256 - Leading A Distributed Virtual Organization With Bud Broomhead - John Laurito

256 – Leading A Distributed Virtual Organization With Bud Broomhead

In today’s episode, host John Laurito speaks with CEO and Founder of Viakoo Inc., Bud Broomhead, about knowing exactly how to lead an organization in today’s virtually dependent world. They also talked about Bud’s company, Viakoo, and how they handle every challenge in their organization.

Bud Broomhead brings to Viakoo, Inc. two decades of executive experience in the technology sector, leading innovative teams at Sun Microsystems and for privately-held startups in challenging CEO, COO, and GM roles in the U.S. and Europe.

Mr. Broomhead is a frequent presenter and panelist at security and technology events and conferences in both the U.S. and international venues, called upon for his expertise and knowledge of the industry and trends. Mr. Broomhead is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Earth Sciences.

Connect with Bud:

[0:00] Intro

[1:27] The story behind Viakoo

[2:40] What is cyber security?

[5:39] How they deal with the challenges they face as a virtual organization

[16:01] Where to find Bud

[16:59] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been in an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership, what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large over the last 20 years. Today, I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. 

John Welcome to tomorrow’s leader! All right, tomorrow’s leaders, I’ve got Bud Broomhead, who is the CEO of Viakoo Inc., there in the cybersecurity space. He’s a really great guy like this conversation and I’ve had multiple with Bud leads me to really get a feel for his leadership style, which is one that I’ve always admired. It’s about the people. It’s not just about the product and what you do, it’s about the people in the organization. And when you stack together, great teams of great people, amazing things happen. And as I’m talking to them, I’m thinking, Wow, this is I can envision what the organization is like from the inside out because of the culture that he’s built. And in this day and age with building and adding people to your organization in a virtual world, that’s tough. But he figured it out and he’s done it and is doing it. They’re growing significantly. I mean, this is a company that’s doing extremely well. So listen up, you’re going to get some great stuff from bud. And here he is, Bud Broomhead.

John All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader related related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John the reader, your hosts. I’ve got a great guest for you today, Bud Broom head, who is the CEO and founder of Viakoo. Welcome to the show, Bud, great to have you. 

Bud Thank you, John. Thanks for inviting me. 

John Yeah, absolutely. So I want to start with like you, you’re obviously founded the company and leading it to some great success. Tell us a little bit about the company, and I know there’s a little story with how you came up with the name or the meaning behind it. I guess so I’d love to hear. 

Bud Sure. Thanks for asking. Vikaoo is really two words put together. The Akoo part is a Greek word. It’s a root word like the same root is acoustic. It means to listen, but it means to listen to the point of understanding and via is a path. So it’s a path to understanding through careful listening. And that’s basically the approach of our company, the way we interact with customers, with the way we interact with each other, and the way that our technology works in that it’s listening very carefully to the data that it finds and then transforming that data into useful information. So Dave data is not always information, and so we help take that data and transform it into useful, actionable information for our customers and they’re in the cybersecurity space. 

John So let me ask you this and your listeners that are in all different industries, and there’s a lot of people that may not be familiar with the cybersecurity industry. So in layman’s terms, what what is the net result of what you do and how how does somebody end off or come out better than they came in once they’ve had an experience with you? 

Bud Sure. So, you know, you could boil it down and say that the cybersecurity wars, you know, are really exchanges of attackers and defenders. And we’re the defenders. We have the technology to help people defend what they call the attack surface or the technology that a bad actor would try to hack into using a layman term hack into that to do a ransomware attack or some other, you know, steal data or whatever they’re going to do. And so we provide capabilities, tools for them to optimize their defenses. That’s what we do. We’re a defensive technology. 

John So this is a major issue for companies. I know because obviously they’ve got very sensitive and high quantity amounts of very sensitive data. And you hear companies that have security breaches all the time and the crazy ripple effect that has. How about the everyday individual? I mean, is it more of an issue for obviously, it’s more of an issue in terms of the size of the problem for a company. But where are these hackers going more so at companies or more so in individuals? 

Bud Well, the area that we specialize in is for companies. That’s that’s really what our particular focus is on helping companies defend their. Their attack surface is basically and and it falls into two basic categories. There’s I.T. infrastructure, you know, all the computers and stuff that it puts in. And then there are the business units, the lines of business, the departments that will put in an application to solve a specific business problem and that will leverage devices like card readers, badge readers to allow people access into buildings or, you know, a lighting technology to control lighting for energy management in buildings and things like that. And those fall into the category of what they call the Internet of Things or IoT of it. And you have IoT and we specialize in the IoT piece. So, yeah, there are people that break into corporations through IT equipment or through IoT equipment and and applications, and we focus on the IoT piece. 

John Got it. OK. So I want to talk a talk shift a little bit. You and I were chatting a little bit earlier about some of the challenges that leaders have nowadays, especially with the new environment that we’re in and being virtual. When you have an organization that’s spread out so much and as you call that which I think is great distributed virtualized organization, what are the things that leaders need to do? I mean, how do you keep an organization like that run in the right way and tight and cohesive and you know, the right culture and everything? How do you master that? 

Bud Well, the way we’re dealing with it is it’s it’s a topic of discussion in management. I mean, we talk about it all the time. What are the techniques, whether they’re lunch meetings where we get DoorDash for everybody or, you know, there are there various applications, companies that offer services like that that that you can take advantage of? And you know, we’ve done we did a Halloween thing where we sent out Halloween bags with goodies and then in advance and we all opened them at the same time on a teleconference. So there are, you know, it sounds silly, but you have to have an opportunity for people to be seen and see each other. And and that’s really important. And video, of course, is is a huge tool to to get that done. And then there are other tools, communication tools like in teams or Slack or some of these other channels that you can be on. Group collaboration tools are another way. 

Bud And it’s all about sharing a common experience. So even though, you know, opening a bag of Halloween candy, you know, isn’t a big deal, it’s a shared experience. We all did it and we all did it at the same time. So so wherever we can create opportunities like that where there’s some experience to have that we can all do it together rather than, you know, in an in addition to just sitting in a meeting and having a meeting together that it is a common experience, but something that we can add to it is an important dimension. And I think it’s important also to recognize that these aren’t just remote. It’s not just a remote problem. It’s it’s a distributed problem because remote is when you have a whole bunch of people in one location, they’re remote from maybe headquarters. But that isn’t the problem. The problem is they’re all distributed. And so they’re not seeing each other unless you provide that connective tissue through some shared experience so they don’t see each other at all. So making that a priority among, you know, management teams talking about it, getting them to innovate about how to do that with their their different departments is is an important part of it. 

John It almost takes a different level of thinking from a leader standpoint, because I remember it’s almost the difference. There was some almost not the word, maybe unintended leadership that or unplanned leadership moments that always existed. When I was running organizations that were everybody housed. We do a physical meeting. You know, I could do things even after a meeting, when we had a whole team together, a whole group together, I could have a little bit of the the aftermath discussions or pull some people into the office. They would you would you get from that? What was the message you really took? Was this clear? You know, you could almost get a little bit of that. Now it’s everything is very deliberate. A leader’s efforts to really take the pulse of their organization and understand how people are thinking. It’s really got to be that leader, reaching out and pulling people together and building that culture so people know they have to. Otherwise, there’s sometimes you just almost forget. A week might go by and you might not have an interaction with somebody you might have had an interaction with every single day or would normally so?

Bud No, that’s absolutely true. You know, one of the things that said that we’ve done our the way we do development, a certain methodology of development. There’s a daily meeting among engineers. It’s short. They call it a stand-up. They’re literally standing up, you know, letting know everybody, know what their status is, kind of thing. And what I recognized was that, hey, engineering, seeing each other every day, we need to do this for the other departments. So I set up a Friday morning meeting with the other departments, so they have a place to go and see each other at least once a week. So we see each other on teleconferencing all the time. But as a team, they get together once a week and was kind of funny how it is started. It started with using a virtual background. You know, everybody’s got these virtual backgrounds that they run. And there was one of a beach scene and a crashing wave comes standard with a lot of these, you know, one of the standard virtual backgrounds. 

Bud And in during one of these meetings, I had up a beach scene with the crashing way. Then I thought, Yeah, I’ll put on a Hawaiian shirt. So I put on a Hawaiian shirt and that just sort of the notion that it was sort of a little bit of a dramatic bit or some kind of little present day, a little skit kind of has grown. And now I spend the first 10 minutes of those Friday morning meetings doing something off the wall. I mean, we’ve done everything from Groundhog Day to Roasted Chestnut Day to, you know, all of the holidays. You can imagine any number of topics, astronomic events, or whatever. It might be just 10 minutes of it. It’s entertaining, it’s maybe educational, maybe it’s just funny or whatever. And then I show up with a virtual background and in a funny hat or whatever to kind of cap it off. 

Bud And we do this every week and it’s just been it just provides that shared experience for everybody. And then, you know, they get a little kick out of it. It breaks the ice. And then we have sort of a mini town hall if you will. Among all these departments, it’s not a sort of forecasting meeting or anything. It’s a let’s just chat. You know, what’s going on? What about this account? What about this show that we all went to or so and so just published a white paper or whatever they want to talk about? It’s kind of open, and it provides a way for them to share an experience and interact with each other. Super important. 

John That’s amazing. I feel I’m getting a sense from you telling me what your culture is like, which is really unique. That’s not like most companies out there. I appreciate that and I respect that because there are not enough leaders that really know the value of what sometimes may be little things that make a really big difference in terms of how people feel about the organization, how they feel connected or more connected to the people in the organization. It sounds like you consciously focus on that. 

Bud That’s not. Yeah, yeah. But I mean, you make a really good point, which is it’s the little thing, right? And thought of it in that way. They are little things. You know, it doesn’t take that much to help the organization feel like they’re a cohesive unit. You know, it used to be that it was only the salespeople who were out at the end of the vine and had the phone in or they got things in the mail or whatever. Now everybody’s there, right? So you have to make the effort to, you know, just have this rule. No matter what I was doing, I would take a call from a salesperson because I always imagine a salesperson, you know, freezing to death in a phone booth. This is really dating myself, but in a phone booth in the middle of Nebraska wanting to get a piece of information from headquarters. 

Bud So, you know, they’re on there on the end of the vine, right? So now we’re all sort of in that situation and we’re able to leverage technology and each other to sort of replace that and make sure that it’s there and it’s alive. And yeah. So, you know, we do that. The other thing that we do is we’re. Security first company, you know, we’re in the business, so every meeting that we have, you know, executives, staff or any other. I mean, we always start with security first. We find out about what the latest is happening, what, whatever topic we’re talking about, what are the security aspects. So it’s not tacked on at the end of the meeting where we have five minutes left and we raced through it. We have a chief information security officer and we make sure that whatever topic it is if it’s staying current with training or the development of some new tool we’re going to use or whatever, security is first in every meeting. That’s how we start is with meeting other than my Friday morning meetings. Yeah. Did it start with a bit? But it’s always the security first thing, which is, you know, a way to impart that into the culture. And you have to be, as you pointed out, it has to be a conscious effort. And that’s really the key that picks the lock for the management team is you have to make an effort. 

John Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can tell people are very important to you. And that’s again, not only in an important trade, but it’s also somewhat a rare trait with a larger organization. When you get a million different things going on, you don’t realize and you forget how important obviously the people in your organization are. So I’d love to talk to you for four. I’ve got a lot of other questions, but I know where at the end of our time. But if people want to find out more about either themselves or by Q, how did they do that? What’s the best place for them to go? 

Bud So probably www.viakoo.com is really the best place to go. We have lots of access to blogs and, you know, white papers and interviews and other things that are out there that, you know, short videos. They’re good sources of information. 

John Great. And we’ll put all that in the show notes, so everybody can get get a hold of that. And obviously, I’m sure they will. So it has been great to have you on, but this has been informative and also a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. 

Bud Great. Likewise, John, thanks for the invitation. Yeah, I very much appreciate it. 

John Yeah, absolutely. We appreciate all of you tuning in, of course, like subscribe, share. And as always, I appreciate your thoughts and ideas on great future guests as well as content and appreciate you spending time with us today. Go down below, give a five-star review and we will see you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching you can reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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