After years of working in data, Anthony J. Algmin realized there was something missing to the overall approach when solving data-related issues. Because of this, he developed the concept of Data Leadership and has successfully gone full-throttle into the concept with his company and the first-ever book on the topic. We had a chance to interview Anthony and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Algmin Data Leadership.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
My career has been defined through the pursuit of the interesting and meaningful above the pursuit of dollars. While I always found business fascinating, it was more technical problem solving that drove my early work experience. I spent over a decade developing data systems and applications in the financial industry, which helped me learn at a pretty deep level how computers and technologies can support business endeavors.
At one point I had the opportunity to supplement that knowledge by going to night school to earn an MBA. Once I’d completed the program, I was looking for something more, so I went into management consulting. It was here where I was introduced to the world of data management, where I found a diverse community of people and functions which represent an important missing link in helping organizations succeed with data.
This led me down a path to new job opportunities, like becoming a Chief Data Officer, as well as speaking and writing pursuits, including my first book. Through it all, however, I felt like the data management community understood much of what it needs to do but consistently falls short in helping businesses realize their full data value potential. Beyond this, I felt the consulting firms out there had too many conflicting incentives, keeping them from being fully committed to their clients’ best interests.
After trying and failing more than once to bring my vision for data leadership to more established firms, I realized that the only way I could fully overcome these challenges would be to start my own company. As a founder, I’m able to own statements like, “Our objectivity is not for sale.” Sure, we may lose revenue from potentially lucrative partnerships, but our clients always know we work for them above all else.
How did you come up with your business name?
The term “data leadership” captures what is most essential for our businesses to capitalize on data. It is certainly important to have reliable data and systems, but leadership connects those to business success. My life’s work is to help organizations learn how to put it all together, so “Algmin Data Leadership” became the obvious choice.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Data is now so important to the success of any business that it is effectively indistinguishable from the business itself. Because of this, no organization should completely rely on external consultants to solve their data challenges for them. We advocate for building core capabilities and self-sufficiency, and then leveraging external resources when needed to tap into specialized skills.
We focus our services on helping clients build their skills and self-sufficiency. For developing introductory skills and data literacy, we have my data leadership book (Data Leadership: Stop Talking About Data and Start Making an Impact!), online training through DATAVERSITY, or attending one of DATAVERSITY’s online or in-person conferences. For organizations that want a more customized experience, we do workshops and speaking engagements for corporate meetings and events like sales kickoffs and leadership retreats.
We also perform consulting, including our Data Value Guidebook™ — a step-by-step plan of what an organization should do next to maximize their data value. This helps organizations develop a viable data strategy and get moving quickly while simultaneously building up the skills they need to become self-sufficient in the longer-term.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
We’re an advocacy organization more than a traditional consulting firm. We do not have a huge contingent of consultants that we have to keep busy, so we are not trying to simply sell every project we can. We would rather help in ways we can uniquely help and get out of the way whenever our clients have a better option. It leads to more interesting work for us, and the best outcomes and return-on-investment for clients. Why doesn’t everybody do it this way?
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
We want to be synonymous with data leadership and helping the good organizations of today remain relevant. We will hopefully continue to grow in the impact we are having and finding ways to reach more folks, more efficiently. We will leverage new technologies and techniques to keep scaling our reach while growing headcount more slowly. Big for the sake of big has never seemed appealing to us.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Learn from your experiences, but don’t let them limit you. If you are going to go out on your own, do not just do what everybody else is doing. Be open to challenging conventional wisdom, and then be ready to make some mistakes that in retrospect will seem were obviously avoidable. Even a gold mine is mostly not gold.
Be ready for everything to take longer than you hope. Always be true to your values, because that will help when things are going slow or the chips are down. The more you do it all for something you are passionate about, the more the ups-and-downs are worth it. It also helps to have a hobby, something purely for yourself beyond work and family obligations. Without it, the business can become too all-consuming, and you will tend to hold on too tight. Just like in sports, the best performance comes from strong focus alongside a certain looseness. If you start to obsess on payroll, or sales, or whatever – it robs your mind of the idle cycles it needs to be strategic and creative.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
I always come back to Howard Schultz, who as the CEO of Starbucks once stated that every day, he strives to make a decision that costs the company money. On the surface it seems strange, because why would anybody want to do that?
But upon further consideration, here is a person who makes dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions every day. Each one of them has a monetary impact on the company. If he didn’t get at least one wrong each day, how hard is he really pushing? How many lucrative opportunities would be left on the table? In this case, being “always right” is a far worse scenario than being “sometimes wrong.”
It reminds me to always keep pushing, and to embrace my own imperfections.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
Right after I graduated college, I had a brief stint as a stockbroker. I was interested in the financial markets, and I thought some sales experience would be good. I earned my licensing and then quickly realized this was not the career I wanted.
So, I quit the next morning. No plan. No idea what would come next. But I knew that I was not going to pick up the phone even once to tell a potential client I would be their “long-term financial advisor” when I knew I already had one foot out the door. Everybody thought I was crazy, but decades later I look back on that as a defining moment.
Many decisions I’ve made since have been influenced by this, including leaving a road-warrior job that was throwing my family life out of balance, taking a big pay cut for a position with more learning potential, and walking away from a “dream job” instead of compromising my ethics.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
I’ve long-admired business owners and entrepreneurs, and for a long time I believed that I would start a company if I ever had the right idea. Even when I found the right idea it took a few years, but I’m glad I eventually did it. I would have regretted not doing it after I realized that I had a unique ability and passion to make it happen. Life is too short and unpredictable to wait for “someday,” so if you have a personal scenario that sounds like this, get moving on it.
That said, I am also envious of people that can be happy with “comfortable.” Working at a job they hopefully like, but probably don’t love. Having a growing retirement account and maybe an emergency fund. Time to relax and pursue passions that give them joy. This is a great, “normal” life.
I don’t do comfortable well. I really wish I could. I’ve tried many times. But the need to bring data leadership forward kept calling to me, and once I listened it all finally clicked. It’s not the easy path, but it is the path I had to take. I think we all have something like that in our lives, and it saddens me to think that many will never find theirs.
If you are trying to hold on to something that isn’t working, whether with your company’s data or in your own career, err on the side of change. Otherwise you’ll never know what’s being left on the table.
Algmin Data Leadership Links:
Book Link: www.amazon.com/gp/product/0578542706