Interview with Jim Geiger, CEO of Liquid Web
Jim Geiger is the newest CEO at Liquid Web (and he calls himself the Chief Encouragement Officer, which I love). He has taken the reigns on the company after founder Matthew Hill stepped down. In this interview, we learn about the company, Jim's job experience, his focus on his staff to be the best they can be, and then we learn a little about Jim's own hobbies and passions.
It was great to talk to Jim and learn more about his focus, especially coming from a CEO whose communications director says has a "consistently busy schedule." We get it. And yet, Jim took a great deal of time to provide us with an interview that we really enjoyed. This is truly a fun interview and we'd love for you to dig in!
Hi Jim, nice to connect. Can you tell me a bit about the origins of Liquid Web?
On Matthew Hill’s way out the door his last day here, he and I were looking at the timeline of the company’s history that is in the reception area. I asked him “do you think your early embrace of Cpanel was one of the catalysts for the company’s growth?”. He didn’t hesitate, he responded “no way, we just did everything we could for our customers every time they needed it.” That ethos evolved into our world class “Heroic Support”, which is now our defacto brand. Historically, as we followed our customers, we stretched between shared customers billing $20/month, to Enterprise customers in the tens of thousands of monthly billing. We’re now focusing the company on what I would call web dependent customers that rely on us to craft solutions for them and really act as their outsourced IT staff for support.
What is Matthew Hill doing now?
From what I’ve heard, he’s having a blast. I think he’s taking some much needed time off after spending his formative years bootstrapping a really successful business.
Tell us a bit about your unconventional CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) role.
One of the things that has resonated with me as it pertains to our team is not just the talent and intelligence here, but the purity of purpose that has permeated the culture. Having a group of people here that are very passionate about what they do, in providing Heroic support and solutions, I have committed myself to getting to know them, listening to them, and understanding what makes them tick. I like to know where everyone's core interests lie, what they excel in, what their unique skills are. Knowing this makes it easier to shape Liquid Web to achieve its goals. I get to put everyone in a position to succeed and then motivate them as the loudest cheerleader for not only our team, but also our customers.
I know that there was a big change at Liquid Web last year with the investment from Madison Dearborn Partners that named you as CEO. Can you tell us a bit about that company shift?
From a service standpoint, it is likely that there hasn't been much visible change. We're as passionate as ever about providing the best and most user-friendly hosting experience in the business with 24/7/365 Heroic Support and management. In fact, we've been able to continue delighting our customers with record customer satisfaction as indicated by 3rd-party-measured NPS numbers across the past twelve months. What might be less apparent from the outside looking in, is how much we have utilized this investment to undertake exhaustive research at every level of the company. This has lead (and continues to lead) to fantastic discoveries that will help us serve our core-customer base even better. There are some very exciting developments on the horizon that will definitely open up never before available features and make our services even easier to use.
Please let us know about your career path and how you evolved into the role of CEO at Liquid Web as part of last May's investment.
I have been leading teams in emerging technologies since competitive alternatives to AT&T were cool! I've worked in management and ownership capacities in many related fields, including telecommunications, metro fiber deployment, cellular, complex web hosting, VoIP, and cloud services. For 15 years prior to Liquid Web, I had founded and developed Cbeyond into a leading provider of VoIP and cloud solutions to small and medium businesses nationwide. I enjoy the challenge of creating environments and strategies for teams to succeed within.
Growth is a big trajectory you plan to take as part of the significant change at Liquid Web. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for this?
We have a real opportunity to reach out directly to the type of customers that could benefit the most from our services and show them how Heroic Solutions, Support and and ongoing management can smooth out a great many of the issues they struggle with day-to-day. In 2016, hosting is essentially a utility for many small-to-medium-sized businesses and, much like any utility you rely on at home, they can't afford for it to stop working, nor do they (in many cases) have the resources at their company's size to troubleshoot it themselves. This is where Liquid Web serves as the perfect fit. We deliver the utility, guarantee its availability with one of the most comprehensive and generous SLAs in the business, and then put the experts to configure, manage, and support it right at your fingertips, through any method of communication you prefer, any time you need them.
The difference in this is how research has helped us identify this type of customer. Liquid Web was developed in a way that invested a tremendous amount of its resources into support and then relied on the service itself, along word-of-mouth from happy clients, to reach those who may benefit from it. It was almost kind of a cool secret that was shared among people "in the know." While its remarkable that many great folks found their way onto the infrastructure here, we no longer see any need to keep it a secret. We have a plan in place that will allow us to grow and continue to deliver the best hosting service available, while putting its advantages into the forefront for those who could solve so many of their short and long-term problems by finding a provider like Liquid Web.
Tell us a bit about the Liquid Web mascot :)
The Hero was introduced to personify the type of support clients were receiving from Liquid Web's technicians. At the mascot's genesis, the company was already generating a buzz for taking support issues beyond anything defined by the traditional scope of management for web hosting. Seeking to define this was not a difficult task with the amount of support tickets that would (and still do) result in proclamations like, "You're my hero!," or something of that nature. The mascot itself was a very general design to personify this that, in its existence, I think gives an interesting insight to our priorities. What I mean by that is, with the resources being focused on supporting customers rather than marketing to them, the Hero mascot really wasn’t something that Liquid Web invested in the painstaking design of, market-testing, etc…it was quickly chosen and employed for utility. It is the outstanding service itself that gives the Hero its unique character and recognition.
Can you provide some insights into the core business at Liquid Web and what you are offering these days to customers?
Without over-complicating this, we're just focused on providing the best, and most easy-to-use support and management for web and cloud hosting. The web professionals that have come to find us as the best offering have reached that conclusion because they can trust us to deliver their content and commerce reliably and with as little hassle as possible should they need to change anything or run into any sort of hiccup along the way.
We are going to add to our product offering, but anything we add is going to be the result of studying the needs of our customers and making their hosting experience easier and more convenient. For instance, we launched our Managed WordPress product recently based on the amount of our clients with WordPress accounts. Now, just a couple months later, we are about to deliver customer-driven updates making this product even more user-friendly.
Can you tell us a bit about Sonar Monitoring?
Our infrastructure was built to alert us to potential issues before they become actual problems for clients. That, in itself, is not a particularly revolutionary concept. Where we really excel is the amazing Sonar Monitoring team we've put together to manage it. They are dedicated to studying and understanding what these potential problems look like, what they mean, and how to fix them before they ever become an issue that could cost a client valuable time either investigating or reaching out to have us troubleshoot them. When Sonar Monitoring delivers warning signs that require additional input, we try to go beyond just alerting our clients, but offering them an easy-to-understand choice of solutions, presented with zero ambiguity.
Also, I know Liquid Web came out with a new managed WordPress solution a few months ago. Tell us a bit about that.
I referenced this a bit in the question on our offering, but to add to that, WordPress has become a very important tool for web professionals. Historically, we had even been doing a great job managing it before we "managed" it. The next logical step was developing an extremely intuitive platform for this and to formalize our expertise in this space a bit by defining our capability. As mentioned earlier, we are on the verge of a significant update that will be the second step of our roll-out of this product. I urge your readers to stay tuned for that, but also to know that this won't be our last development on the WordPress front. Our product will be continually updated to our client's most discriminating specifications. With the rapidly expanding nature of the WordPress community, its developments, as well as the intelligence and zest for innovation of those contributing to it, I don’t know how anyone could launch a product focused on it without the intention of moving in concert with it, fluidly.
Please tell us a bit about your staff - where they're based, how many employees you have, and where the datacenters are located.
We are headquartered in Lansing, Michigan with additional hosting locations in Arizona, and Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Our team currently consists of 500 individuals. That number continues to grow, along with our customer-base, and as we find the type of passionate and creative problem solvers we feel fit into our comprehensive, heroic approach. We also plan to branch out and develop communities wherever our clients can benefit from a Liquid Web presence. This is an exciting time for us!
I hear you like to fish. Tell us about your biggest catch.
As for big catches, I’ve caught Tarpon and Sailfish in Florida as well as Marlin in Cabo San Lucas; but my favorite fishing is small mouth bass fishing with my childhood friends on Lake Ontario…putting a few in the cooler for a fish fry on the dock back at the cottage.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Stay tuned! Liquid Web has an ambitious goal to be the "go to" provider of content and commerce solutions to the web dependent small and medium sized business around the globe!