MATRIXX Software CEO Glo Gordon On Taking A Company From Startup To Scale

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

Glo Gordon is CEO of MATRIXX Software. An accomplished leader with deep experience and expertise in technology management and sales, she has served on MATRIXX’s board of directors since 2018 and was most recently the CRO for Uptake, an industry leader in industrial artificial intelligence and IoT. 

In this Q&A, Gordon shares her journey to becoming CEO, and how she evolved MATRIXX Software from an R&D startup into a scalable, go-to-market business.

Glo Gordon headshot
Glo Gordon, CEO of MATRIXX Software

Q: Why did you choose to enter the software industry?

My degree is in sociology, but after college, I took a job in sales. I started with Xerox, selling hardware. I ended up spending 20 years with the company, taking on greater leadership responsibilities over time. After taking a year off, I decided to pivot into software sales as a way of challenging myself, starting with enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. 

The next critical stop on my journey was Oracle, where I spent over eight years selling software to communications service providers before I was recruited away to join and scale growth for startup Jasper Software, as their CRO. Working at Jasper was when I discovered I really enjoyed the startup world.

After Jasper was acquired by Cisco, I started looking for my next challenge. As it turned out, I had the opportunity to meet Dave Labuda, then-CEO and founder of MATRIXX Software. Dave is a technical genius who had sold his previous company, Portal Software, to Oracle while I was there:I had spent years selling his software, and this was a chance to get to know him! One conversation led to another and I joined MATRIXX’s board of directors. Then, about a year and a half later, Dave and the board decided the company needed him to focus more on his chief scientist, and chairman of the board, roles. And that’s how I became MATRIXX’s CEO. 

Q: What inspired you to take the role of CEO at your company?

It’s a very exciting time to be in the telecoms industry right now! Obviously, COVID has changed so many things, really driving the adoption of digital experience around the globe. Then there’s 5G, which is a massive technology shift that has the potential to change how operators go to market. This is a once-in-a-generation time to really influence and drive the future of an entire industry. 

From the moment I was asked to join the board, and then again asked to take over as CEO, I just couldn’t resist the chance to partner with companies that are on the front of the 5G disruption wave–for their customers, and for their shareholders. Getting to lead a team that’s empowering innovators to be more successful is why we do the work that we do. Not to mention, who doesn’t want to play a starring role in a David and Goliath story!

Q: What problems are you trying to solve with your company?

I was fortunate to take over as CEO of MATRIXX at the ideal moment. The company had already battled its way into a market dominated by legacy giants. We had an impressive list of tier-1 communications service providers and leading digital players as customers. 

What the company needed, and why I was engaged, was to evolve from an R&D startup into a go-to-market business capable of scaling to dominate a market. To make that transition successful, I chose to focus on three priorities: North Star, Raving Fans and Culture.

North Star. When you know what you do best, better than any other company, you can drive an integrated strategy across all facets of the business. This resulted in clear expectations that enabled us to add more new customers in 2020 than ever before.

Raving Fans. I asked the whole company to read this book the day I started. Our business model is built on renewals. References are our biggest asset. The bottom line is that our customers’ success is our success.  

Culture. We want MATRIXX to be a place where people want to work. That requires investing in leadership and career development across the organization to maintain connection to the business. As a global company, and specifically as a result of COVID, consistent and clear communication are essential to manifesting that goal.

Q: How did you network, find communities and make the connections you needed to succeed?

Treat your network well, and don’t take it for granted. It will provide you amazing experiences and opportunities. But remember that your network is not just there for you. The people in your community may someday ask you to give back just as much, if not more than you have taken. 

Be known as the person who is willing to be there when needed to help how you can. The value of kindness and compassion can’t be overstated. Go out of your way to thank people for everything they do on your behalf and consider being selfless in your willingness to support others. This is rare and makes it even more special: It is truly unforgettable and rewarding.   

Q: What is your advice for other female executives at the beginning of their business leadership journeys?

My advice to everyone at the beginning of their careers is the same: Lean into those things that make you successful. Always be learning and growing, it makes you a better person and will help fuel both your and your employer’s success. Also, a little humility goes a long way. Wait to share something until you’ve accomplished it; then you can speak from a place of knowledge and experience. 

More specifically for women, my advice is don’t allow gender to be the excuse for things that happen to you in your career, either good or bad. At the same time, don’t tolerate others using your gender to hold you back. And perhaps most importantly: Get a mentor. Regardless of their gender, they can help you navigate difficult situations and also provide invaluable guidance when you need it most.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while leading a company?

I have always been a huge believer in communicating–I succeeded in sales for a reason–but I didn’t fully appreciate how people listen to a CEO until after I’d made my first big communications blunder.  

For background, MATRIXX was an early adopter of hybrid work, with employees at our HQ working two days per week from home. This is important because, as I already mentioned, I was engaged by the board to scale the company, and culture was one of my priorities. To me, in those simple pre-COVID days, culture was built through in-person social interaction. 

This brings me to my stumble: I announced to the team that I wanted to change our hybrid work from home policy. Not cancel it, but change it. In the predictably ensuing uproar, the reasons I wanted to change the policy were completely lost. All that people heard from me was that I was taking away a beloved perk. Was I taking it away? It didn’t matter. That’s what people heard so that’s what they took it for.

So, what was the lesson? The first was that, before you make big changes, make sure you have a good pulse on the organization. But the most important take-away for me is that, regardless of the reasons,  successfully communicating change requires laying the foundation well ahead of time in order to minimize the discomfort.

Q: What is your advice for other leaders trying to scale their own company?

Once product-market fit is proven and you have an awesome, scalable, repeatable solution solving a meaningful problem in the market, the pivot to scale requires focus and a winning culture. 

For most companies, the hardest part of that is acknowledging and embracing that the way the organization functioned in the past may not be what’s required for the future. This is a natural part of the journey but causes enormous tension because it means leaving behind what got you where you are in the first place.  

What do you find most rewarding about your experience as a business leader so far?

When I get to hear the leaders of companies rave about our people at MATRIXX, being a CEO is honestly the best job in the world. I love that, as CEO, I get to be the face of all the brilliant people at this company. I love having my bird’s eye view of everything going on–seeing all the passion and energy and getting to have a hand in conducting all of that.  It’s a great job.

Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs/business leaders in the current economic climate?

My advice is to stay laser-focused on what you do best and on the customers you serve. The economic climate will always be in flux, influenced by many factors outside of a company’s control. 

But product-market fit is entirely within your domain of influence. If you’ve got a product that delivers for the market and you’re all-in with making your customers into raving fans, you’ll do just fine. 

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

I am not afraid of hard work and trying new things. Throughout my career, I have been willing to do the job that no one else wanted to do, which has opened opportunities to expand my capabilities and take on more leadership roles. 

I also know what I am good at and what I am not good at, and I believe in staying in your swim lane and allowing others to do the same. I like to surround myself with people who bring strengths that I don’t have and who think differently than I do. 

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or “personal mantra” you use to keep yourself motivated?

My personal life quote is “never settle.” It comes from my dad who was an ironworker. Part of his job was to tighten giant bolts with a wrench, which required tightening one more turn and one more turn until you couldn’t turn it anymore. After that, turn it one more time. In other words, “never settle” is about giving something your all and being incredibly thoughtful and thorough in everything you do.

That mantra has translated to my own experience by being aware that the details matter. Never accept an A when you can achieve an A-plus. I often ask my team to question whether we are settling for something, or if we could do it just a bit better. Giving that 1 percent extra each time is something that is noticed and appreciated and, most importantly, it creates results. 

  • Originally published August 19, 2021