Josh James: Building a Business that Counts
Josh James's entrepreneurial career has grown with the Internet. In 1996, as Brigham Young University undergraduates, James and friend John Pestana started a business making Web pages. Before long, customers started clamoring for a way to measure their Web sites' performance. Now 33, James is CEO and co-founder of Orem (Utah) Web-analytics company Omniture (OMTR), the descendent of that first Web venture.
One factor pushing James to eventually run his own company was an all-American desire to take ownership of his own success or failure. "I like making decisions," he explains. "I'm really comfortable with whatever the outcome is, bad or good, as long as I was able to have a part in making the decision."
So far, the decision to take Omniture public this summer has been a pretty good one for shareholders. The stock's price was up 117.8% to $14.16 in afternoon trading Dec. 15, after opening at $6.50 on June 28. On Oct. 26, the company reported record quarterly revenue of $21 million, up 83% over the same period a year earlier.
True to those customers at James's collegiate Web-design business, Omniture hosts and delivers on-demand software that lets its customers dig into the data their Web sites generate and attempt to gauge performance. Customers include eBay (EBAY), AOL (TWX), Wal-Mart (WMT), Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), according to a recent press release. (BusinessWeek.com, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP), also has a business relationship with Omniture.)
Another client, General Motors (GM), helped the company establish itself after changing its name to Omniture in 2002. GM provided a Hummer for Omniture to give away at an e-tailing trade show. "We wanted every single person in that place to know who we were," James recalls.
Surrounded by Talent
Omniture sponsored a lunch, asked everyone to stand up—and its competitors to sit down—then led a game of "rock, paper, scissors" with the vehicle as a prize. As part of the contest, all of the 1,000 or so participants in the room except Omniture's competitors were chanting the company's new moniker: "Om-ni-ture. Om-ni-ture. Om-ni-ture."
Such confidence is essential for a CEO, James says. But he stresses that an effective CEO should never be too confident to ask for help. In fact, he says it's important for chief executives to surround themselves with people who may be more talented than they are in many areas.
"You absolutely have to hire people that are not just smarter than you, but more aggressive than you, more driven than you," he explains. "And you have to find a couple of people who are more realistic than you to balance it out. You end up creating a company that reflects your personality, all aspects of it."
James doesn't pretend that being a CEO is all Hummers and rock-paper-scissors games. On top of the usual day-to-day stress, a head of a company can't shirk his responsibilities or "disappear," James says. And other employees, some of whom make life changes to work at a company, are all counting on the CEO, too.
Ultimately, the most important thing when it comes to starting a business, in James's view, basically boils down to the Nike (NKE) slogan: "Just do it," he says. "People sit and talk about things forever. If you've got the risk profile, just do it."
Click here to see the list of 40-and-under CEOs of publicly traded U.S. companies.