60 Minutes with our CEO
This summer, we asked our talented group of college interns to contribute to the Ovative/group blog. We asked them to choose a topic that interests them, do a deep dive into the subject, then develop a post to share what they learned. Enjoy this post and check out the rest of the Intern Series from this summer!
WRITTEN BY: Coral Krentz, Duresa Worika, and Gus Peterson
One thing that us O/g interns have appreciated during our summer at Ovative is the openness that leadership has displayed, especially founder and CEO Dale Nitschke. Whether it’s a “five minutes with Dale” segment at our weekly all-staff meeting talking about an organizational change, or taking the time to check in with each intern throughout the course of the summer, he has shown genuine leadership through trust, respect, and empowerment of O/g team members at all levels of the company. We wanted to take this opportunity to pick Dale’s brain to learn more about our fearless leader.
Coral: what gave you the idea to originally start Ovative?
A couple of things, I was very interested in the idea of creating an environment that attracted smart and curious people who were willing to take risks, a culture where people trusted one another and felt accountable, and where the energy tilted toward continuous learning. Could we create just a good place where people would come and be a little bit better because they came here and were a part of something? That challenge was very energizing to me on a personal level.
And then, from a business standpoint, I had a unique lens from my experiences at Target where I could see what was going on with customer data, e-commerce, and the digital channels. Money was flowing to all things digital but there was a huge gap in understanding the value it created at an enterprise level—both online and offline. This gave us an opportunity to create a new capability that centered around measuring digital’s impact on enterprise. I think like an operator, so how to act on these measures, building expertise in understanding what marketing actions can drive revenue or customer acquisition at an enterprise level was a big, powerful idea. The measure and do of our equation makes us better at both. I think the concept has the magnitude to transform how organizations market and change the role of the marketing leader. Our goal is to create intellectual property and build expertise in enabling enterprise measurement & moving it to action – it’s a very exciting business opportunity.
Gus: as Ovative is finishing up its eighth year, what are you looking forward to the most?
I just don’t think we’ve really started yet. The maturity of the idea of measuring performance and activating through marketing at an enterprise level is very nascent. Ovative and our clients are some of the only companies in the world that are actually doing it in real time. I’m excited to see where we can take it. I’m also jazzed by this team. Each of us has had moments where you just know the group or team you’re on is special, I feel that way right now about this team. We are on the cusp of something amazing, I want to see if we can get there.
Duresa: what would you say is the most important aspect of Ovative’s culture, and how did you work to create that?
Trust is the biggest thing. We talk a lot about being “comfortable being uncomfortable” and the ability to know that what we were going to do, people hadn’t done before… so people must be comfortable in attacking problems that don’t have known solutions. And to do that, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. To feel comfortable making a lot of mistakes, you must feel like you’re in an environment where people trust one another, so that’s a big part of it. We were hiring a lot of smart, good people, but they didn’t all know a lot about some of the things that we do. We should let their curiosity take them to the next level. Trust is demanded – that people are supportive of one another. I think that trust is the underlying secret sauce of our organization.
Gus: what was your first ever job you had?
I think I was 13, and I was a caddy at Westmoor Country Club in Brookfield, WI. I loved playing golf and the mental challenge of the sport – I was a much better golfer when I was 13 than I am now, which is kind of scary.
Duresa: what was your best memory of college?
I don’t know if I have a best memory… I look back fondly on all the friendships I made. Wisconsin is a school that creates a great community around ideas, athletics, social interests and of course beer, Badgers, and Packers. I think the self-discovery one goes through in college creates fond memories for all that experience it. I still try to stay connected. On Wisconsin—it’s a powerful spirit.
Coral: what advice would you give someone in college who’s just entering the workforce for the first time?
Just be curious – really spend time and energy learning as much as you can in whatever situation you are in. Don’t compare yourselves to your friends, map your own journey and measure it against your own dreams and goals. When you’re entering the workforce for the first time, typically you’re going to be learning how to do your job, and there’s some repetition to it. Some see it for only what it is instead of what it can be. There’s a dynamic of understanding your job and being very good at what you do, but also raising your head and connecting the dots of all those around you and what they’re doing, and their personal stories. The energy that can bring you, and the connections and the networks that brings you, are very powerful.
Gus: who would you say has had the biggest impact on you as a leader?
I wouldn’t say that there’s any one individual, but I’ve been fortunate that many amazing leaders and friends have taken an interest in my life and my career, and helped me when I needed help. They have all given me gifts of advice, guidance, direct feedback, and inspired me through action. I think the ability to observe, learn and pick up pieces from individuals that you respect and admire is something that’s important for people to always be thinking about. That idea is something that we try to live by at O/g.
Duresa: what inspires you?
I’ve got to go back to the people and the team—fearlessly unlocking potential. You look at different people and how they’ve grown – both as individuals and as contributors to the team, from a personal sense that inspires me every day. I’m competitive – when other people do things better, that inspires me to try to figure out how we can elevate and raise the bar. New ideas and change are very inspiring to me, I like to move things forward and not be static. I’m not my best me when things are just “all good” or “all the same”.
Coral: you like to travel and experience new things, what experience did you have when traveling that was most impactful?
I was 16, and spent a summer on a small farm in northern France. It gave me confidence in myself that I could just go and do and survive and succeed. It was also inspiring that there are vastly different cultures from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but commonalities between people everywhere. There are a lot of similarities that bring people together. A smile goes a long way.
Duresa: what’s the top place on your travel bucket list?
I’ve been to lots of places… I’ve never been to New Zealand or Australia, so I’d like to go there.
Gus: you’re stranded on a desert island – what 3 things are you bringing to help pass the time and what 3 O/g employees are you bringing to help you escape?
Well I’d take a sand wedge and a golf ball because my sand game just sucks, and being stuck on a desert island I’d have plenty of time to practice. And probably my phone, so while I was practicing my sand shot I could text people. Then for who I’d bring… I think Brandon (Wishnow), who is always entertaining. He would come up with creative wacky ideas and one of them might actually get us off the island. Then, (David) Slayton, cause I’d give him my phone and he’d make some crazy amount of money either gambling online or in the market that would enable us to offer gigantic rewards for anyone who came to save us. One more… probably Ben (Cedarberg), because Ben would ask great questions from a different point of view and figure out how to operate and get the idea to reality.
Coral: how would you describe your life using only movie titles?
Wow, I have to think about movie titles… with the first job, Caddyshack. For life and inspiration, I’d say A River Runs Through It – I really enjoy the reflective elements and just how rivers continue to flow over centuries, it’s pretty interesting to me. Like most males of my generation I imagine there’s a Godfather aspect to my life that I’m haunted by.
Gus: what’s the best concert you’ve seen?
I’m a huge Springsteen fan. Like many in my generation, he’s described our youth, mid lives, and present in ways that still mean something. I saw him on the University of Minnesota campus probably 7 years ago, it was a solo tour and I was in the first row. It was very cool to interact with and see a true artist that close.
Coral: what’s your favorite beer?
Miller High Life out of long neck bottles, on the beach at the cabin. Ice cold of course.
“I would blindly follow him.” “Go-getter.” “Humble, inspiring, and genuine.” “Eccentric.” “Insightful.” “Smart.” “Iconic.” These are the responses that we received when we asked our intern class to describe Dale anonymously… and these are “just a few. Dale’s freaking awesome.” We are grateful to have spent the summer learning from a leader who is not only committed to client success and driving the organization forward – but one that is fully accessible, transparent, fun, and always looking out for our best interest.