John Federman joined JRNI as CEO in March. In the first few months, he's driven the rebranding and repositioning of the company, and the distribution of technical and support resources on both sides of the pond. We recently sat down with John to learn more about how he got here.
Q: Let’s go way back. What did you go to school for, and where did your career begin?
A: Well, I created my own major at the University of Massachusetts. I was interested in both Business and Fine Arts, specifically painting, and UMass made it easy for me to pursue both interests. Ultimately, when I graduated, I had more immediate opportunities available in business.
I accepted a role at Ziff Davis Media, which at the time, was the leading technology publishing company following a rapidly evolving marketplace. There, I had several different roles within their sales and marketing teams over the next 12 years. Eventually, they asked me to manage a couple territories on the West Coast, so I moved to Sausalito, California and lived on a houseboat!
Q: It’s safe to say you have a lot of experience by now, considering this is your 6th CEO role in the last twenty years. What are some of the most memorable points in your career?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is the dot-com bubble, which happened fairly early after my switch to the CEO role. It was fascinating to see how countless companies benefited from purely being in the right place at the right time. After the bubble burst, it was harder to be successful, even if you put in the work and had some strong early traction. It still serves as a great reminder that timing and luck play a major role in whatever you’re doing.
There’s been countless other memorable moments along the way. There’s been no greater joy than playing a role in companies as they’ve scaled. There’s never a straight path, but getting to several successful acquisitions has inspired me to try again!
Q: What’s the best advice you have for someone who is new to a CEO role?
A: Recognize how much you have to learn.
Q: What do you attribute your success to?
A: Appreciating customers. Without customers, there’s no business. I think this can be easy to forget, as it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the intricacies of daily operations. I’m focused on ensuring that, as we continue growing, we keep our customers at the heart of our product.
Q: Is speaking to customers important to you?
A: It’s everything. If we don’t have our best customers’ thumbprints on our product, we’re doing something wrong. Our customers are using our product day in and day out, and they have a wealth of knowledge that I want to tap into.
Q: Let’s talk more about the industry specifically. Do you have any predictions about where our industry, or technology in general, is heading?
A: I think we’re in the middle of a large global shift right now. When technology became mainstream, everyone thought it would completely replace face-to-face interactions. What I’ve seen is that technology can actually take you further away from your customers. Now I’m not saying we should abandon technology, but rather I think we should use technology to improve engagement.
The pendulum has swung from primarily face-to-face interaction, to primarily digital, and ultimately it will have to rest somewhere in the middle.
An omnichannel approach to customer experience is crucial. Because today’s consumers are using multiple channels to perform research, read reviews, and make purchases, businesses have to be agile and provide a seamless experience across channels.
One area that I still see companies struggling with is determining whether they should prioritize and invest in the physical piece of their omnichannel approach. I think the answer to this is pretty obvious. Just look at Amazon, one of the “Big Four” technology companies, which started as a digital-only brand. Now they’re a major player in the physical retail space with not just one – but several – store types such as Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Go, and their acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017.
If digital-first brands are emerging in physical retail, that’s a good sign. If Amazon is emerging in physical retail, that’s a major sign.
Q: Thanks, John. On a fun note, what do you like to do outside of work?
A: Outside of work, I enjoy all that New England has to offer, including boating and skiing. I am fortunate that I have family and friends with whom I can enjoy it all!
Q: If you had to define your career journey in one word, what would it be?
Q: What’s the most interesting journey you’ve taken in your life?
A: My journey to JRNI, of course!
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with innovative media, e-commerce, and retail platforms that, combined, arm me uniquely for the job of honoring and growing JRNI’s heritage of product and thought leadership.
It’s been incredibly exciting – especially with our rebrand that we announced to the entire company at our annual Kickoff at our London headquarters last month. As we recruit new employees, we ask them to #jointhejrni. Because, we really do view the transformation of client engagement to be our journey!
Interested in working alongside John and the rest of the JRNI team? Check out our current open roles and #jointheJRNI!