Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas on the best contradictory advice he ever received

Ragy Thomas founded Sprinklr, the company behind the social media management platform, from his spare bedroom in New Jersey in 2009. Early customers included Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, and Nike. Ten years later, Thomas has grown the business and kept those customers and grown his team with members from some of those impressive companies.

Ladders spoke with Thomas to hear how his role has changed as Sprinklr has grown, his advice for entrepreneurs looking to obtain similar success, and how he sees Sprinklr fitting into the future of work.

Over the past 10 years, what’s been the most surprising aspect of the role of CEO?

“One of the most important things I’ve learned is how much my leadership style has to change as Sprinklr grows. I’ve constantly needed to adapt my leadership skills to meet the needs of our rapidly growing company. The characteristics of a good leader for a company with less than 100 employees are very different from those of a leader for a 500-person company and a 1,500-person company.

What’s the most important leadership advice you’ve ever received? Why is it important to you?

“‘Effort doesn’t matter. Results do.’ This helped me transition from being an activity-based manager to an outcome-based leader. And, this advice has helped turn Sprinklr into a company with long-term, sustainable growth.”

As Sprinklr has expanded in size and across the globe, what aspect (culture, vision, values) has been most important to maintain?

“All three are incredibly important. At Sprinklr, our culture, vision, and values are all part of what we call The Sprinklr Way – our foundation for working, living and being. Every Sprinklr employee is trained on The Sprinklr Way. This includes our five core values that are on our office walls:

  1.  It’s OK. Be fearless.
  2. Sprinkle don’t shout, keep moving forward.
  3. Fix it, don’t complain.
  4. Never, ever give up. Ever!
  5. Passionately, genuinely care.

Living The Sprinklr Way reinforces behaviors that create a strong culture as we expand globally, such as learning from failure, humility, accountability, persistence, and genuine caring.”

What’s your advice for having a solid vision at a company?

“Paint the picture of what the future can be, then work backward. Many startup failures could be avoided if leaders develop the right innovative mindset from conception to execution. The best way to innovate is to think about the future backward, instead of the past forward.

Startups often attempt to solve a problem that is occurring right now. Instead, entrepreneurs should build products and services around problems that will happen in the future and work backward to find solutions for those problems.”

How do you think the future of work plays into how Sprinklr operates?

“As a global organization with 1,700 employees, we are taking full advantage of trends driving the future of work. We know that employees value flexibility, so we provide flexible work that doesn’t constrain employees to typical 9 to 5 hours or top-down cultures. We have 24 offices in 16 countries, but we also support remote workers. Our goal is to help employees thrive personally and professionally by working where they want.”

What have you learned about networking throughout your career?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to find people through the years that are genuine, intelligent and drive me to become a better leader. I’ve also met a lot of bad people along the way, and I’ve always wanted to show them that you can be kind and still be successful. Years from now, I hope I’ll look back and say that I always chose to surround myself with good people who wanted to do good in the world.”

What traits do you look for when adding new members to your team?

“As part of the Sprinklr Way, we’re recognizing people who live our values, bringing in experts to broaden our perspective, and continuing to diversify our employee population through focused recruitment efforts.

There are four cultural attributes which foster inclusion, belonging and diversity at Sprinklr:

  1. We hire for culture.
  2. We treat employees like family – with dignity and respect.
  3. We passionately, genuinely, care.
  4. We help others succeed.”

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at Sprinklr?

“Take a look at our values in The Sprinklr Way. If you align with our values and your experience aligns with the job description, please reach out – we’d love to chat.”