In this podcast preview, Arrow CEO Charles Anderson talks about his departure from Currency in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown and outlines how technology is rapidly changing our world. Tune in for Monitor’s complete podcast with Anderson on Wednesday, November 18th.
Charles Anderson, CEO, Arrow
You co-founded Currency, poured your heart into it for 8+ years, sold it to a PE fund and stayed on as CEO. But then right before the pandemic hit, they let you go. How did you process this change?
Ah. Good question. Hard question. Deep question. It was hard. I have so much love and respect for what we built at Currency. Part of processing that loss was being honest about what happened. The PE fund decided that they didn’t want me to be the CEO anymore. It’s funny, the more I share this story with people, the more I find out how common my experience is.
I knew probably six months before March that I was unlikely to still be in the CEO seat by the end of 2021. So, I had a bit of a head start processing through what being let go could look like. The first thing I did was grieve the disappointment with my wife. Even though I saw the transition coming way in advance, it still feels like a bit of a car accident happening in slow motion. So, after I named reality, I was let go, I took a breath and made a long list of all my lessons learned from my experience. Watching something grow from $0 to almost $1 billion of the volume was incredible. Then, I developed a framework for what I wanted for my next family 10 and 20 years down the road. Finally, I thought hard about whether or not I could create a new opportunity that allowed me to be the father, friend and business leader that I wanted to be.
Would you do anything differently if you had the opportunity?
Yes. A lot. I worked a very intense and focused 80-100 hours a week for almost 9 years on one specific problem — that’s like working 15-18 years if you assume a 40-50 hour workweek. The scary question behind all of those hours is, was it worth it?
Yes, it was, with a few tweaks. First, there were a few critical decision points that I wish I would have taken a few minutes to talk to Tish, my wife, to ensure that what I wanted for us, she also wanted. We had 3 brand new babies at home back in 2013 / 2014 when Currency was just getting moving.
Second, I would have trusted my gut more often. I now have the benefit of looking backward, but as a percentage, when I went against my gut, things worked out much less often than when I pursued what I believed to be the right path forward.
2020 has been a time of uncertainty, reflection and a time to shift plans & goals. Explain briefly, how you have navigated through this year.
This year has forced most people to reevaluate and reset. It’s amazing to think about how many people are moving right now as they reprioritize what matters most to them and why. As awful as COVID has been, the time at home has forced me to think hard about how I want to carefully integrate work and life going forward. I really enjoy working. I really enjoy my family. I really enjoy helping people. With the technology that exists today, I do believe that it’s possible to do all three well: enjoy working, enjoy family and enjoy helping others. I no longer have a clear goal/milestone for where I want to be in 20 or 30 years. I’m now laser-focused on positively impacting others, be that my family, colleagues, or those who are less fortunate.
After investing over 8 years working in the technology and heavy equipment world. You helped build Currency from no volume to just about 1bn of annual volume, what was next for you?
I’m working on two things right now. One is a nonprofit platform to help underprivileged students get access to great jobs, and the other is a tech business. Back in March, I co-founded a tech platform to help heavy equipment dealers sell more equipment with less effort. That company is called Arrow.
Why does your new company, Arrow exist? What is your goal with Arrow?
My goal with Arrow is to help move the heavy equipment market fully into Mobile/Digital Commerce. #JohnDeere has over 1.6 Bn views on TikTok. The entire world is now digital and large relationship-based sales need to catch up. Arrow was built to give dealers an easy way to step into the world of digital commerce. We are just a technology platform, think of Arrow as a deal machine or a Salesforce built specifically for buying and selling heavy equipment.
Give some examples of how you are managing the culture in Arrow, during the pandemic/lockdown?
Good question. It’s hard. Well, remote working life is a new beast that many of us haven’t figured out yet. For me, I test culture with one question, does this decision move our team closer to or further from F.A.C.E.S? That stands for Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized, and Stable. For example, a cultural norm that we have at Arrow is to call during the business day with FaceTime instead of voice only. Doing that makes it feel like you’re walking into someone’s office.
What are your top tips for those feeling stuck in their careers or for those being told they need to pivot their business – how can they stay relevant and thrive?
Oh boy. Every business is so unique, that’s a hard question to answer. For me, I think that the greatest good a business can achieve is to be something that serves, is Essential, and Sustainable. An easy example of that is Google. The minute your business becomes a profitable “verb” you are likely essential and sustainable. Also, I think it’s an added bonus if your business also serves others in a way that creates a lot more value than it takes.
What does this look like in practice? I like to ask myself the hard questions on a regular basis: Do our customers really need our product? What’s their next best alternative? If we increased our pricing 2-3x, how many customers would we lose? Are we creating measurable good for other people? Etc. This thought process helps me to get unstuck, but that’s a really hard question to answer for others.
My general advice for those who feel like that are quickly becoming irrelevant is to steepen your learning curve. Go pick up a book on a topic that feels overwhelming and then turn the pages one at a time. Listen to podcasts on topics that you know nothing about. Talk to strangers who are nothing like you. Odds are, something in that process will spark you again.