Dean Guida is the entrepreneur behind the enterprise-software company Infragistics. Now he’s doing it again with soon-to-launch digital workplace platform Slingshot — Guida’s first foray into tech-driven team performance. Dean bootstrapped Infragistics 31 years ago and has grown it into a multimillion dollar company without accepting outside funding. He oversees all aspects of Infragistics’ business operations and corporate direction, maintaining a steady focus on inspiring STEM students, delighting the customer and delivering value to the market.
Infragistics has 250 employees and offices in the U.S., Japan, Uruguay, Bulgaria, UK and India. The company’s client roster boasts 100% of the S&P 500, including Intuit, Exxon and Morgan Stanley, and its enterprise-ready UX and UI toolkits are in use by more than two million developers and designers worldwide.
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We’re grateful for your time today, thank you for joining us! Share your story with us.
Dean Guida: As the founder and CEO of Infragistics, I’ve led my team through decades of technological change, cultivating Infragistics from a small startup in 1989 into a multinational enterprise software business. Today, I oversee all aspects of Infragistics’ business operations and corporate direction, maintaining a steady focus on delighting the customer and delivering value to the market. With a developer and UX professional community of more than 1.4 million, we have achieved the highest awards in software development, and Infragistics enterprise mobility apps help users collaborate and get insight and results for their companies.
Some say leadership is innate, others would argue against it. Would you say you were born a leader or did you have to become a leader? Explain your experience and viewpoint.
Dean Guida: My 30+-year legacy at Infragistics is a testament to my passion and commitment to stay the course. As a leader, I’ve built a place of work where the best designers and developers want to work. My leadership experience has pushed us to become an innovator in the developer and business tools market that our customers love and the marketplace respects.
Tell us about your company/Organization. What are some of the most exciting projects that you’re working on and how does your organization distinguish itself from the rest?
Dean Guida: When we launched the Infragistics Innovation Lab, it cemented our commitment to our internal inventors and entrepreneurs. For years, we informally developed game-changing enterprise software products in-house. Now, we have a $50 million fund and a formal process for the constant innovation that we need to stay two steps ahead of technology shifts. Our Innovation Lab was responsible for Slingshot our new digital workplace platform that boosts team results, no matter where teams are, by giving them the ability to make better, quicker decisions with data analytics, as well as improving their workflow. Slingshot is a culmination of on-the-ground best practices culled by Infragistics over our three decades working with hundreds of companies. Slingshot eliminates disruption caused by constant app-switching, and introduces a structured approach to project organization, task prioritization and communication in context.
Throughout your career, have you been a team player or a lone wolf? How did that benefit or handicap you throughout the years?
Dean Guida: The life of an entrepreneur may not be for everyone, but for some, it’s an exhilarating place where you can forge your own path and follow your passion. Problem solving, self-discipline, innovation and flexibility have helped me in tackling the challenges — and rewards — of the startup life. Today, we want to repeat our success in UI/UX software development tools space in the business tools market by helping teams collaborate more effectively and drive extraordinary business results.
What leadership qualities do you possess that, in your opinion, inspire your employees to work harder and be more productive?
Dean Guida: One of the best ways to keep your business relevant and your employees inspired is through internal innovation. If you’re committed to invention and innovation, your employees will be, too. Innovation starts with an idea. Leading a company is not just about managing your people, selling products and day-to-day operations. One of the best parts of entrepreneurship is the ability to be creative and come up with new ideas. Those who are not bound by restrictions can innovate from within. Entrepreneurs have the ability to dream, invent and encourage others to contribute to innovation in very tangible ways.
It’s this internal innovation that will keep your business relevant and your employees invested in the company. Whether your company is small, medium or large, there is always room for realizing your vision through internal innovation.
A national survey from the University of Phoenix has found that 95 percent of employees who have functioned as part of a team think that teams are an important workplace function but less than 25 percent prefer working in teams. Individual and teamwork both have their advantages and disadvantages. What work model have you adopted and how has it benefited your organization?
Dean Guida: We celebrate the wins and recognize teams when they’ve done great work. Team members should always look for the opportunity to compliment each other when a job is well done. This can be through a message, a call-out in a meeting or even a company-wide email.
Participation in virtual meetings can also create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion. In team meetings — especially virtual meetings — it’s easy to sit there and say nothing. Team members should give energy when others are presenting, participate in conversations and ask questions. There’s nothing worse than presenting to a group of people that seem like they don’t care.
People often procrastinate when they are unsure of how to do certain tasks. Is there an element of your business process that employees shy away from? How do you counter this problem?
Dean Guida: It is the responsibility of both the person assigned the work and the person receiving the work to communicate and keep each other informed. It starts with clearly defining the what, when and why something needs to get done. Then it is up to the person doing the work to inform if things will extend beyond the agreed upon timeframe and explain why. It is always a good idea to set the outcome and objective and give them the autonomy to achieve the goal. This leads to intrinsic motivation, innovation and agency of your work. If someone has not completed a task, being more prescriptive is appreciated by the people doing the work and gives them experience and growth.
Many businesses today are being overwhelmed with all kinds of data which impacts productivity. How do you ensure that you and your employees are focusing on the right metrics?
Dean Guida: With the help of predictive analytics, businesses can see into the future and make informed, data-driven decisions, rather than merely reacting in response to events that have already taken place. One recent innovation in BI software is embedded analytics, which delivers real-time reporting, interactive data visualization and/or advanced analytics, including machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and augmented analytics, directly into an enterprise business application.
Businesses that take advantage of predictive analytics can save time and money by addressing issues before they occur, discover more opportunities to reduce risk, and gain a competitive advantage. Reveal is our business intelligence platform that makes it easy for software users to interpret, visualize, and share relevant insights from an application’s data. Slingshot has embedded Reveal to deliver advanced data analytics at the point of impact right in the digital collaboration platform.
According to PwC, nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis. Which employee feedback system does your business use to boost productivity?
Dean Guida: Today, the workplace is no longer a physical space occupied by employees – the workplace has become a digital environment that requires digital transformation. Employees are communicating and collaborating in new ways as remote teams, distributed teams, and hybrid teams are now the norm for many businesses. And all those teammates need a strategy that supports changes in working styles and prevents common pitfalls such team communication, tracking tasks and remote collaboration difficulties. We created a new productivity tool called Slingshot to boost productivity by keep people truly connected when they are far apart.
What financial or non-financial incentives do you offer employees for motivation? What role has that played in increasing productivity?
Dean Guida: We always want to pay our employees fairly from the onset. When you define the purpose of your product and company and give employees the autonomy to execute in a team environment where asking for help and helping others is the norm, you will build amazing things at an accelerated pace.
If you had an unlimited budget and resources to spend on increasing productivity, what is the first thing that you would change?
Dean Guida: I would give money to all our employees to build the most amazing physical home work environment that fits their own desires and tastes, including the best machines and software to aid in their work. I would also provide a nice food budget to enjoy meal time and stay refreshed and hydrated. It would also be a good idea to offer unlimited money to buy music, podcasts, or physical books and any learning items they wanted. And I would buy the world a 10-year subscription to Slingshot :).
According to Gusto, 54% of employees say a strong sense of community (great coworkers, celebrating milestones, a common mission) kept them at a company longer than was in their best interest. How do you improve the way teams work together? How do you build a sense of community?
Dean Guida: We recently adopted a new social platform called Preciate to help keep our employees engaged. Preciate promotes authentic connections that replicate real-life interactions in a virtual setting. This enables us to connect with each other in a way that can’t be achieved over Teams or Zoom. We are conducting our company meetings using this platform, and we believe this will help employees develop a deeper connection with each other and bolster camaraderie.
This has been very insightful and I’m sure other entrepreneurs can learn from the knowledge you have provided. As for your company’s future, what big changes are coming down the pipe in the next 6 months that might increase productivity?
Dean Guida: Our main focus over the next 6 months will be on our new digital workplace productivity tool, Slingshot. It connects all people working together to every necessary component of the work process – content, projects, analytics, and chats — bringing team productivity to the highest level and increasing business calm and better business outcomes through data driven decisions.
Productivity is important but as is an employee’s wellbeing. What are you currently doing to prevent employees from burning out?
Dean Guida: One of the fundamentals in the Infragistics Way is, “Live Healthy and Keep Things Fun.” Living healthy includes taking time off to decompress, relax, spend time with loved ones, focus on hobbies, etc. It is imperative that employees take time away from work in order to avoid burnout. We adopted an Open PTO policy to ensure that our employees don’t have to worry about how many vacation days they have left. We encourage our employees to take whatever time they need to prevent burnout. We review PTO utilization on a regular basis and if we see that someone is not taking time off, we reach out to that person to find out what’s going on (did they plan a vacation but not request the time yet, are there deliverables that are impeding their ability to take time off, etc.). We work closely with our employees and encourage them to take time away from work because we support and value a healthy work/life balance.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Dean Guida: We recently had to raise prices for our UI tools to handle wage inflation. If wages keep rising then this will continue to drive inflation for the entire market. At some point we need rising costs to settle down.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Dean Guida for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Dean Guida or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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