Qualtrics: Teaching Transparency
“Keep in mind that data analytics are becoming mainstream. We saw that data was a blind spot for companies. What most companies need is the data they don’t have and that’s what we provide.”
Some of the best ideas are created in adverse environments, which is exactly the case with Ryan Smith and Qualtrics. As a college sophomore, Smith was working for Hewlett-Packard in a summer program when his father, Scott Smith, was diagnosed with throat cancer. Smith returned home to spend time with his father and help in his recovery. To pass the time, father and son worked together to develop a system that would make it easier for academics to conduct research themselves. This idea evolved into Qualtrics.
Today, Qualtrics provides real-time insight into Big Data for more than half of the Fortune 100 and 96 of the top-100 business schools. “Qualtrics pioneered the online survey market by developing a sophisticated yet simple-to-use solution for academic researchers,” says Smith. “What started in academia has since spread like wildfire to corporations.” Qualtrics propels the ability to digest data beyond researchers to anyone in any business who wants insight into what customers think and, more importantly, what customers want.
Smith prides himself in giving his clients not only insight into big data but an exceedingly intimate level of customer service. “I was the only sales rep at Qualtrics for the company’s first three years,” he says. “The only time I find myself getting depressed is when I’m not talking to customers.”
Another source of satisfaction for Smith is Qualtics’ corporate culture. Other than Smith’s CEO post, there are no job titles at Qualtrics. “We’ve developed an execution system that is transparent,” he explains, “Notes from every meeting and every internal document are published and available to anyone.” This level of transparency allows employees to focus on the external factors impacting Qualtrics, instead of spending intellectual capital determining what is going on inside the company.
Qualtrics’ success has not gone unnoticed. The company was recently listed as one of Forbes’ “Most Promising,” while Smith was recognized as one of the “Most Promising CEOs under 35.” As Qualtrics expands its client base at home and abroad, Smith pledges not to rest on his laurels. “Innovation,” says Smith, “has a short shelf life.”