Nick Barnett

CEO, Asolvi

Nick has over 20 years of experience in working across digital and tech enabled businesses, including SaaS and software services, mobile apps and platforms, ad-tech and edtech. He brings together a rare blend of experience, from classic strategy consulting (McKinsey & Company), blue-chip corporate development and M&A (O2/Telefonica) and hands-on business leadership (CEO of an Accel backed portfolio company). Nick recently became the CEO of Asolvi, a Volpi Capital-backed and leading provider of field service software, tasked with guiding the business through its next chapter of expansion and success. He was previously the President of EF English Live, the consumer facing digital learning arm of Education First, the world’s largest privately held education company. In this role he managed a team of over 500 FTEs across three continents.

Nick regards his leadership skills, problem solving abilities and analytics as his core competences.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

Openness, transparency, fairness.

Businesses are built by people, for people. Ensure your team understand what’s important, what drives us forward, what is important to our customers, why we do what we do. And if times get hard, or strategy changes, communicating this transparently and handling any repercussions in a fair manner is crucial in driving teams forward with trust and a common objective.

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Probably my father. He was a self-made entrepreneurial business owner, taking on the risk of setting up his own engineering business at the age of 40 with three young children. Running the business became a core theme of family life – dinner conversations were often business related, but I learned a lot through osmosis. He was also keen to stress the importance of “getting away” from work at weekends and managing a sustainable work-life balance (even in the 1980s!).

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. But DO SWEAT THE BIG STUFF! What is going to “move the needle”?

Think long and hard about the top 3 things that matter every quarter. These might stay the same for 4 quarters or more, but that’s fine. just focus on what matters, execute on plans to make a difference and put the rest to the side/lower priority.

Top-tip – OKRs are a great tool here, but they require real discipline to ensure they work. If you’re going to adopt them you need to ensure that either (a) you, as a leader, can spare the time to ensure everyone in the organisation adopts them or (b) you can appoint an OKR-master to do this on your behalf… with your full authority for getting them done. Also, if it becomes a chore, don’t feel the need to do them every quarter. Half year OKRs, or even annual, are better than no OKRs. They provide an opportunity for open and honest dialogue across teams and ensure the whole organisation understands what you are trying to achieve.

4. What would you tell your younger self?

Worry less.

Do more of what you enjoy, and if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing then move on.

Be confident in your beliefs, your values and your intuition.

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions and act upon them. If something feels off, it probably is; if something feels right, it probably is. Intuition/gut-instinct is as undervalued asset… but it takes time to feel whether your gut is right or wrong. Use data to support your instincts, but don’t become a “slave to data”.

Systems really do matter. If you can’t get consistent, reliable, trustworthy data from across the business, it’s impossible to know whether you are heading in the right direction or not. For me, this starts with having a full understanding of the customer journey, from the very first interaction (e.g. Google search ad-click or inbound enquiry), through the purchasing funnel, through the whole ‘active customer’ period and churning/cancelling/leaving. Building the underlying data for this journey – number of touchpoints, time at each stage, customer acquisition cost, average tenure, lifetime value etc is crucial to enable benchmarking and optimisation.