Sure, you’ve heard the tales of business execs as youthful capitalists, setting up lemonade stands. But I bet you haven’t heard this twist: When he was an elementary-age entrepreneur, Eric Johnson leased his chunk of sidewalk to a neighbor kid eager to sell drinks.
“I got the kid to pay to use my corner — it was a better corner,” Johnson said.
Nintex makes tools that allow companies to take older offline business workflows — such as the process initiated when a new order is received — and put them into a digital workflow that can be set up and tweaked without having to call the application developers in. Before Nintex, Johnson was vice president of finance for Jive Software, where he led the effort to take the company public in 2011.
Johnson is excited as CEO to spend more time working directly with customers and his own employees. But he can’t deny the added pressure.
“You carry the weight of everything,” he said. “You get exposed to everyone’s issues. All of the issues find their way to the CEO.”
Johnson said that he works to be thoughtful, organized and programmatic in tackling the role. The approach allows him to reach peak productivity and more reliably deliver what’s needed. The Northwest native attributes some of that discipline and perseverance to a passion for playing basketball in high school and his experience in Air Force ROTC while attending the University of Portland.
Johnson hit some bumps along the way — he didn’t have the chops to pursue basketball in college and very briefly attended the West Point military academy before realizing it was a bad fit. But there were hard, essential lessons in the experiences.
“You get as much out of the things that didn’t go the way you wanted — and maybe even more — as those that went well,” Johnson said.
We caught up with him for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questoinaire.
Current location: “I’m an Eastsider — I work in Bellevue and live in Kirkland.”
Computer types: “Microsoft Surface”
Mobile devices: “iPhone”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Waze and Uber are probably my most used apps just because they help get me wherever I’m going. My wife and I use OpenTable and Vivino too.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Decoration wise, my office is pretty sparse besides family photos and some artwork on the walls. I like it this way — it’s clean, organized and it has a small table for meetings. The set-up works well for me. Keeping my office tidy and organized helps me to get things done quickly. It also keeps my stress level down.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Operate in an integrated fashion. Don’t separate them. Work is a part of my life. I like to work a lot, but my personal life is just as important. I find ways to juggle both. It might mean that I go do something personal in the middle of the day or I might need to do something business-related in the evening. I also use my calendar extensively to manage all my commitments.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “Definitely LinkedIn. I use it regularly to manage connections. It’s been a great tool for answering questions I may have and it’s a good way to reconnect with past colleagues.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “One, but only because I haven’t looked at it while doing this. I aim for zero unanswered emails in my inbox by the end of every day. I’m big on filing emails once they’ve been read and responded to. It helps me to stay organized.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “26 meetings.”
How do you run meetings? “I like agendas. I want to know what the purpose is and what we’re trying to accomplish on the front end, and I want to make sure the meeting ends on time so it doesn’t mess up other meetings that day. Everyone has a lot to do and a lot going on so it’s important that meetings are efficient and respectful of everyone’s time.”
Everyday work uniform? “Business pants — not exactly slacks but more professional than jeans with a dress shirt or sweater. If there’s a big meeting or event I’ll wear slacks with a dress shirt and blazer.”
How do you make time for family? “I schedule it. I definitely allocate time for family and I also make a point of volunteering myself for community activities and commitments that will force it. Often my time is spent coaching. I’ve coached sports teams for both of my kids in basketball, soccer and football.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “I work out. I try to exercise at least three times a week. If I have time, I love to go golfing. Time with my wife and children is great, as is time spent with our friends.”
What are you listening to? “I don’t have a very long commute, but if I do listen to something in the car it’s probably the Macklemore station on Pandora. It’s good ‘pump-up’ music when transporting kids to basketball games .”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “I’m an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal and also like TechCrunch.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Currently, I’m reading ‘The Spark and the Grind’ by Erik Wahl. Erik delivered the guest keynote at our user conference (Nintex xchange) last month in San Diego. His book is totally different than the business books I tend to read, but if it’s anything like his keynote it will be great.”
Night owl or early riser? “I’m more of an early riser. I aim for eight hours. I tend to go to bed by 10 p.m. and wake up by 5:45 a.m.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “It really helps me to get outside and get fresh air. Some of my best ideas have come during workouts at the gym or on the golf course. Golfing makes me happy and gets my brain flowing.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Warren Buffet. He’s a genius and has accomplished a lot. I know he could teach me things.”