Q&A: FinancialForce.com CEO Lives Life in the Cloud

- Leadership - Nov 01, 2014

Jeremy Roche, 49, is boss of cloud-based financial applications company FinancialForce.com. The UK-based CEO took time out of his crammed schedule to tell us more about himself and his journey to date.

BR EME: Where were you educated? What did you enjoying learning the most/least?

JR: William Hulme Grammar, Manchester. Thames Polytechnic, London. I particularly enjoyed History and it’s safe to say I didn’t exactly excel at Chemistry!

What lead you into the world of technology as a career?

To be honest, I fell into it. I was doing a degree in business with a major in marketing. I was starting to think that a conversion to law would be a good thing, having worked in a lawyer’s office for several summers as work experience.

Then I got the opportunity to work for IBM for a year as part of my degree and I just kept going back to technology, with subsequent work at IBM and then into software at a very early stage.

I understand you were in sales for a time in your career, how would you describe working in sales in three words?

“A roller-coaster” - is that 3? When it comes down to it working in sales is a roller-coaster of emotion, and luck, underpinned by innate and learnt skills.

When you are up and winning every deal, nothing can stop you. Until you lose one that is and then it all switches until you can turn it round again. There is a great adrenalin rush to closing the deal!

Now that cloud is a reality, can you imagine life without it?

Nope, I live eat and breathe it every day. Our apps are pure cloud. We run FinancialForce.com purely in the cloud. I run my personal life in the cloud. Whether in work or in personal life, cloud based apps and storage ensure everything is on hand and fully interconnected.

Does the saying ‘less is more’ hold any credence in your field of work?

Less installed software is more productive!

Is your home a technology/gadget haven? What is your favorite tech gadget or app that you use at home?

That depends whether you consider a gadget haven one with gadgets or one that is gadget free? In my case, since I am a self-confessed gadget junkie, my home is full of gadgets I use, as well as boxes of the history of my gadgets. My teenage sons even accuse me of gadget addiction so I think I probably have to accept it is true.

Apart from a selection of phones and tablets (I usually carry at least two of each in my bag), I’m currently experimenting with smart watches. So far I’ve tried Pebble and Galaxy Gear, neither are perfect, but both far more functional on the wrist than just a normal watch.

My favorite gadget at home is Sonos for music. It’s changed the way I consume music and it means there is music playing through the house most of the time. Linked to spotify as well as itunes, it means I can play whatever I want whenever I want.

Do you believe it is important to keep your home and work life separate?

I’m not sure that is really possible any more. I guess it depends on what you do, but it certainly isn’t for me. I try to manage the fact there is little separation, but I don’t think I do as well as I should. Put that down as a weakness?

Who has been your biggest influence during your career?

I don’t think there is a single ‘who’ really. One of my personal goals is to learn at least one thing every day and the primary place I can learn that is the teams I’m working with. So the biggest influence has to be the teams that have let me learn from them over time.

What motivates you?

Is success too simple an answer? I guess it depends on how you determine success. In my case, I have the firm belief that what we do is all about the people and the interactions between them: People buy from people, sell to people. Services are delivered by people to people - you can’t hide behind the technology.

What was the best and worst piece of advice you ever received?

In the late 1980s and I was not long out of college working at IBM and one of the senior people I was working with suggested I tried this new application software business while I waited for the job I wanted at IBM to come up. I never went back to hardware.

Is there ever bad advice? Advice is someone’s opinion and therefore, to them it is right. We are responsible for the decisions we make. If I make a wrong decision, whether based on advice or not, I try to learn something from it and try not to make the same mistake again.

How about a piece of advice I wish I’d received but never got? Having spent time now working in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I do wish someone had told me to go and do that earlier in my career.

What do you do in your free time?

I live in Oxford in the UK and run a business based in San Francisco that is growing more than 80 percent, so that doesn’t leave much ‘free’ time! I travel a lot so when I’m at home I try and spend as much time as I can with my family.

I play golf when I can, but I’m never going to be any good. I’ve recently started training for some long distance bike riding I’ve been challenged to do, so if it’s not raining I’ll try and get some miles in. Oh and I’m trying to learn to DJ at the moment for fun too.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

Start early and never give up. Listen hard to those you respect and try and learn, but don’t follow advice blindly, think and apply it to your circumstances. Don’t ever think you are perfect or invincible, that’s when you’ll stop learning and unless you are incredibly lucky, you will fail.

What was the biggest mistake you ever made?

Not to spend more time internationally earlier in my career.

What would you like your epitaph to be?

I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. Maybe something like “He worked hard and played hard”. I think I’d rather leave that to someone else to decide though!

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