eVestment, a global data and analytics company, has appeared on the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies list for each of the last 10 years. It takes a unique mindset and exceptional teamwork to sustain such a high level of accelerated growth. Jim Minnick, the CEO and Co-Founder of eVestment shares his insights.
RJ: Can we start with some quick highlights of your Company, the product/service you provide, the scale and the level of growth you’ve achieved?
JM: eVestment is an institutional investment data and analytics company. We collect data on investment strategies, holdings, performance, key professionals and more – thousands of pieces of data – from traditional and alternative institutional investment asset managers around the world. These managers are working on behalf of institutional investors like pension funds, insurance companies, foundations, endowments and sovereign wealth funds. With that data, we provide insights that our clients use to make smarter decisions on how and where to invest, when to open new investment strategies, where to expand and other key business decisions. We’re based in Atlanta and employ about 350 people around the world.
RJ: We are very interested in understanding the steps leading up to an individual’s eventual rise to successful entrepreneur / CEO. Can you share your background with us?
JM: I hadn’t really set out to become an entrepreneur. eVestment was founded in 2000 because my co-founders and I, working with institutional investment consulting firm Watson Wyatt (now Willis Towers Watson), realized there was a better and more efficient way to collect, disseminate, analyze and create value from all the institutional investment data that investors, consultants and managers used every day in their work. Working in the industry, we saw the process and understood that, with still fairly new but fast evolving internet and data technology, we could create something that offered a huge value-add, while also freeing up people to do other high-level, thoughtful work. This really was a win-win for everyone involved. I graduated with an economics degree from Vanderbilt University and went to work for Bank of America. While at Watson Wyatt, I got an MBA at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, which got me thinking about value creation in new ways. I was lucky enough then to have three co-founders who saw a similar opportunity in founding eVestment and we went for it.
RJ: Are there one or two key factors you can attribute to your keen ability to effectively grow your Company?
JM: eVestment exists to solve problems for our clients, so a key factor in our growth is our constant focus on listening to our clients so we meet and, in many cases, anticipate their needs. For instance, we recently launched a complete revamp of our analytics solution. The changes we made were based on months of gathering information and insights on what our clients needed from all angles – the kind of data they needed, how they wanted it presented, usability of our web interface – and the reception to that effort has been phenomenal. The second thing that has been crucial is attracting top talent by building a workplace that encourages innovation, decision making and risk-taking at all levels. When we founded eVestment, one of our goals was to build the kind of workplace we’d always wanted. And we’ve done that. Bringing in great people and giving them the authority and license to innovate has kept us at the cutting edge of database and analytics technology for the past 15 years and will continue to do so.
RJ: Is there someone you have modeled yourself after or that has inspired your success?
JM: I have had a number of role models and people that I have looked up to for how they handle things. Certainly family is on that list. My father, who has also started businesses, for his willingness to accept risks and bet on himself and not worry about what happens if things don’t work out. My mother for her creativity and always trying to find solutions to problems. I was also very lucky to find the three other founders who helped launch this business. Each of them brought strengths that were and are today extremely complementary to the strengths I have: one for their passion and discipline and never taking shortcuts; one for their absolute determination to outwork anyone and any problem; another for their uncanny ability to interact with people, particularly with bad news to report. I continue to learn a lot from all three of them today. While these are just the people closest to me, I have been around a number of people that taught me some incredible lessons about how to be a better thinker or a better manager and others who took a chance on me at some point in my career and gave me the opportunities to fail and learn or to be successful.
RJ: Can you share with us one of the most challenging times you have faced, for example when you hit a low point and how you dealt with it and bounced back?
JM: Like probably every entrepreneur, I found the start itself to be the most challenging time. You are literally working from scratch with limited resources and have more to do than you possible have the time to accomplish. You have all the natural concerns and doubts going in already, but then they are reinforced by seemingly constant setbacks and rejections: an educated voice saying the idea will never work, an investor that decides not to invest, a prospect that says the product doesn’t fit their needs, a stinging review, whatever. The list is a long one. The resilience to push through all that and continue to have the passion to take all that negativity and put it to positive use is tough – and then to do it day after day is that much more challenging. It is a bit of a cliché about the “entrepreneur story,” but that story exists for a reason – it is true. The good news is that it prepares you and steels your resolve for other challenges that inevitably come along – you have the confidence that you have gotten through bleaker times and will get beyond this challenge as well. I believe that you can tell the true entrepreneurs by this quiet confidence that always says “yes, we will get through this as well.”
RJ: What book has had the most profound impact on you and why?
JM: Beyond Entrepreneurship by Jim Collins was fantastic early on in the business because it gave us a practical, how-to framework for long-range planning, which we had no prior experience with at all. Then his Good to Great became a must-read with us just like it had with millions of others. There are a number of Pat Lencioni books that helped us think more strategically about how we build and operate teams. But most recently, the book Outside In, has really initiated a transformation in our business and was a catalyst for completely rethinking how we interact with and serve our clients. It is just full of lightbulb moments where you just say “of course, it’s so simple!” We read a lot of books, but what makes these stand out for us is that they came along at just the exact right time and gave us exactly what we needed at that moment, so from that standpoint, I am sure we will continue to have more books that we will look back on as having a profound impact on our business.