I’m an award-winning customer success leader with 18+ years of experience in the CS field. I started my journey as a CSM on the front lines and then moved into building, developing, and leading high-performing customer success teams at high-growth companies.
My track record includes playing an integral part as a CS leader in two successful exits: Eloqua (IPO and then acquired by Oracle for $1 billion) and Kustomer (acquired by Meta). I’m currently the VP of Customer Experience at PathFactory.
When I’m not working I really enjoy cycling. I’ve joined a local bike club here in northern New Jersey and I also do regular spin classes. I’m originally from Canada and moved here about seven years ago with my three kids and my wife. Besides cycling, I watch hockey, I’m an avid reader and I’m currently writing my first book on customer success.
We asked Chad to take us through a journey telling us about his career path, how he spends his workday, what advice he can share with someone starting as a customer success manager, and many other questions.
Enjoy reading this interview
Table of Contents
Tell us about your career path?
I definitely didn’t just jump into customer success. I have a Master’s degree in history and decided to go back to school to learn to be a software engineer. While I didn’t become an engineer I found that I enjoyed technology and leveraging it to find solutions for customers.
I eventually made my way into customer success and after several years became a manager. I found it to be a natural step for me as instead of helping customers I was helping my team. From there I started managing multiple teams and eventually moved into larger CS leadership roles.
Eventually, I was recruited to NYC to join an early-stage start-up and have helped several companies grow and scale their customer success teams.
How did you join Customer Success?
I became a consultant at a small boutique tech firm that hired graduates from my post-grad technology program. I worked with customers and our engineering and design team to create custom web-based solutions. After three years I joined my first SaaS company Eloqua and started as a Solutions Manager which later became a CSM role. I was lucky to have started early on in the field of customer success.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
An ideal CSM candidate will differ from company to company but there are three characteristics that I look for based on Patrick Lencioni’s book The Ideal Team Player as teamwork is so critical to customer success. These are hungry, humble, and smart.
Being hungry means you are proactive. You look for issues to solve rather than waiting for them to happen. You continuously learn and keep your skills up to date and you anticipate your customer’s needs.
Humble means you check your ego at the door. You focus on the team and company’s goals over your own ambitions.
Smart is not about intellect but rather means that you do the right thing. In customer success, you need to do right by your client whether it’s advocating for a feature or coming up with a unique solution. You are constantly thinking on your feet and determining how best to use your time.
The best CSMs can figure out the next best step, and are hungry enough to keep pushing but are humble enough to seek out assistance when they need it.
Lastly, the best CSMs aren’t afraid to push their customers and challenge them. They are empathetic to their customer’s needs but keep in mind their business outcomes and drive towards them.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
The number one piece of advice is to keep learning and soaking up information. Become a product expert within your company but that doesn’t just mean serving your customers. Take your insights and feed them back to other teams such as sales, marketing, and product.
Keep learning and soaking up information.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
My current day consists of many meetings, reviewing data, and setting strategy. As a senior leader, I have to ensure that I meet with clients, my cross-functional colleagues, my direct reports, and my extended team.
I have my projects that I own and work on and also ensure I set aside time to handle items that come up.
To start my day I like to exercise, take my dog for a walk, and then do some reading. All of these activities get me ready to face the day ahead.
To end my day I’ll usually journal about a positive thing that happened and reorganize my tasks for the next day so I can come in hot.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
I feed off the people around me. Whether it’s someone coming up with a unique customer solution, or sharing a customer story. I also get pumped up after speaking to customers. It’s incredible to hear their stories and what they are trying to accomplish.
To help me maintain my focus I enjoy reading business-related books and listening to leadership podcasts. It motivates me to keep learning and improving.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
Most people who may know me from webinars or my writing may not know that I like to joke around and tell really bad father jokes. One of my secrets to leadership is laughter.
Who do you look up to the most?
I look up the most to my wife. She is much more patient than I am and is such an excellent role model for others. She doesn’t take things as seriously as I do and tries to understand others rather than wanting to be understood. She’s also an extremely talented artist who tries new styles and approaches rather than sticking to her area of comfort.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
These are my top 3 priorities:
Spending time with my family. I try and dedicate time in my week to all of my family members. This could mean reading a story with one of my children, taking them to ballet classes, or watching a show together.
Writing my book. I’m in the editing phase and am trying to edit a chapter a night. Editing is extremely tedious.
Adapting to my newer CS leadership role. This includes setting the strategy, putting in the right processes to track progress, and measuring results.
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
My advice to CSMs is to never stop learning. You have such an advantage over someone like myself as there is so much CSM material that is out there than when I started in CS. I would also take advantage of CS communities and network with others. You no longer need to figure things out in isolation.
As an additional piece of advice, I recommend that you befriend colleagues in other functions. Ask them this simple question “How can I help you?”. You will be surprised how much you’ll learn when you do this and how you can gain influence in your organization by looking beyond your CS team.
What’s your favorite book, and why?
It’s really hard to have a favorite book as I read a lot. The one that has been the most impactful is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It’s such a profound book and I honestly feel I’ve just scratched the surface of it. The areas that I’ve focused on the most include being proactive, starting with the end in mind, and “sharpening the saw”.
As an example, I aim to be proactive in my life as it relates to my family, my career, my health, and my finances. What I loved most about this book as it helped me find my purpose in life which is to help others. Not many books can help you do that.
» Check out the 10 Books a CSM should read to advance and improve their skills.
Have you had your “I’ve made it” moment yet?
Never. It’s the opposite for me in life, unfortunately. My number one strength as it relates to the StrengthFinder’s assessment is “Achiever”. This means that I’m never happy with what I’ve achieved and constantly push myself and others. This innate drive is a core part of me but also has its downsides.
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup in our lifetime?
I’m sure everyone here cares about that. The answer is that they better!
Where can people go to find out more about you?
I’d be happy to connect on Linkedin, feel free to reach out:
Thank you, Chad, for sharing your knowledge and for the opportunity to know you more.
Do you have a Customer Success Leader, Expert, or Influencer you would like to know more about?