] Warren Zenna: Great. Well, so let's jump into it. So as you know, our audience is primarily consisting of aspiring Chief Revenue Officers, people who want the role, you have people who are in the role that you currently have and, you know, struggling with the challenges that come with the.

And then CEOs whom are looking to place C revenue officers and are thinking about how that role fits into their organizations that might provide you a little more context. So if you could give us a little sense of how you evolved into. From a sales role into Chief Revenue Officer role. And what your perspective on the role is if you were like, maybe even to think about not only as you enter the role, but what your thoughts are on what a Chief Revenue Officer is in your, in your view.

[00:03:09] Avi Zimak: Yeah, no happy to elaborate. And you know, as you're going through the you know, my background, I, I hear all these different companies. It sounds like I've been hopping around quite a bit, but that's actually you know, that resume was built over the course of. About 25 years that I've been in the industry now.

And, you know, for all intents and purposes, I came up, you know, through the industry as, as a sales guy and went through, you know, some pretty rigorous sales trainings. If Davis back in the day, used to be known for that, where I remember it's. Yeah, we, we, I dunno if you know the name, Bob Bader who was,

[00:03:41] Warren Zenna: I know, yes, yes.

[00:03:43] Avi Zimak: You know, Bob badder. So if you went through Bob Bader's central ad sales training program at SIF Davis you got a, you know, somewhat of a badge of honor. It's actually, it's great to see, you know, a lot of my, my colleagues from back then, which was in like 96, 97, something like that. You know, they're all in.

In some pretty impressive positions now, you know, some still in the media or, or media tech business and, you know, others have gone on to do other really impressive things. So great, great training ground as a whole, just in sales that really, I think, you know, helped, you know, go any direction that you wanted to cause at the end of the day, Sales is, is somewhat of an art and, you know, the basic principles of sales apply regardless of what type of industry you're in.

And then, yeah, then, then as you, as you rattled off, you know, I worked through some of the big publishing houses and, you know, spent a lot of time in you know, the Conde NAS and TA time inks rest their soul, but the time inks in the world and you know, really coming up through. Traditional media as we'll call it. So you know, spent a lot of time working at, you know, the, the, the big media companies at, at some of the more prominent publications magazines of our day.

And was there witnessing kind of the morph into digital, right? So it was, you know, we, we had these brand name titles, no one really knew, or they were trying to figure out how to, how to. Go into the world of digital cuz that's where everything was happening. You know, Google was just being born with their ed sales division and, and you know, the publishing industry as a whole was really playing a game of catch up, making sure that they were, you know, taking a, a piece of the pie as well.

And, you know, doing that for a while, I, I had some great exposure and I worked with some really great people. And then when I was at hust, I actually had the opportunity to step into a role. I was there in a management position on one of the titles and had the opportunity to move fully into what I'll call a new digital.

And that was that, that Hurst app lab. Role that you just described mm-hmm and, and really what that was, was, that was right. When the, when apple came out with its iPad, its tablet. And as you recall the, was it

[00:05:50] Warren Zenna: 2012, if I'm not mistaken? I think that's when the first one came out of something like that.

[00:05:54] Avi Zimak: No, I think even, I think it was 2009. Wow. If I'm not mistaken. Yeah. Got. And the only reason I, I remember that is cause I used to present all types of data and charts and graphs on the explosion of the tablet and how it was actually, there was more adoption of the tablet at that time within that first year or two than even the, than even the iPhone.

Believe it or not. Mm-hmm I, I remember it was crazy. So of course, as a media industry, that really as an industry that somewhat failed to make a mark in the digital space where they were still trying to catch up. Here all of a sudden you have a, a, a mechanism that comes out to market in digital format that actually translates really well, where you would think would translate really well to the magazine space, right?

Yep. Cause it's kind of the same size you can flip through things. You also have the digital component of it. And we, we built out something called the Hurst app lab, where we had every possible device. You can imagine we had this, this very specific room. It was a lab that we created with. A wall that we turned into a, a smart screen wall.

So it kind of acted like a giant tablet or iPad. And we literally had every device, every operating system, and we would bring customers in and bring. Partners in, and we would demonstrate what Hurst was doing within that space, whether it was with apps or just transforming magazines into digital media, into digital additions of the magazines.

So it was really a cool opportunity and really kind of got me fully you know, embedded in, in, in the waters of digital media. And then through that, it exposed me. To a lot of other interesting areas of tech and media that I really hadn't been exposed to before, you know, simply. By even third party vendors, for example, that were calling on me in this role that I never would've had access or called on in, in previous roles.

And through that, it opened my eyes to a lot of what was going on in, in the tech space. And it exposed me to what the world of startups was really all about. And mm-hmm, . And an opportunity came around to, to work for the startup called out brain at the time. I think I was the, the 75th employee or something, so it was small, but not too small for me, at least safe enough.

And going there, that was, that was absolutely the, the typical quintessential digital startup culture that, you know, you'd read about and, and I went there and it was just a great experience. I went there to run their sales in north America and we grew really quickly. I think when I went there, we were doing.

Something like 35 million in revenue. When I left, after five years, we were doing 650 million in revenue. Yeah. Nice. So rocket ship growth. And that was not, I wish I could take credit for it, but that was just, you know, the company, the technology, the ecosystem evolved during that time there. And I got to go into a fortunate position of, of.

General manager for two and a half years, as you mentioned, running the Americas. And that really kind of exposed me to doing a lot more with our investors, various VCs, working with a lot of publish, other publishers, obviously advertisers and brands, third parties, you name it. And I, I became in my mind and I think in the, in the, the market's mind a much more well rounded.

Executive. And and that's when New York media came calling. And, and as you mentioned, New York media is the, the publisher was the publisher of New York magazine, but they also had a, a really solid stable of, of some incredible websites, like and the cut. Strategist you know, the intelligence are a whole, a whole stable of, of wonderful websites, scrub street, et cetera.

And they found as a traditional publisher who built out this digital ecosystem, that, that background that I had was a really nice match for what they did as a CRO, right. To come in there as a CRO just as this is the CRO collective. So I thought that background so I went from yeah, GM out brain went through that background, traditional publishing into.

Tech digital technology and ad tech. And then back back into the world of, of media or traditional publishing which then spawned after a few years, we did an acquisition. So out brain one public, which was great. They're public today New York media Was acquired by Vox media who is obviously becoming a very big company now.

So I was involved in that acquisition process which was again, a great experience. And then when that happened, there was an opportunity to come over to the arena group right when they acquired the rights to, to sports illustrated media. And they asked me to come on as they were building this organization at.

And that's, that's where I sit today.

[00:10:19] Warren Zenna: The great it's a great Like the way you navigated all that stuff, it's it, it rings some true to me from the stuff I ended up doing. So what does the arena group do? Like talk us to us a little bit about that. You said technology, you said publishing, how does it tether those two worlds?

Cause I think of it as a publishing organization, but I'm, I suspect I'm probably not. Correct. If I were to describe it that way.

[00:10:39] Avi Zimak: No, I, I think that's a great question. And, and I think I would, you know, as an outside view, I would think, oh, this is a publishing company. Cause we have, we've got some household brain brand names that are part of our ecosystem now.

You're probably familiar with sports illustrated as I just mentioned. Yep. We also own the street and the We just did an acquisition of athon media group and parade. Another household, right parade. The,

[00:11:02] Warren Zenna: I remember remember that the in insert that came inside the publication, the, the, it was inside.

If I'm not mistaken, it was like USA today. It was stuffed inside there for a long time. Right.

[00:11:11] Avi Zimak: That's exactly right. And they they've quickly grown where they're now they have 1800 newspapers that they distribute their parade magazine within every week. What you didn't know behind the scenes, they had a, a crack squad of experts building out their website and what was about, I think on a monthly basis, they were just doing about 2 million uniques a month on

And what they did is they looked at parade and they said, you know what? It's great that we're distributed to these 1800 magazines, but we have to reinvent ourself for the online audience. We know that the majority of the, the consumers that are reading parade in those newspapers, They're predominantly men it's going into, you know, ABC and D counties.

What if we can actually reinvigorate and recreate parade online for a different audience with different content. And what they did is they created a pretty impressive stable of. Verticals within I'd qualified as a lifestyle site and it's predominantly women that are going to that site now.

And they've grown it from that 2 million uniques. That was about two years ago to they're doing now over 13 million uniques monthly which is pretty phenomenal. And our plan as the arena group. Is to do what we've done with sports illustrated, do what we've done with the street, which is our goal is to quadruple that traffic within the next two years.

[00:12:31] Lupe Feld: That's incredible. You know, as I think about, you know, content for women, how did they market themselves? I mean, that's, that's, you know, explosive growth in a very short time. And so what was the word of mouth or the communication of what led to that? Or how did they do that?

[00:12:48] Avi Zimak: I, I think it was really just, I, I don't think it was a ton of marketing.

And, and, and I also don't mean to speak outta school here, but we did a lot of diligence on them before we, we went through with the acquisition, but I really think it was just having a, a strong focus with really strong editorial on those verticals and having kind of best in class content around.

Entertainment and health. They created some really smart partnerships in market. So they're, they've got a strategic partnership with the Cleveland clinic which certainly from an advertising standpoint and editorial standpoint, put them, you know, ahead of the curve for, from, you know, being, or having an expertise within the health sector.

So I think it was just. Really smart moves that they made from an editorial and partnership standpoint that got them to where they are. And then it was just audience development, right? They, they started putting their, their, their wears out there. They put their editorial out there. Obviously they worked through SEO and all the other usual channels, social, et cetera.

But very quickly gained a new audience that is predominantly female. And we saw that, you know, and, and said, wow, that's, they're onto something. And we think we can help you know, to answer Warren's initial question of, you know, what the arena group is, you know, we definitely don't view ourselves as you know, the traditional media company for all I intents and purposes, we're technology company.

You know, I mentioned those three titles, sports illustrated and parade. Street. But we also actually power nearly 200 websites across the ecosystem. So our, our our message to independent publishers is it's a really tough world out there. We know that we get that you know, you're, you're, you're out there trying to compete with.

Google and Facebook and Amazon and, you know, snap and all the others that are there that are taking, what is it? 85% of every dollar that comes to market. You know, then, then after you, you're, you're, you're competing for that. Now that other 15% you're competing against. The big V medias and vices and all the networks.

Right? So good luck as an independent publisher, getting your share and what we try to promote. And, and what we factually do is we make those independent partners or publishers part of an ecosystem where we're all fighting after that share together. And they become, they go onto our ad stack. We monetize our sites for them.

They're part of our programmatic operation. Now. We also have a, a direct sales team that's out in market. You know, pitching their wears, where it's appropriate and they get to do what they, they love and what they initially created their, their, their publication for which was to create great content in a particular subject.

So our offering to them is we have a, a custom built CMS that is. By far and away, much more advanced than whatever CMS they're on in 95% of the cases. It's it's a version of WordPress. They're then plugged into our ad stack. So now they've got not only our technology, but a team of programmatic experts that are running their programmatic business.

They get a, a direct sales team. That's there to support them where and when needed. They have a team of SEO expertise and they have a team of product and engineers. That's north of 70 people now. That are, that are supporting their site. Where if you look at most independent publishers and again, having come from one I know how many engineers are dedicated to those sites.

I know how many engineers I got at my last company specifically for advertising. And I think the answer was half. I had half of one engineer here. They come in. Yeah. They have 40 engineers on advertisement alone. So yeah, that's our business.

[00:16:05] Warren Zenna: Got it.

[00:16:06] Lupe Feld: That's exciting. You know, I wanna go back a little bit, you know, as I was listening to your career path, It was clear to me that you, you moved, you know, from one role to another and you kind of leaned into the technology and.

As I, as I think about, you know, people who are aspiring to be a CRO or, or people that are, you know, maybe looking to hire a CRO it's those career moves that I think are critical. And I'd like to kind of, I ask where you. Planning those, or were you just kind of curious in exploring that or was that like kind of your, your thinking as to, you know, this is, I eventually would like to get back to media publishing or were you at that point just exploring a different avenue?

Cause I, I look at, you know, backgrounds and I think it's never a direct line to a CRO it's, you know, it's a, it's a hopscotch kind of journey. That gets you there, if you're gonna make some meaningful work. So I'd like to kind of get some thoughts on that from you.

[00:17:12] Avi Zimak: Yeah. I'm happy to answer as best I can. I I've certainly been hopscotching away. I think, you know, it, it's interesting if, if I think in any industry or any career path, if, if you're good at what you do. Or at least you have a good reputation for what you do. More often than not, you will have people knocking on your door and presenting that next opportunity to you.

Right. And then you have to. Way, whether or not that opportunity makes sense for you personally, for your family, if you have you know, for your career path. And fortunately I've had some really good opportunities come my way. There, there are also many that have, that have come across my desk that I evaluated and, and.

Decided that this is not the right opportunity for me, that I'm in a really good spot. And I do, I do pride myself on making really good decisions so that when I go somewhere, I'm loyal to that organization and I'm loyal to the role and I stick it out for, for, you know, at least what I think is the right amount of time to do what I was hired to do.

So I think that's really important. And I do think that in today's day and age, and I see it all the time, cuz you know, we. We have to make a number of hires across the various business units that, that I have purview over. And these resumes come across my desk and it's like, oh wow, you were there for six months here.

And nine months there. And then the four jobs before that, you just made it 12 months. And I don't know if it's just the, the way things are now. And I think there is part of that. I don't think it's, you know, we're in the days anymore where you have to stay somewhere from 15 to 20 years or even 10 years.

But I do think you need to stick it out for a few years to, to at least build your own stable and reputation. So, so I say that's one to answer your question, as far as, as my chart, if you will. Yeah, a lot of them were, Hey, We've been working with you in this capacity. You're at this company. It's great.

We have an opportunity. Will you explore? That's the majority of the roles that have come to me? Specifically, you're asking how I, I went to tech and then back to media. That was actually the first time in my career where I actually had to sit down and think about what I really wanted to do next, because otherwise I was on kind of a, a pretty traditional career path where, you know, I was, I was a sales guy.

Right. And, and I was at one place and then another job became available and I had a friend or someone in the industry who said, oh, did you know this opened up? And it's doing what you do just at a better place or a bigger place or a more well respect, whatever it was. Right. And I said, oh, you know that follow the shiny object.

Yes. I'll go take it. And obviously it's yeah, there's more money. And there. More opportunity and you have a more senior title and all that. That's great. And those doors were pretty easy to walk through. When I was at out brain, which, which, you know, is a pure play you know, tech company it's a content recommendation company just to be clear, but it's in the world of tech.

You know, I had been there for about five years and I knew that it was time to go and I spoke to the CEO and, you know, we, we, these. Great guy. Great man. And, and we sat down and he is like, okay. He's like, you know, if it's, if it's that time, I get it. And he's like, I'm not gonna rush you outta here.

But if I'll agree with you, that it's that time. I said, okay. And that's where you really have to start doing some thinking, right? Where, where you don't know. What that next door's gonna be. And I started evaluating everything and I was like, do I wanna go back to publishing? Do I want to go stay in tech?

Do I want to go to, you know, a big digital media company? Like, let me, so I started going on a, on a, a tour and really setting up. Informational interviews. You know, whether it was with friends of mine who worked at these places, or if I had a friend who knew someone at a senior level at these places that I could go in and sit down and meet with some, some cases I went in and met with the, you know, the HR teams inside various organizations or at startups, I would go sit down and, and meet with, you know, the founders and, and, and all those conversations were really helpful because it made me realize.

What I wanted to do next and also made me realize what I didn't wanna do desks or the type of organization that I wanted to work at or not work at. And that was super helpful. And to be Frank going back into the world of publishing was probably the last thing that I thought I was gonna do. I had been there, done that.

I was now in tech. I liked startups, you know, it's sexy, it's fun. There's all this growth and opportunity. And then. One of the, you know, this, this media legacy or legacy media company comes along and says, Hey, we want to talk to you. I was like, oh, I didn't think I'd do that. But I thought what actually at the time New York media was doing was really unique within the space.

Cuz they had, they had. Years ago, pivoted to digital first. And I thought the properties they had there and what they were looking to do to really be transformative with their business was really interesting to me and compelling to me. So that's the direction I ended up going. And then I ended up coming back where now I'm at a place where I get to kind of keep.

One finger in the world of publishing and, you know, another toe in, in the world of tech. And that's kind of what out brain was for me also, because we worked with all these publishers across the world. But I also, you know, my day to day was, was very much involved with, you know, working with and speaking about the technology.

That's great. So I dunno if that answers your question.

[00:22:06] Warren Zenna: Yeah, it's a great, I love it. I, I, it makes sense. You said something I wanted to touch on, right? Sure. So what happens with a lot of Chief Revenue Officers? You, you said it already is, it's a really sexy role, the title, right? I mean, it comes with a lot of things.

I think not only from the idea of it being a C-suite role, which already has, you know, such, such Pash to it and maybe the promise of other things. It's also a lot of salespeople, if not most sales leaders aspire to become that role, be in that role. And many of them are attracted to the role for the wrong reasons because they see that they're like, oh, my reputation will be improved.

I'll get more money. I'll be a CRO. It's good to say at the, you know, event that you're a Chief Revenue Officer. And they find themselves. And these are most of my clients, frankly, find themselves in situations that don't live up to what they expected, because they were more attracted to the shiny object than they were, what they were really looking for.

You seem to have. Good, good, good sense of yourself. Good judgment. Most, not most. I don't wanna say that, but a lot of the people I work with don't because they're humans. Yeah. I'm guilty of this. I've taken, I've taken jobs. Cause the title too. Yeah. Sure. So, you know, when you're thinking about them from this perspective, you're talking right now, let's say to a bunch of people that are were in your position when you were like a national sales leader and they have the competencies, maybe even the right sort of, you know, stuff to be a Chief Revenue Officer.

What are the ways that someone should be thinking about. A role like that, cuz we're gonna, I wanna get into a little bit more about your thoughts on the role itself, but as they navigate the way you did, what are some of those things that they should either a be looking out for and avoiding or, or, or being I should say, mindful of as they move into a role that has a lot more responsibility like that?

[00:23:44] Avi Zimak: Yeah. That's a great question. You know, I, there it's funny years ago when, when I was at time, Inc, which was I was in, I was in a group. Yeah, I'm sorry. You're familiar with fortune magazine. I was part of the fortune group and I've always had my. My finger on the pulse, a little bit of, of technology. I worked for a magazine.

If you remember, if there was, there was the industry standard and red herring and sure. Fast company and red all. And I worked at it one called business 2.0 and timing had just acquired business 2.0, it was formally, I think it was the industry standard. Hope I got that. Right. But it, it became business 2.0.

And one of my bosses at the time who had just been moved into a more senior role himself into not the CRO role, but it was like an associate publisher role, you know, for magazines. That's, that's like one notch under what a CRO would be today. And I was a sales guy and, and we got along really well.

And, and, you know, I'd ask him, you know, how do you get there? And, you know, what'd, you have to do to get there. Kinda a lot of the questions you're asking me. So maybe that, that's one thing that you do is talk to your, your peers and your, your mentors and ask them how they did it. I think that's certainly, yeah,

[00:24:48] Warren Zenna: it's a really good point. Make sure you have good people and, and, and listen. Listen to the advice you get, right. Not just ask questions, but that's do something with it.

[00:24:58] Avi Zimak: That that's right. That's right. And the, I remember the one thing he, he told me is I'm watching him literally. Run around frantically trying to go from one meeting to the next and this, that the other, he just goes be careful what you wish for because that's good.

You'll get it one day and, and just be careful. But, but I, I think the point there is just know what you're getting into and, and I think yeah, that, that is one thing have, have good mentors. Number one have people that, you know, that you wanna work for or work with. I think, you know, that's some of the jobs that, that I've had some of the best jobs I've had, it was really following people that I respected and that I worked with in prior lives and, and respected what they've done and you know, watching them and trying to learn from them and pick up what they do and try to.

Be a little bit like them and work that into my own repertoire. I think that's really important. I think moving into a role like this, you know, if I think traditionally most CROs, although it's changing a little bit have come up through the sales and or marketing. You know, path, I think, I think most CROs have done some version of that is my guess not all.

I think that's changing a little bit where you do see some CROs who come from even the walks of like life of like finance and things like that. Business development, I think there there's some of that. But I think, you know, from the lens that I looked through, which was being, you know, a salesperson who, you know, had.

You know, I had clients, I had understand revenue. I had to understand how to manage my business. I had to understand, you know, how to, how to schmooze, but also how to do the internal work. You know, that's the one thing I think for anyone listening, if, if you're not in sales, like there was always, you know, the joke, you know, everyone's like, oh, I wish I go in sales cuz I get to go out to dinners.

And like it's harder that it looks and there's that always on that is that it's it is an, is it is an art you know, but other than that, I think What happens when you become, when you go into a role like this, it becomes a lot more internal and you realize the importance of, you know, everything from politics, internal politics, right.

And that's another thing I've always remembered is like, you know, internal PR is just as important as external PR and it's true because you actually have to get things done at the end of the day. So make sure you're nice to the people you need to be nice to. And also try to really understand.

Other's roles and their business as best as possible, because that will help you get things done. It'll help you understand what language you need to use when you're speaking to these people. I mean, look, I'm the last person to say, Hey, I'm a, I'm a technology expert, but I know enough to, to get what I need and to at least articulate what I need so that they can understand it and translate it and then get it back to me.

So I think that's, that's super important. And I'd say also get ready if you're someone who. And particularly now in this remote culture that, you know, remote, remote work culture that we work in today, I think a lot of people have gotten very comfortable. I I'm one of them, right. Where you know, this working from home, isn't the worst thing in the world.

Some people hate it. I love it. I get to spend more time with my kids. I drive 'em to school in the mornings now I never done that in, in, literally in their lives. And now the last two years, I try to drive them to school every morning. Right. I couldn't do that before I get sick at night to.

Bedtime. I get to eat dinner with them once in a while. So that's really nice. At the same time, I know that I have to still do my job and meet with clients and get into the city and, and do that piece as well. But I've also learned that, you know, understanding the nuances of the business, understanding the finances of the business, and really how to read a P and L and, and.

Budget and work with other constituents in the organization. You know, I'm in the C-suite, as you mentioned earlier, that's part of this role. I have to work very closely with my COO and obviously my CEO, who I report into and the CFO. And you know, if, if you go into that blind. Where you're always asking questions and you're, you don't really know what's going on.

It's fine to ask questions and you should ask questions if you don't know, but retain that and, and understand that you're going into a role. We have to work with a lot of different people across a lot of different roles. And that also, frankly, if you are someone who really enjoys being out and about, and you like that aspect of sales, where you're always kind of on the run.

For me, at least I know there are other CROs where it's different. For me, that changed as a CRO where I find the majority of my time is sitting in internal meetings and dealing with internal constituents versus the clients and being out in market as much as I was, which I love doing. I really do. I just don't get to do as much of it as I used to.

And I think that's something I warn anyone who's coming up through this path. If you think like, oh, Hey, I, I, I'm gonna be Out entertaining and doing what I do. And I'll just be in a higher role and I'll tell other people what to do. I'll just be joining them. Like, yeah, you do that. But there's a lot more that goes into the role beyond that, where you just simply can't be out and about as much as you used to.

[00:29:39] Lupe Feld: Yeah. You know, you've hit on a great point there because a lot of folks think of the CRO position as a kind of high end level glorified sales leader. And it encompasses so much beyond that. And you have to really. Part of being in the C-suite is understanding all the other players in that suite and understanding what their role is, what their focus is, what their challenges are and how to collaborate.

With each other and fix things. It might be that the solution for, you know, something that's financially driven can be ameliorated by, you know, a function in your area. And so I think that's, that's the piece that you can't you can't forget, you have to know the components doesn't mean you have to be an expert at them, but if you can't read a balance sheet, you have no business being a CRO.

[00:30:35] Avi Zimak: That's right.

[00:30:35] Lupe Feld: And I think, I think that's something. Sometimes gets overlooked.

[00:30:39] Avi Zimak: I would agree for the fact,

[00:30:40] Lupe Feld: If you could read a balance sheet, you could be a better salesperson too. So it doesn't even need read that, you know, you don't need that ahead of time, but

[00:30:47] Avi Zimak: Agreed. Agreed.

[00:30:48] Warren Zenna: How do you view the role? Like if you were to describe to someone who's looking to become a CRO, what's the difference between someone who's like head of national sales and achieved

[00:30:58] Avi Zimak: revenue officer? Well, I was actually talking to a colleague of mine Earlier this morning who's a, who's a senior leader who, who really runs our sales organization.

And we were talking about just that. And, you know, I think, again, it, a lot of it depends on the size of the organization too. Right. And, and what your purview is. And, you know, if you talk to 10 different CROs, you're gonna get 10 different job responsibility sets as a response. If you ask them, what do you do?

Right. I think everyone's CRO role is a little bit different. But I, I do view my role as. The CEO of a division of my company. You know, my purview is I oversee the direct sales team. I oversee the programmatic sales team. I oversee our ad ops team. I oversee our account management team. I oversee our marketing team.

I oversee our research team, you know, and now these all funnel in, in some way, oh, I oversee our business development team. So in a way they all, they're all touching sales. In some way or revenue in some way. But I, I couldn't say, oh, I'm. I'm overseeing sales and that's it, because then I'm neglecting all the other aspects of our business.

And I enjoy working with everyone across, across all those different lines of business, because they all, you know, touch one another in, in some way. And you know, you do have to, I think it's. It's partially being a CEO. It's partially being a psychologist as it is in any management role where, you know, you've gotta hear about the, the, the gripes of, of everyone and, you know, there's some, and obviously then you get the, you know, the good and balance, the good with the bad, but you have to really understand, you know, how to balance the needs of one department with another right.

One department want, might want something out of one out of another. That they just can't do for a variety of reasons. Some, you might be able to tell them some you can't. So you have to, you have to know that and you know, you're responsible ultimately for everyone's compensation and performance. And so there's a lot of that.

And at the end of the day The bottom line or the buck stops here. You know, if our numbers are down, the CEO comes to me and says, you know, why isn't programmatic performing? Or why isn't your direct sales performing, or why didn't the marketing team? Get this out on time? Or, you know, there there's a lot to it.

At the same time, you can't be an expert at all. And you have to, you have to, you know, again, I might be going or riffing here, but you know, you have to really, and this is what I, I pride myself on more than anything. Again, you know, Warren Lupe, maybe you've heard this from other CROs, but the thing I pride myself on more than anything is not, not being an expert, not being a great CRO because I know my stuff.

And I'm making, you know, Important changes for the organization. Although there is certainly an element of that. But it's really hiring great people. And if you hire great people that you trust, right, that you know, can get the job done and are experts in their respective area, then I can. Let them go and get outta their way and get their things done and do what they need to do to get the job done.

And then they pull me in when needed, if they need a decision on something or if they need me to connect them with someone or if they need to come to me for a budgetary, ask of some kind then I can participate. They know what our overall vision is. We're very clear with that, with what our strategy for the company is, we set that, we announce it in a company meeting and then based on that strategy, I trickle it down to make sure that everyone understands what the overall goal is, what the objective is, and then what their role in that is.

And then I let them fly. And if you have good people that you can trust it makes the world of difference. And it frankly makes my job a lot easier, but at least that's, that's worked for me based on my skillsets. And, and I would also say, you know, I guess related to that is know what you're good at, but also know what you're not good at.

Because if you, if you know that then you maybe might wanna put a little more emphasis in hiring for a certain role or a few people for a certain role versus where in other areas you might be able to take out a little bit more of a certain piece yourself.

[00:34:59] Warren Zenna: Great Lupe. It's like everyone, we speak to says the same thing. It's so such a people first thing, this job. Oh yeah. It's all about finding the right people, putting him in place. And that's the hard part because. How do you find good people? I mean, now it's harder than ever. I mean, it, it's crazy how much demand there is for good people and, and the, the stuff that people are dangling in front of good people, cuz not only you have to find good people, you have to keep 'em and you gotta keep 'em happy and empower them.

I, I think you're saying something that everyone would agree is that if you unleash someone and give them the ability to be trusted and do their jobs and perform, that's the thing that people mostly want, right? Aside from obviously the money and stuff like that, they wanna know that they can have the freedom to make decisions and, and, and, and thrive.

So, you know, you mentioned something earlier before. This the, if you asked 10 different CROs, they'll give you 10 different answers. I, I agree. I would say however, I think we probably would agree there's a line through of what the job's supposed to be, but I, it leads a question, which is this, if you're talking to a CEO of a company, when do you think it is?

Or what's the reason what point in a company's growth should they hire achieve revenue officer? Like what's the purpose of one? And at what point should you think about it? What would the benefits be as opposed to keeping things just the way they are?

[00:36:14] Avi Zimak: That's a tough question. You know, I, I think a lot of it has to do with the size and scale of your organization.

That's probably a part of it. If you are an organization that sub 100 people, right. Which I always define small businesses as under 99 people or under a hundred people And those a hundred people are broken out into, you know, if you think about the, the different business lines within a, a media company or a digital company, maybe they're 10 different teams.

So that means that those 10 different teams probably have five to 10 people on each. I don't know if there's enough there to warrant having a CRO. You could probably have, right. If, if it's, if it. Overarching advertising responsibility. And there's not a lot of other revenue streams that are coming into the company at the time, because you're focused.

You're nimble, you're small where there's really just one or two revenue streams. You could probably do just fine with ahead of sales ahead of marketing ahead of product ahead of engineers, right? Like, and they each have their, their small teams under them of, you know, Three to 10 people. So I don't know if you would need a CRO in that case probably once you start scaling above that.

And there are multiple business lines that are starting to grow in a meaningful way. And there, there are multiple revenue streams that are also meaningful to your business, and you're also allowed in market or in internally trying to create new revenue streams. That's probably the point where you bring on a CRO who can say, okay, We've done great in this one area, but it's really time to broaden out a little bit and try to bring in, you know, eCommerce or subscriptions or ano you know, third party revenue, whether it's programmatic or other, right.

That, that you're not currently doing or expand that, that advertising revenue to, to multiple buckets of advertising revenue. So I think at that point where you do have to be a little bit more strategic and broad with your offerings, that's probably the time you want. A CRO in who, who understands that and can ultimately manage that and make those decisions for you.

[00:38:28] Lupe Feld: Yeah. So what I'm hearing you say is that, you know, you can function with heads of businesses, but when you get too many heads, then you lose that opportunity to be synergistic. and gain some of the best practices that are naturally happening when you have a team under one centralized leader.

[00:38:48] Avi Zimak: I think so. Yeah, I think so. And then once you have that centralized leader with enough of those teams you know, you wanna make sure that you're all swimming. In the same direction, right. Or rowing in the same direction. Because a lot of times particularly look we're going through and you know, I've been fortunate enough my career where I've, I've seen and been a part of various acquisitions.

Like when you bring a new company into your company I think at that point in particular, right. Once you're at the stage where you're actually acquiring companies you definitely want to have a CRO to help oversee that because if not, it could get really messy, right? You're a lot of, lot of, you know, toe stepping and banging heads and clashing and you know, Moning for different things.

And, you know, if you have someone who's kind of there overseeing the whole enchilada I think. That, that makes a world of sense. So you can say, look, you know, here, here's how we're gonna do it. You know, we're gonna do some of it your way, but there is a, there is a, a, a method to the Manness of how we do things here and, and, you know, just ensure that everyone is, is rowing in that same direction.

[00:39:47] Lupe Feld: Yeah. That's a great point. As you know, as I think about what's happening in the industry, there are so many mergers acquisitions and, and companies kind of blending together. Because it's much easier to acquire company to build the asset yourself. And so that, that culture. The melding of the cultures is really critical.

Otherwise it could be, you know, a, a hazard for you to achieve what your plans were in that acquisition. So great point.

[00:40:12] Avi Zimak: Absolutely. Yeah, no, it's the, the, the ensuring and look, we're going through this with parade right now and, and look, they've, they've a fantastic team there and you know, we've, we've now I think this is their third week with our company.

And they've been really great, but we're really going, you know, working hard to make sure that they feel comfortable. We're really working hard to educate them on how we do things. And that's just how we do things. It's more about who we are and why certain things that we do are working. And we're also asking the same from them.

Like tell us about what's working for you. Tell us how you do things. And ideally, and again, sitting in the seat that I, I sit in as a CRO, I can see what's working over here. What's working over there and say, oh, Actually let's, let's adopt what you know parade is doing. I think that would actually work really well for us, but you know what I think actually our system doing this might be better for parade and, or, or we have to do this because we're a publicly traded company.

And, and, you know, there's certain. You know systems and cadences that we have to, to, and checks and balances really that we have to go through if we want to actually accomplish something. So, you know, Hey parade, like you actually, unfortunately have to do all this, if you're not accustomed to doing it.

You know, so yeah, I, I think that's a. That's a good way of describing it.

[00:41:24] Warren Zenna: It sounds to me in order for that to happen, which I I'll, I'll kind of have this as our, our, our final topic, which is an important one is the relationship you have with your CEO, because obviously you've gotta be given the, I, I, I kind of have these like four things, I would say a CRO needs.

You need authority, autonomy, you need resources and you need runway to be able to do your job, right? Yep. And, you know, they all wrap around basically it's trust, right? You have a, you have a relationship with your CEO where in this situation that you just described, it's a very, very tricky situation trying to integrate two cultures.

You need to be the one who can dictate what that is. And your boss needs to say, Avi, I know you got this covered, make it happen. And I have your back. How do you as a CRO. What's the, what's your advice for a existing CRO to ensure that they have that sort of relationship where their vision and their ability to be the CEO of the revenue operation can be realized, because I know that most of my clients have a lot of issues with their, with their bosses.

They don't, they're not on the same page and it makes it really hard for them to do their jobs. And a lot of it comes. The investment groups and the boards that invest in the companies, cuz there's a lot of conflicting objectives that come from managing finances and also managing customer outcomes. I'm just curious what your thoughts are on that sort of thing.

[00:42:43] Avi Zimak: Yeah, no, that's a great question. And, and, and I've actually heard the same and you know, look fortunately the last three companies that I've been at, right? So, so here at the arena group and New York media and previously at out brain, not the entire time I was at outra, but for about probably 25% of the.

I've reported directly into the CEO and going to New York media and, and, and the arena group. Part of my criteria, like the, the criteria that I, I spelled out for myself in taking any job that I make very clear when I'm, when I'm meeting with these companies at those initial meetings is I need to have a, I need to report into the CEO.

I'm not gonna report into, into anyone else. Which by the way, in some organizations, the CRO does not report into the CEO. Which is why it's important to ask that question. But B is to make sure that you have a rapport. And a relationship and trust of that CEO, right. And that comes from, you know, it could come from a number of ways.

One is, it could be. That you've worked with this person before. Right. So it's my initial, you know thoughts on, you know, working with good people and, you know, working with people who you've worked with before, who you either at a company or they've been a, you know, some kind of partner of yours. I think that's really important.

But if not, then just make sure that you have enough conversations with the CEO ahead of time. Make sure that, you know, you're both on the same page. Prior to stepping into that role with what it is your role is going to be, what the level of autonomy you're gonna have is going to be. And then it's ultimately gonna be someone that that's gonna trust you.

And then I think the reverse of that is that you have to also have mutual respect. And trust for what they do. And I can tell you here, you know, look, we do have investors. We are a public company, so we have to answer to our, our, our public and our investors in that respect. And our CEO is, first of all, he's a great guy, and I'm not just saying that in case he's listening to this podcast.

But, but he, he, he does happen to be a great guy. I believe in his vision, right? So that's also super important, but he does give me that trust and that autonomy. And if I think that something needs to be done a different way, or if I think that we need to change something or if I think, or if I need to ask for some more of something he'll hear me out, you know, I have to bring a good case forward and I have to understand that balance sheet and how it impacts the P and L and everything else.

But if I think it's something that's gonna move the needle on our business, he trusts that I'm making the right decision. Now he will say to me, okay, are you, are you comfortable? You're you're on the hook for it now. So if I'm gonna give you X amount of dollars to go create, then you have to guarantee me that Y amount of dollars are gonna come back and I'm gonna put that on you.

Right? So I'm now on the hook for that ROI and bring that revenue back into the company. And if it's something I believe in, then I'll absolutely sign up for it, whether it. Attending a conference, whether it's bringing a new technology into the company whether it's creating a new partnership with a third party that we hadn't worked with before that I think could be advantageous to our business.

He allows me to do that, or whether it's hiring people or creating a new team or whatever it might be. He trusts me to do that. He'll ask me questions, but I think we have a good relationship. And because I have that trust from him and vice versa it helps me get the job done successfully.

[00:45:51] Warren Zenna: Good for you. That's that's great. Cuz you know, I don't hear enough of this to be Frank with you. I I'm hearing it's a lot more, it's a lot, the very difficult role. Yeah. Look, I, we want to, you know, we're running outta time here, so we just wanted to thank you. It's been really, really good conversation. We got a lot of really good stuff out of this, and I think there's a lot of really good insights that you provided all the constituents who are listen to this.

So any following thoughts? I think one last thing I'd ask you is what would you say to a CEO? It's looking for a CRO succinctly, how would you think there's a right way for them be looking for one what's the attributes and qualities that you think are the best things they should be looking for?

[00:46:25] Avi Zimak: Didn't I just explain all that more. No, I'm just kidding. I, I think, you know, I think you are going to wanna find someone again, who you can trust, who can get along with, right. That I think that's gonna go with anyone that you're gonna put in your seat.

[00:46:39] Warren Zenna: Yeah. I think that that's table stakes, I would agree.

[00:46:41] Avi Zimak: Table stakes. There are. Again, this is, this is one person's perspective. So,

[00:46:48] Warren Zenna: Well, we're asking yours, we want your perspective here. So yes.

[00:46:51] Avi Zimak: I would not put someone into the CRO position. Who's a no at all. I would not put someone into the CRO position who. Prides themself on wanting to be that sales always the epitome of a salesperson.

Right? I do think again, I do think having the sales background is, is paramount. Like you have, I, I think that that's a, that's a major component because there are relationships in the market that you need to maintain. And there are, if that there's an understanding of the, of that business, but I would say, you know, also have someone who has that and.

Who you feel confident can step in and, and actually understand the other nuances of a, a business holistically beyond just the sales piece. Because if you don't I think, I think it can get pretty, pretty complicated for them. And I don't think ultimately they'll be successful. Is that a, is that a that's great.

[00:47:47] Warren Zenna: It's perfect. It makes perfect sense. I like the know it all part. I agree with you. Yeah. I, I think it's actually better to find somebody who doesn't think of themselves as, as, as an expert in everything, but someone who's more of an empowerer of people who are really good at things. I, I, I, I happen to agree with that. I've met a lot of CROs who are incredibly smart, but they'll get dragged in the weed. Things and it's not a job to get dragging the weeds on.

[00:48:09] Avi Zimak: That you're 100%, right? Like there, there are people who I've, who I've worked with currently, who I've worked with in the past and they get, they, they drill down so far in the business and by the way, they're incredible at it.

And it's made them very successful. And I want them to keep doing that. But if I look at them and I'm thinking of like different faces are running through my head right now, like people who have done that, these are some of the best sales people or business people that I know. But they would have a really tough time sitting in this seat because they have to insert themselves so deeply in everything.

There's just the reality is there're not enough hours in the day in this position to do that. And you have to take a step back and look at it from a little bit of a, a higher level. I'm not saying a high and mighty level. I'm saying you have to take it back and

[00:48:56] Warren Zenna: You have to look at it holistically and you have to understand how things all fit together and be more of coordinator, less of a, I guess a like a, an execution or, you know?

[00:49:05] Avi Zimak: Yeah. Agreed.

[00:49:06] Warren Zenna: Oh, alright. Well look, thank you. I don't wanna keep you given that, that comment you just made about time. Now, you get. On your plate. And, and so, so, so, but, but thank you. This was really great. Really. We got a lot out of this and I think we'll have a great deal of stuff to share with our audience. So Avi, thank you for your time. It's great seeing you it's been a while and thank you so much for, for sharing your wisdom and your experience with our audience.

[00:49:28] Avi Zimak: Yeah, it, it was really my pleasure. I love the mission here that you and Lupe are. Are out marching out with I love the idea of a CRO Collective and you know, happy to do this anytime, but, but really appreciate the time.

[00:49:39] Warren Zenna: Great.

[00:49:39] Lupe Feld: Thanks again.

This episode was digitally transcribed.

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