2019 Executive Excellence Awards: Mark Mader, Smartsheet Inc.

The president and CEO of the Seattle-based company is one of this year's winners.

This article appears in print in the February 2019 issue. See more about the winners of the 2019 Executive Excellence Awards here. Click here for a free subscription.

When business-management software-as-a-service company Smartsheet went public in 2018 with a $150 million IPO, CEO Mark Mader was asked what one thing contributed to the company’s growth.

There wasn’t one, Mader says. “Success is a culmination of hundreds if not thousands of decisions,” he explains. “You have to enjoy the journey and appreciate how these decisions build upon one another.”

Mader was there in 2006 for some of the foundational decisions, including a move to gut and relaunch Smartsheet’s core product. “We believed the idea was valid, but the mechanism needed to change,” he recalls.

That was a comparatively easy decision; at the time, the Smartsheet team numbered 11. Today, the count is more than 1,000, and Smartsheet has more than 80,000 customers, so the significance of decision making is even greater. “Ultimately, not addressing those tough decisions, whatever the circumstances, whether it be product, customers, employees or shareholders, kicking things down the road usually doesn’t result in a great outcome.”

Mader won’t lack for more decisions to make, as Smartsheet adds employees outside the United States to fuel global growth and moves into federal-government sales. What’s key to making those decisions, he adds, is “understanding the perspective of people who are buying and using your product,” and getting their feedback regularly. “If you assign value to other people’s perspectives, you can de-risk many of your decisions.”

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