Sarah Bird is CEO of Moz. She sets the company strategy and drives execution. She also regularly speaks about entrepreneurship, business models, search marketing, women in tech, and fostering an inspiring company culture.
We caught up with Bird to get some insight into her day-to-day role at Moz.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Sarah Bird: I’m responsible for (1) the people, (2) the product, and (3) the cash, in that order. If you build a great team of people, they will build a great product. If you build a great product, that will take care of the cash.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Sarah Bird: Great CEOs are visionary communicators with integrity, resilience, curiosity, and emotional intelligence.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Sarah Bird: I set myself up for success by identifying the most important three things I need to do that day before checking email or getting my son up. Sometimes (not as much as I should), I work out in the morning. After getting my son to school, I head into the office for a lot of face-to-face and digital meetings about team, product, customers, and industry. Building PowerPoint presentations, articles, and Slack posts are a regular part of my day since 99% of what I need to get done is only achievable by motivating others.
I try to also regular carve out time to serve the broader community. I’m a firm believer that we need to lift up others around us and we have to support the civic community that supports us.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Sarah Bird: The best and worst part of my job is the people. There is nothing better than learning from and being challenged by the team around you. Similarly, helping people grow and reach for the expanding horizon of their potential is an abiding joy.
Conversely, the most emotionally challenging part of the work is understanding when an employee or vendor or customer’s efforts are no longer well-aligned with what Moz is trying to do. Having powerful conversations about mutual fit and changing course with grace and decisiveness takes courage and kindness.
Also, the more senior you become in an organization, the more complex the organization is, and the more ambitious the vision, the more you must decide on tradeoffs without clear data. There are no spreadsheets that can give you a fail-proof answer when you’re creating a new frontier. You have to take leaps of faith, and get good at picking yourself up off the floor when things don’t go as planned. Oh, and the leaping, falling, and climbing back up is very public. As Churchill said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Sarah Bird: I have goals around living my values, which are off-spreadsheet measures and hard to quantify, but no less real or precious to me. Those values guide how I live my life and the impact I want to have on the people in my family, business, and community.
I have business success metrics around revenue growth and EBITDA. Those are easy to measure.
And building up to revenue and EBITDA growth are a whole bunch of metrics and dials we observe and try to turn each week, month, quarter, and year.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Sarah Bird: My phone, especially the communication apps like Google Meet, Slack, Gmail, Google Docs, and SMS. Notice how I didn’t say phone calls? Ha ha.
How did you end up at Moz, and where might you go from here?
Sarah Bird: I spent my twenties focused on education, culture, helping others. I fearlessly followed my heart and allowed my curious mind to keep me inspired and helpful. Education took me all around the world, from Vancouver, BC to Istanbul to law school in Shanghai, before I landed at Moz as the 8th employee.
I don’t have any specific idea where I will end up. And I gladly gave up trying to figure that out. I know that it will be serving others, helping people do more together than they can do apart, and keeping my mind and heart engaged.
Which brands/campaigns have impressed you lately?
Sarah Bird: I admire how Lady Gaga launched her makeup line Haus Laboratories. She used social media really well, and tells a powerful, personal, emotional story around it. It’s really quite nervy (in a good way!) that she launched a makeup line with a story about rejecting “this giant social media beauty pageant competition” and combating beauty insecurity through wearing make-up “your way.” At once she is encouraging women to eschew traditional notions of beauty and the need to look beautiful, while also saying “here is a product that helps me feel beautiful and brave — you should try it too.”
I have a lot of respect for Burger King too right now! Turning burgers to diamonds and linking it to a message about marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights is BIG and emotional, and visceral, weird, and courageous. It also hearkens back to the brand’s “Your Way” past. Empowerment through fast food diamonds? Surprisingly, I’m here for it.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out in 2019?
Sarah Bird: Stay curious. Keep exploring the “why” and “how” of everything you do. Ask questions that keep you awake at night. No matter what path you’re taking or what you’re looking to learn, humbly seeking knowledge is how you’ll continue to grow.
Know how to tell a compelling story with data. Capture people’s minds and hearts with the stories you pull from a bunch of numbers and insights. Keeping your numeracy skills honed will only benefit your professional growth.
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