New Sage CEO swims with sharks

By Paolo Del Nibletto

My first take on Sue Swenson, the brand new CEO of Sage Software, is that it’s way too early to say anything about her.

However, I will say this. At her introductory keynote address at the Sage Insights 08 conference in Washington, DC, Swenson, a former T-Mobile USA chief executive, was smart enough not to make any proclamations and instead just made some general observations.

Telling the packed crowd that Sage has great products and should focus on the customer is nothing knew. Those are fine comments to make, but they’re also very safe comments to make. I think the Sage channel partners were expecting some kind of vision, and they did not get that at all.

What they did get was more intriguing. Swenson told a story about when she swam with sharks in San Francisco bay to help out a business partner, while she was in the wireless industry. The swim was part of an ad campaign for Ericsson.

The reason why Swenson did this was not because of fame or fortune, but because she had been conducting business with Ericsson for a few years that was mutually profitable for both parties.

If anything this story is a great sign for Sage partners because it tells me that Swenson really understands partnership. This is what it’s all about. It’s about helping each other out.

What also impressed me about Swenson was how she based this Ericsson partnership on a common set of measurements that both parties considered successful. Before Swenson agreed to be a partner with Ericsson she was able to have them agree on this common set of measurements for success.

She calls it a vendor scorecard, but I see it as two business people sitting down and figuring out a way to may each other successful. As a result of this scorecard Swenson was able to build upon her relationship with Ericsson. So she swam with sharks because she had a good relationship with Ericsson and wanted to support their business. It is basically going the extra mile for someone.

Even though Swenson said very little, this story is a great sign that Sage partners have a CEO that really understands what partnership is all about.

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