Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Growth? One CEO Responds

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The Motley Fool talks with Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith, one of Forbes' "Most Promising CEOs Under 35." Ryan's online data collection and analysis platform has enjoyed meteoric growth and success in its quest to "help companies be right."

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: When you're talking about a triple-digit growth rate, that we spoke about earlier, do you worry about growing too fast?

Ryan Smith: You can often run in front of the team, which is scary. We've gone with this Nail It Before You Scale It philosophy.

There's a strong argument, and we've seen it, that if you can nail it -- or have more certainty that you're growing in the right direction -- you'll be farther ahead because you're actually plowing through growth at a 95% certainty rate, and you're coming in with more aggression than if you were 40% of the way there and thinking you're doing the right thing.

As far as growing too fast, I think it's a concern. I don't think we're anywhere near that yet.

Brendan: About half of the Fortune 100 companies are currently using your products. Can you talk a little bit more about that shift from academia to getting these businesses on board? How that happened, and was that a big challenge? That's really where the growth is, right?

Ryan: Yeah, it's definitely where the growth has been. We love our academic upbringing and we wouldn't trade it for the world. I think we learned a lot. In 2007 and 2008, that's where the big shift came, for us.

The companies that we were calling in 2004 weren't listening to us, or didn't have a need, or didn't see the value of it. It's kind of a weird time, because that's when the recession started happening. I used to wear a pin that said, "I will not participate in the recession." It's not for us.

It's almost like it was high fives and chest bumps all around in 2005 because everyone was making money. Companies really started to struggle, and ask why. They couldn't throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. It was a shotgun approach. They had to hit.

If you just think about every company, if they were able to execute 100% of the time, and be right, it would be a phenomenal place. We started seeing companies, who historically had not wanted to pay attention to the data, become extremely data oriented in the downturn, and our business took off.

I think that those companies who have maintained that scrappiness and just wanted to measure a couple more times before they cut, and then cut very aggressively, have historically done very well.

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