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House of Guest – Nathan Cowan brings his passion for scaling teams to Seattle office

House of Guest – Nathan Cowan brings his passion for scaling teams to Seattle office Photo

To see the tremendous rise in people (and dogs) roaming around our global offices in the past few years has been exciting. Our talented people have been colossal in helping our customers succeed.

In our series, “House of Guest”, we corner a few of our team members to find out more about the passion behind their role, team and projects here at Traction Guest. This week, we feature Nathan Cowan, our Seattle-based Senior Director of Business Operations and Sales Strategy. On top of being an all-star at generating revenue, Nathan is an Assistant Varsity Coach for his daughter’s high school basketball team.

We think the common denominator here is he has a passion for winning!

Talk about the relationship between business operations and sales strategy, and how these two roles complement each other when scaling a business.

Maybe the biggest challenge, and most exciting one in a scaling business is how the opportunities and obstacles you need and want to address evolve at each phase of your growth. Your strategy, and how you operated at $1 million in revenue, is vastly different at $10 million, $50 million, $100 million, etc.

For the company to continue to grow, it is critical that how you attract, acquire, grow, retain and ultimately delight the customer is consistently evolving based on data and market feedback. As you evolve that sales strategy, it is very important to connect it to a defined action plan and scalable technology and process infrastructure. In that way, they don’t just complement each other, they are necessary for each part to thrive. 

We have a beautiful new office on Seattle's waterfront. Talk about the vision for attracting and bringing on talent into that space.

It is no surprise that Seattle is an incredibly competitive market for talent in the technology sector. It is a home to industry giants including Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow, and Expedia. It is a hub for companies like Salesforce (via the Tableau acquisition), Google, Apple, Facebook, DocuSign, SAP and a host of others. It is also a thriving startup community with companies at all stages of growth. 

This means two things. One, there is an abundance of talent and experience. Two, it is wildly competitive. Our plan to attract talent to Traction Guest is by offering something we believe is unique - an intersection of hyper-growth, industry-leading technology, employee development focus, and a culture that goes beyond snacks and office perks. That culture is key for us - that we are building a place where you can do your best work, be celebrated for it, be developed, all while maintaining the balance between work and the other parts of your life that you want to invest in. 

How does growing our global offices in Seattle and Dublin support our goal of being the best enterprise visitor management systems company?

When we think about the solutions we offer to the customer, at the heart of it is the ability to customize the experience based on their business needs. If you are a small company looking to grow internationally, you want a partner that is already there and able to provide advice and best practices. If you’re a global company, you need localized support and data security that meets the needs and laws of that region. So our global growth is not just about being the best enterprise visitor management platform, it’s about being obsessed about meeting our customers’ needs and delivering on our promise to them. 

What enticed you to join Traction Guest at this point in your career?

I have always been interested in the growth-stage companies that have clearly identified a gap in the market, built a solution to solve that gap, and are gaining traction in the market as a result, but need to scale and enter the hyper-growth phase. It’s this idea of architecture and construction. How can we design the right models to meet the company vision, and how do we do the work of building it? 

Traction Guest has clearly identified the gap, built the product to address it and is growing rapidly because customers love the platform. Traction Guest has a clear vision and afforded me the opportunity to be a part of architecting and constructing the business we want to be. And, for me at this stage of my career, it also gives me something that I find has become increasingly important to me. A connection to the company culture and how they choose to value their most important asset - people. I want to work with people I enjoy and am challenged by, within a company that cares about them beyond what they can deliver to meet the growth goals. More than anything, that is why Traction Guest was right for me at this point in my career. 

What is it about sales and operations that gets you excited every morning?

Besides everything? For me, what I’ve always loved about sales and operations is that both are ultimately understanding people. I’ve always felt that sales is the art of enabling others to a way of thinking. It’s this idea that we can’t convince another person of anything. So, sales becomes a job of understanding customers, their business, their challenges, and their priorities so that we can illuminate how our solution meets those needs. 

The same is true in operations. Salespeople are not a persona, they are people. As such, focusing on how they work, what they worry about, what matters most to them allows you to build an operational infrastructure that creates the environment to be the very best version of their professional self. It’s the people part of sales and operations that inspires me every day. 

What is the best sales book you have read? 

It may be unconventional, but I always loved the Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. It’s Greek Mythology about the mental challenge of pushing a boulder up a hill, only to have it reappear at the bottom of the hill for Sisyphus to push back up all over again. That idea of never giving up, of doing the work day-in and day-out is the only path to achievement is something that I find incredibly resonant for a career in sales. 

What is the best advice related to your position you have ever received?

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. It’s so important to find that balance between doing it well and doing it quickly. In a hyper-growth company, if you spend energy and time making it perfect, the moment will likely have passed you by. 

What is the most interesting thing about working in the visitor management industry? 

The complexity, without a doubt. When we say “Beyond the Lobby”, it is recognition that delivering a unique, secure, and frictionless visitor experience is about so much more than just getting them registered in the lobby. 

What are some of the intangibles that a company can do that make them stand out to customers? 

I think the first, and the most critical, intangible thing you can do to stand out is to be about something. I have said a few times that I think great companies are about one thing. They want to accomplish many things but when many things compete that one thing should always win. It’s about prioritizing and staying true to what you believe is the best way to build your business. Customers respond to that specificity and clarity of purpose, as do current and future team members. 

Describe the sales team culture at Traction Guest. 

It is an incredibly committed, supportive and collaborative group. It’s so unique as a sales organization to see people invested in others success as much as they are on their own. There is definitely a rising tide lifts all boats mentality throughout our organization. It’s also a curious group that is constantly on the hunt to learn more about the industry and its customers’ needs. And, it’s an occasionally funny group. 

In your free time, you coach high school girls basketball. What are some of the values and skills that you take from coaching and teach your players that also translates to your career?

I certainly feel that I’ve grown as a leader since I started coaching. One of the biggest lessons is the power of communicating a consistent vision. It connects a team together and acts as an anchor to keep people together when the game, or the job, is not going as expected. There is also the concept of empowering others. Basketball is a game of constant movement, ever-changing variables, and shifting intensity levels. As a coach, if you try to manage every possession you take away the ability for the player to develop and use their instincts. Rather than be self-reliant, they become reliant on you. 

The same is true in business. It’s my responsibility to create the environment and the structure for each person in my organization to realize their fullest potential, but it’s on the individual to do the work and to define what that fullest potential looks like. They have to be empowered. The third is that it’s important to celebrate and appreciate each other. Taking time to acknowledge your teammates is hugely impactful. We end every game with “ups” - win or lose - where each player gives a positive piece of feedback to someone else on the team. That ritual of appreciation creates a tighter team bond and makes each team member feel like they are part of something they want to fight for, something bigger than themselves. 

And finally, you have an all-star sales professional considering joining Traction Guest. Being in sales, what would your 30-second pitch be on why they need to join us? 

People. Product. Growth. Impact. 

We give you the opportunity to work with people who want to succeed together, in an environment that sees people as our most important asset. We give you the opportunity to represent an industry-leading product, solving critical and complex problems for customers. We give you leaders that are invested in your growth - both in skill set and in career advancement - and a culture of learning and development. And finally, we give you the ability to make an impact. Beyond just sales numbers, you get to influence how we build a world-class organization and meet the needs of our current and future customers. 

Like what you read? Come join our team here!