Kerri Pollard Discloses Commission Junction’s Secret: Google Beware

This article originally appeared on Forbes HERE

Kerri Pollard, President of Commission Junction shared her entrepreneurial insights as part of UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Like most powerful business principles, Kerri's secret for building and maintaining a healthy and innovative corporate culture is no secret - instill a humble conviction in your team.

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You can watch a 13-minute excerpt from Kerry's talk below or view it directly on YouTube here:

Kerri set the stage at the outset of her talk, noting, “What I would like to do today is to demonstrate to all of you that you don't need to be a member of the educated elite or possess the intellect of a Mark Zuckerberg to be successful. When I look back on my own career... and those around me... two traits that really stand out and that I have learned to live by over the 20-plus years that I have spent in business and that is Humility and Confidence.

Typically, those two traits don't sit together. However, when they do, they can be absolutely, incredibly powerful.

She then told the class of young entrepreneurs three stories, each of which underscores the powerful combination of humility, confidence and conviction.

1. Arrogant Greg's Quick Demise

Kerri's first story describes the downfall of a fellow employee who had abundant confidence, along with a significant humility deficit.

“... Over the course of 2004 and 2005, we actually merged Be Free and Commission Junction together. 

So it was about in the 2004 timeframe that I made my first trip to Santa Barbara... to visit the Commission Junction offices. I came with a colleague that I will call 'Greg.' As soon as we crossed the threshold of the Commission Junction offices, it was immediately apparent to me that he and I had two very different agendas, because I did not see him that entire week.

That week I spent trying to shake as many hands as possible, get to know as many people as possible. Commission Junction... had a very different philosophy about affiliate marketing than Be Free. I was very curious in terms of why they chose that philosophy (and) how effective it was in the marketplace. They also had a segment of customers that we hadn't been successful with - (I was there) to really learn. I met a lot of really great people.

I later learned that Greg spent his entire week in the executive arm of Commission Junction's offices trying to demonstrate his own expertise to the executives... and tell them what he knew and what he thought his place should be in the company. Not exactly a lot of humility. Let's just say that Greg was no longer employed by us about six months later. When the Commission Junction team came into power, Greg was no longer.

Kerri notes that humility and confidence not only pay off when working with one's peers, these traits also facilitate the acceptance of change. Humility leads one to realize that they have much to learn from new circumstances, while confidence reduces the natural insecurity that arises from new circumstances.

Kerri advises that, “You will quickly learn... that the only constant in business is change. I am still surprised by people's resistance to change. Digging in their heels, worried about themselves, getting extremely territorial, versus them embracing that change. And having the humility and confidence to not feel threatened by others but instead (to) look at it as an opportunity to learn from others. How can we make this a better company, with people who may have different skills than some of us.

I recently applied my own advice late last year because ValueClick (Commission Junction's parent company) acquired a company by the name of Dotomi. I had the privilege of being part of the due diligence process. I really took the same approach... Hey, new company, new people, new platform, this is really a great chance to learn and make ValueClick a better company.

I am so glad I took that approach, because I am now reporting to the President of Dotomi, (who) was recently promoted to the COO of ValueClick. Lesson learned... embracing change and having the humility and confidence to do so.

2. Passion Play

Kerri's second story involves her relentless pursuit of activities intended to spark her young daughter's passions. These experiences have caused her to rethink the "follow your passions" cliché.

As Kerri tells it, The second story that relates to humility and confidence relates to my daughter. She is nine years old and like most parents, we have enrolled her in a slew of activities over the years.

And I have to admit to all of you here, it was incredibly painful. She sucks (at sports)... but that's not the painful part. The lack of engagement (is what is hard to watch). I am punching my husband's arm (and saying), 'Look at her, why are we here? She is not engaged. This isn't her passion.' 

It has become this cliché... you will become successful if you can find your passion. I have a slightly different take on it. Growing up... I was convinced that my passion was sports marketing... and therefore that was what I would focus my entire career search on.

It wasn't until I started at Be Free at 27, 28-years old that I really understood what my passion was. I like getting up in front of people, I like presenting to clients. I used to like presenting in front of my 7th grade class. I like managing people, just like I liked managing class projects when I was (in) 9th, 10th grade.

So really understanding and breaking down that passion and really redefining what you like to do (is key to your career search). I have no doubt now... that if I were analyzing spreadsheets all day long in an awesome sports marketing firm that I would be absolutely miserable.

3. Communicate Conviction

Kerri notes that clear communications are important. However, to truly persuade, one's communications must be made with heartfelt conviction.

According to Kerri, “The importance of communication (is overstated)... it's not so much about communication. It's really about conviction. Conviction convinces. When we get in front of customers, it's about having that conviction. Whatever you decide to do... make sure you possess that conviction because it sells like nobody's business.

Putting It All Together

Kerri wraps up her talk by encouraging entrepreneurs to embrace the power of humility, confidence, passion and conviction.“Humility and confidence are so critical to whatever career you decide to pursue. I don't see it enough. Your ability to learn from others and embrace change. Your ability to have the confidence to define your passion and pursue it and to use (your passion) to speak with conviction.


Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet about a surfing dog or that killer burrito I just ate.

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John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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