Meet The Disruptors: Hemanth Puttaswamy Of Malbek On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Learn to take rejection as a learning experience. Not all opportunities are right for you. In a single day, you may have five positive interactions and two negatives, and the negatives can quickly bog you down unless you are able to recognize that every negative can be turned into a learning experience.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hemanth Puttaswamy, CEO of Malbek.
Hemanth Puttaswamy is a technology entrepreneur. As CEO and co-founder at Malbek (A Contract Lifecycle Management solution provider), his vision is to redefine the quote-to-cash solution aimed for the age of AI. Hemanth is a hands-on leader with a passion for building a great team with an amazing culture that zealously works to make every customer successful. He is responsible for overall corporate strategy and product vision with a keen eye towards building the best solution interface that will delight every user.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
When it comes to my backstory and my current company’s origins, it starts with a major lesson I learned about taking corporate pain to entrepreneurial gain. Years ago, when I was working as an executive in a public company, a yearly audit of financials showed major issues with the way revenue was recognized across our 2,500+ customers. The company had to restate financials going back ten years. This is when I realized the impact of badly managed contracts and non-standard contract terms.
A light bulb went off that there is a clear need to have a solution that would standardize contracting processes with complete enterprise visibility for every business.
This sparked a fire, which led me to research the available solutions to manage contracts and ultimately found this innovative company in the contract lifecycle management space.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We make what can be considered boring — contracts — come to life. We accomplish this by using AI in every part of the contracting process and provide context so anyone who touches contracts — from finance, to procurement, to legal, to sales — have the context they need to take the actions that help them reduce risk, save time, and eliminate headaches that silos can cause along the way.
We are disruptive because we are solving a series of complex contracting problems with highly engineered, yet easy-to-use technology. We apply our patented AI in the entire contract lifecycle. We don’t just use our solution to address singular pain points, as some companies do. We look at every part of the process and address it by leveraging different algorithms throughout the contract lifecycle. This is the big differentiator.
We bring in persona-based AI recommendations to include everyone in the contracting process in a way that is dynamic and meets client needs. We also provide industry benchmarks in context so our users can get better results than their peers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we started the company, one thing I had in mind was people should be able to relate to the name of the brand. The challenge was to come up with one word that encapsulated what we were trying to achieve. Namely, bringing people and processes together in smart, new ways.
We came up with more than 100 names, but nothing reflected our personality — the fun, light-heartedness, and also something that people could remember. While we were working to revolutionize the contract space, we didn’t want the word “contract” in our name as we felt it was limiting. In the meantime, the placeholder name we chose for the company was Malbek (with a K) because the co-founders were brainstorming names over a bottle of Malbec. We finished the evening by toasting, “To Malbek!”
Afterward, we laughed at how we had the right name all along. To me, Malbek represents coming together and bringing our best ideas to the table just like when you enjoy a nice bottle of wine with friends or family. It symbolizes the power of what we can accomplish together, and it relates nicely back to what we do — bringing so many different people across departments together as they work on contracts.
We believe our platform, just like a good bottle of wine, brings sales, legal, procurement, and finance teams together to collaborate for a common mission and is just waiting to be uncorked at every organization.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Mentorship is important because the right conversations at the right time can have a huge impact on careers and companies. I’d say my most impactful mentors have definitely been the CEOs I have had the chance to work with in my career.
They have been able to show how to resolve conflicts and deadlocks, particularly in negotiations. This is especially relevant given that I work in the contract space where negotiations happen all the time.
They were good enough to bring me along so I could see these negotiations and focus on what mattered. The first major lesson I learned was to keep a human focus on contracts and negotiations. The second lesson was being able to understand big, complex deals, and learning how to close them in a way that works for everyone involved.
Gaining a deeper understanding of and appreciation for managing people and cultivating a thriving company culture came from the mentorship of a prior Vice President of Human Resources. She showed me that empathy was one of the most important characteristics of any company culture. I’ve never forgotten that.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Today, there are a lot of people who misunderstand what AI is, even those working in this space. Meaning, they seem to find a solution and then look for where the solution can fit into a problem. This is often seen in businesses that chase buzzwords and jargon instead of thinking of use cases where there exists a real and pressing problem that needs to be solved.
True disruption starts with understanding customer pain. When we truly understand and can empathize with what problems need to be solved, we are able to get to work to solve the entire problem in a completely new way. By thinking through the problem to the ideal solution, and then — and only then- identifying the ways to solve the problem, we are able to solve much bigger problems.
Understanding the problem in-depth, thinking outside of the box towards the end goal, and not constraining yourself with perceived technology limitations is at the core of true innovation and disruption.
Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Listen to the customer. This is my first priority on any type of list. Listen more, talk less. You’ll learn a lot in the process.
- Don’t think the customer is right all the time. You may get 100 asks and those requests can be transactional in nature. Take all these disparate messages and identify themes so you have focus and know what to solve.
- Learn to take rejection as a learning experience. Not all opportunities are right for you. In a single day, you may have five positive interactions and two negatives, and the negatives can quickly bog you down unless you are able to recognize that every negative can be turned into a learning experience.
- Build broadly when it comes to hiring. Don’t always try to look for one group of people. Hire people from diverse backgrounds, who are open-minded, and who are hungry to learn. If you hire by one pedigree or from one particular school, you’re limiting the success of your company. Broader perspectives lead to more diverse approaches to solving problems, and one of those solutions could be your next goldmine.
- Empower your people and then great things can happen. This is rooted in trust. The best leaders instill a sense of responsibility and trust in their teams, which is refreshing in the corporate world. Encouraging ownership and ideas is key to building an innovative culture.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
It’s a multiplication effect. Disruptive thinking multiplies when you’re able to empower employees and encourage them to always take risks and come up with different ways to solve a particular problem. When you do that, every department can produce ideas that blow you away. Given the platform and also freedom and trust a multiplication effect is created. I meet with every employee when they join, and meet again after 90 days to ensure the lines of communication are open.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Amp It Up by Frank Slootman is an excellent read. In the book, he gives an almost unfiltered view of what it is really like to be a CEO.
As a leader, a lot of the outside world thinks you are superhuman, but the realities of what you are and what you experience as a leader are quite different. He covers the importance of focusing on both long-term vision and short-term tactics and how to handle all the things that come along the way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Celebrate the good news only for a few milliseconds, and be ready for what’s next. How you gracefully handle the bad news you get in life is a way to turn challenges into opportunities.
As a leader, I’ve worked with customers who have been contemplating canceling their engagement, and rather than reacting defensively, or putting together a band-aid, we use the experience to not only solve the issue at hand, but also identify and solve a larger issue at hand, eliminating the pattern of problems at the root.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are so many things that come to mind. First, figure out a way to remove violence from this world. Valuing and respecting diversity is always a good place to start when building empathy.
I also think about how each of us can have a better impact on the environment. Small actions by many can make a big difference.
For example, looking at things like how much you drive, how much we consume, the type of energy we use, and if we recycle or reuse our things can start behavior changes that last for generations.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Meet The Disruptors: Hemanth Puttaswamy Of Malbek On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.