Sal Syed, CEO and co-founder of Arccos Golf has seen his company grow quickly since launching in 2014, and its technology is changing the way golfers approach the game.
Arccos’ GPS-based hardware and software seamlessly captures a player’s performance data in real time, then uses advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence to help them make smarter decisions and shoot lower scores.
Chief Executive spoke with Syed about building his team when launching the company, managing rapid growth within his organization and how he handles partnerships with tech giants including Mircosoft. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How did you identify and recruit the best possible people to help bring your company to life?
A: The first thing, especially for the early employees, I would look at is, “Am I going to learn from them?” And if they were the other way around, “Would I want them to be my boss?” And that answered so many different questions and it crystallizes everything in your head on whether that’s the right person or not. And you only get to that answer once you’ve spent time with them, spent time talking about it. If I go a little bit deeper, I would look for if they’d buy in to the vision and the mission that we want to do, which is to connect, and track, and record, and analyze every single golf shot that’s taken on the planet. I would say, “It all starts with the belief and passion that this is something which sounds absurd and impossible, we’re going to make happen.” So, in a start-up, you need a little bit of positive irrationality.
“We want to make our partner successful and then we want to make sure that the way the partnership is structured also helps Arccos.”
I mean, it’s not a rational decision to start a company or go join a super early start-up unless there’s a little bit of madness and passion in you. So I look for that. And then, of course, I look for the ability and the creativity to solve problems. So I ask people, what are the hardest problems they’ve solved in the past. I look at how much risk can somebody stomach, how much is somebody willing to take, and that past life or past history is, generally, a good indicator of how much risk somebody is going to take. So you have to solve hard problems, but you also have to stick with them. The only way you solve them is to stick with them.
Q: What were some of the things you’ve learned from a leadership standpoint in terms of managing growth?
A: I would say number one, I’ve had a really helpful and experienced board around me. And so getting that guidance has been really, really important, because they are people who’ve seen how teams have grown and how to think about org structure and the needs of the company, and anticipate them before it’s too late. You don’t want to hire too early, but you also don’t want to hire when it’s too late. So it’s a fine line. And we’ve learned lessons along the way for sure, but tapping into other people’s experience has been huge—certainly, my board members.
And then I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to join the Young Presidents’ Organization, YPO. And so I would say my forum mates over there, who are other young CEOs, it’s been really, really helpful talking to other people.
Q: Arccos has partnered with Microsoft and other big tech players. Tell me about nurturing those partnerships and building them from the ground up.
A: Number one, it starts with perspective taking. I think any successful partnership starts with understanding what your partner’s, or potential partner’s needs are, not what your needs are. So I think a lot of times people make the mistake of thinking, “This is what I want. Let me figure out a way to fit it into their mission, or their vision.” And I would say, if you look at it the other way, like, “Okay. What is Microsoft trying to do? What are their key objectives? How can Arccos help there? And in the ways that Arccos can help, do they align with what Arccos wants to do?” And I would say if you invert that, that’s the way to think about it. That’s how we go about it. We want to make our partner successful and then we want to make sure that the way the partnership is structured also helps Arccos. But I would say partners come first. And that mindset helps us get to a point where it’s beneficial for both parties and equally, or mutually beneficial. And it’s not a one-sided deal where we’re getting in there, only for our benefit. And I think, to me, that’s key.