Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
On many days, research reports fall upon my inbox like comedic actors of the Mr. Bean School trying to get a laugh.
Often, they're concocted by PR people, worded in order to get the precise answers their client companies require and reek of blessed insincerity.
This is a company that is like a Yelp review site for large technology purchases, on which every reviewer is authenticated.
It claims to offer "B2B without the BS."
TrustRadius had recently performed a piece of research that claimed, quite remarkably, that "Buyers Want the Brutal Truth, Not Slick Messaging."
"Vendors who are more honest and open about their products are more likely to close the deal," said TrustRadius's PR release.
We're talking about large items of technology that can costs millions of dollars here.
We're also talking about TrustRadius, which insists it's "the most trusted review platform for business technology."
In that case, I thought with a certain mischief, why not ask Trust Radius to be honest about itself?
So I contacted the company's CEO, Vinay Bhagat, to see if he was prepared to be a Zagat unto his company and, indeed, himself. Which is, after all, what his research was recommending.
And then I got a reply which, for a few nanoseconds, renewed my faith in (what's left of) human nature.
First, Bhagat offered me some quite harsh truths about his company.
5 Brutal Truths About TrustRadius.
1. We are not the right fit for everyone. Bhagat told me: "You need the right culture to maximize success. That primarily means being OK with getting negative as well as positive feedback on the record. We won't remove or alter or suppress any reviews that meet our guidelines. If you can't handle candid feedback, TrustRadius is not a good fit."
2. We don't sell leads. "The buyers on our site are not the product. Rather, our business model is built on getting the highest quality reviews possible and helping vendors leverage them in their own channels," said Bhagat.
3. We still have work to do on reporting. "Our goal is for all the important data you need to be available in the vendor admin with easily consumable graphs and charts. In the meantime, your Customer Success Manager will do whatever they can to get you the data you need," is Bhagat's candid assessment.
4. Our user interface needs a facelift. Wait a minute, he was being this honest about his own product? I'd like to think it was my charm that was persuading him. I fear it may not have been. I fear he may simply have been on a roll. He even pointed me to a customer review of TrustRadius: ""The UI can be clunky with a lot of different entry points. For example, review edits and review tagging go through different access points."
5. Our offering isn't cheap. "Vendors get the most of our TrustRadius when we work with them to generate more reviews as well as implement tools to tag and syndicate their reviews."
This seemed refreshingly honest, and, indeed, bordered on brutality.
Somehow, though, it seems to have really got Bhagat into the confessional mood.
For next, he revealed some brutal truths about himself.
3 Brutal Truths About Vinay Bhagat, CEO of TrustRadius.
1. I struggle to find balance in my life. "I am very committed to making TrustRadius a success and you could easily characterize me as a workaholic," Bhagat told me. "I do prioritize and make time for my kids, and play squash once a week, but what tends to suffer in my life is sleep. I often only sleep 5 hours per night and it takes a toll." Me, I struggle to find balance on the squash court. I'm always banging into the walls. That, to me, is the perfect metaphor for starting a business.
2. I'm task/action oriented. "While it is great for productivity, that can lead people to perceive that I'm not friendly," he said. Oh, he's one of those, is he? Well, at least he knows it and is prepared to admit it.
3. I am sometimes too slow to make key personnel decisions. "Hiring the right people is difficult, and replacing can be even harder," he said, echoing the pain endured by millions of entrepreneurs the world over.
The Brutal Conclusion.
May I be honest with you?
I never thought Bhagat would play along.
I thought that, perhaps, his handlers would (try to) find an elegant way around my inquiry.
Yet here he was, giving me answers.
I cannot vouch for his company's product.
But I can at least say that he understands one of the principles of good leadership and brand management.
Don't claim one thing and be another. People will find out very quickly.