Episode 21: The Hero's Journey Toward High-Level Hardware Execution

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With Matt Barber

CEO at Vutility

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There’s a Maori proverb that goes like this:

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

That certainly applies to high-level hardware execution. After all, there is no way it happens unless you have the right people around you.

Matt Barber, Chief Executive Officer at Vutility, joins the show to share his tips on how to get the right people into the right mindset for executing hardware well.

We discuss:

  • 3 tips for high-level execution
  • How one bad apple can ruin company culture
  • Finding operational excellence in a partnership model
  • Taking leadership inspiration from The Hero’s Journey
  • What the future holds for Vutility

This post is based on a podcast episode with Matt Barber, Chief Executive Officer at Vutility. To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Over the Air wherever you listen to podcasts.

3 Tips for High-Level Execution

  1. You’re never going to get around people. To execute, you need the right people who assume positive intent, which builds trust within your team.
  2. The attitude of getting it right, over being right, is critical. This is especially the case if you want to deliver results quickly.
  3. Communicate efficiently and directly. Delivering the right quality results within time depends on this.

How One Bad Apple Can Ruin Company Culture

No matter how technically skilled someone is, if they’re not a team player they won’t do well at Vutility.

Matt’s team prioritizes interpersonal skills over technical skills because at the heart of every organization are people. Toxic A’s, as they’re known in Matt’s team, may deliver high-quality results over one or two projects but make it a miserable experience for the people with whom they work.

Matt’s logic: no jerks. 

It’s not worth the effort when he considers how many hours he’d have to spend interacting with colleagues each day.

Finding Operational Excellence in a Partnership Model

In Matt’s experience, it’s a long game. It has taken four years to achieve Vutility’s current operational success. His key advice:

  • It might be painful, but put your product out there and take your lumps that come with the feedback.
  • Hardware doesn’t offer the iterative advantages that software does. You can’t deploy instant updates. Plan carefully to ensure that it does the job it’s designed to do.
  • Quick turnaround times and the ability to absorb feedback will build you a competitive advantage. In saying this, though, there is a real risk associated with moving ‘too fast’ so it requires ongoing attention, specific to your business context.

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The Partnership Model

Matt’s executive team coach is responsible for the company’s operations: meeting structures, strategic planning and goal setting.

He regularly asks: “What are we doing today, and can we be the best in the world at it?”

The answers inform business decisions, between what’s worth internal focus and what needs to be outsourced. It’s in outsourcing the right things to the right partners that true operational excellence is achieved.

Taking Leadership Inspiration from The Hero’s Journey

As an avid reader, Matt is always filtering useful information into his role and sharing his learnings with his team.

Something he nailed during our conversation was that people tend to avoid feedback about their own leadership qualities, but it’s really useful and necessary to dig into that and ask others what they think.

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The Hero’s Journey

The formula of a typical hero’s journey is to endure [a usually quite intense] hardship, experiencing some form of self-discovery and then growing, applying themself and eventually triumphing over the original challenge.

Through his own recent health-related hardship, Matt reflected further on this.

As a result, he developed the view that it might be better to think about where the people around him were on their respective hero journeys. By doing this, he would be able to apply a more meaningful approach toward helping his teammates achieve ‘hero status’. Part of that involves enabling people to hold themselves accountable.

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What the Future Holds for Vutility

Continuing on the trend of being the best at obtaining data at scale, Matt shares some of his team’s plans for the coming months:

  • Hardware release to further evolve data collection
  • Focus on the energy industry
  • Expand operational insights for partners and customers
  • Driving smart metering costs down

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