Channel partners, Mergers and Acquisitions

Bob Godgart’s Latest Journey

Bob Godgart
Bob Godgart

Most channel watchers know Bob Godgart as the chairman of ChannelEyes and the former CEO of Autotask. Friends know he also has a passion for race cars. But most of all, Godgart is an entrepreneur. And now, he's working with peer entrepreneurs -- as an Executive Coach. So, who is he guiding? The answers may surprise you.

ChannelE2E spent recent weeks catching up with Godgart. Via phone calls and emails. He's still chairman of ChannelEyes. And Godgart's shift into the world of executive coaching wasn't an overnight move; he's been doing it for more than two years. The timely twist? Godgart is expected to surface this week at an IT conference for channel partners. And the destination may surprise you.

Instead of stealing Godgart's thunder, here's a look at his journey -- and this week's destination -- in his own words.

ChannelE2E: You're still chairman of ChannelEyes. But now that CEO Jay McBain runs the company day-to-day, what else are you focused on?

Jay McBain

Godgart: Jay held senior channel positions at both IBM and Lenovo until we teamed up in 2011.  He wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and it was always the plan that he would some day run a company in the channel. I had been coaching entrepreneurs for the last few years and get a lot of enjoyment from it.  So this spring, Jay transitioned to CEO and now runs ChannelEyes day-to-day and I spend more time coaching. As chairman, I am still involved with ChannelEyes as both a coach and member of the board.

ChannelE2E: Are you mainly coaching executives in IT, or all types of business?

Godgart: The most interesting lesson I learned while coaching, is that the same core business principals can drive success in all types of business. I've worked with MSPs, software companies, a manufacturer and even a corner deli. Every company needed a shared vision, a plan to get there, goals along the way, measurement against the goals, a competitive strategy, the best way to use their resources and most importantly, to perform against the plan.

The Corner Deli was an interesting experiment that showed me just how powerful coaching can be.  The Deli owner, Kayla, was struggling and I agreed to meet with her. We talked about what she wanted her business to be and how she was going to get there. We even sketched out her plan and financial model on a napkin. It was magic when we calculated the number of customers she needed using an average purchase price/margin per sale. Then for the next two weeks she measured the number of customers who came through the door each day and how much they bought. We updated the plan with the real numbers and she realized she needed 60 more customers per week to achieve her goals.

Very discouraged, she asked "How do I find 60 more customers every week? Most of my customers are walk-ins and I cannot afford advertising."  To me, the answer was simple direct marketing; "Kayla, instead of waiting for the customers to come to us, lets go get them."  And the new strategic plan was born.

Unlike other restaurants in the region, Kayla now visits second shift manufacturers, clubs and special town events to take dinner orders in person and has them delivered in 30 minutes. Kayla measures everything and has a daily metrics board to keep score. After the first week, we simplified the menu to just five selections each day, which streamlined customer orders, reduced leftovers and sped up turnaround time. Today, the business is booming. Kayla's hired several employees to handle the load and is actively looking at a second location across town. The same process that worked for her, works for multi-million dollar MSPs, manufacturers and software companies in our portfolio.

ChannelE2E: Coaching can mean a lot of different things to different people. What's your approach?

Godgart: An Executive Coach is much like a coach on a sports team. I work to get the best out of the leadership team, grow their skill set and put them in a position to succeed. Great executive coaches don't do the work! We tap into a CEO's passion to get things done, listen a lot, ask questions and help the CEO focus on what's important.

Sometimes it's hard, but I always try to make sure that any critique is done in a way that the executive will take to heart. I have to build a very strong bond of trust where they can talk about anything and everything in the business. One CEO told me I'm part teacher, part cheerleader and part therapist!

ChannelE2E: Have you been working with any executives in particular?

James Foxall

Godgart: Here's a company example I'd like to highlight. For the last 2 1/2 years, I've been working with James Foxall and Tigerpaw Software. When James first called me, he had recently taken the CEO role from his dad. For more than 20 years, the business had been run by the family and the challenge for James was to bring the business to the next level. The company had hit a revenue plateau and never seemed to have enough resources to get things done. It was time to break old patterns and I coached James to go back to basics.

James the beginning and Tigerpaw created a new Vision Statement, a set of goals and a defined strategic plan to meet the goals. Every tactic was prioritized and if it wouldn't move the needle, they didn't do it. We spent a huge amount of time defining the right metrics for the business and James had everyone on the management team develop key metrics to manage their department. For example, the customer service manager created a ratio of service tickets coming in -- to tickets closed. If the number is over 1.0, that's good and the backlog decreased. If the ratio is under 1.0 - then the backlog had increased. The result was that the entire company was far more efficient and profitable.

The team also identified that they needed to focus on quality, streamline business processes and delight their customers. A plan was put in place for each item and today Tigerpaw is proactively managing a high-growth business rather than fire fighting. Over time they've added seasoned managers to the team. In my coaching role, we worked together to define the players we needed and brought them in. It helped that James is a pretty awesome player to coach and has grown a tremendous amount in the process.

ChannelE2E: Will you be at Tigerpaw Partner Summit? In what capacity? 

Godgart: Yes, I will be at the Tigerpaw Partner Summit this year. In the early 2000s, I was a pioneer in the channel, creating the first hosted PSA (Professional Services Automation) solution for MSPs and Solution Providers. I thought it would cool to be there when Tigerpaw releases a next generation product that will change the game again.

ChannelE2E: How do you see your coaching time evolving in 2016? Are you looking to assist additional executives?

Godgart: I only work with a couple of CEOs at a time and may only take one more client in 2016 unless one or more of my Teams get acquired!  I miss all of my channel friends so you may see me out at more events over the next 12 months.

What ChannelE2E Didn't Mention

By now, some readers are wondering if Godgart is somehow waging a competitive war against his former company (Autotask) or somehow angling to jump back into the PSA software market. Rather than hype that potential story angle, I sat back and listened to Godgart on the phone. And traded a few rounds of email with him.

I came to two conclusions.

  • First, when entrepreneurs reenter markets it typically involves looking forward -- rather than looking back. That's true of my own journey here at ChannelE2E, the latest channel-centric media brand that Amy Katz and I have co-founded. And I think it's true of Godgart's efforts as an executive coach.
  • Second, my conversations with Godgart touched on a range of clients and life's journey. If you boiled our recent interactions down to 10 minutes, I suspect we spent fewer than two minutes discussing Tigerpaw; most of our interaction covered Godgart's past, present and future on so many different levels.

Admittedly, Godgart's present week involves surfacing at Tigerpaw's conference. What comes after that? ChannelE2E will be watching...

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.