Berkley Bowen | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Berkley Bowen

Background:  

Cue Connect helps retailers communicate with shoppers and track what they share or save while browsing an e-commerce site.

The Mistake: 

I've had two big career engagements: one having to do with the banking industry, through roles that I had working for Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, and another one as CEO and founder of Cue Connect. Both are parallel in that they revolve around data and the benefits of data in both conducting business as well as managing our own personal and individual experiences. 

At Goldman Sachs, I was heavily involved in their equity business, which afforded me the opportunity to meet with a number of companies, learn their business, understand what they were doing, and provide that research and those products to our institutional equity clients. Those senior relationships with our clients helped me begin to understand the use of leveraging information to improve our customers' experience and improve our business with our customers, in the early days of what's now known as CRM. But we didn't have a method to capture it in a way that provided a useful mechanism for business.

That involvement that I had in helping to envision and build a client relationship business in the early days at Goldman led to me going to Lehman Brothers. I worked with a technology whose goal was to capture what we knew about clients across the equity business, aggregate that information and use it to provide good services to customers and understand what opportunities we were succeeding at and which ones we were doing less well at. 

We ended up building a very powerful technology. It was useful for business, but it relied on individuals taking the time, in many cases, to enter information. It wasn't as good at independent capture so much as it was at relying on individuals that were serving clients to take the time to record the information, and to make a record of it in a way that was consistent, and for there to be an outcome driven from it. 

Even though we built very scalable, robust, and powerful CRM platforms for banking, it still relied on a lot of effort coming from individuals doing things that they normally don't do. This caused the data or the index to kind of fall short, and therefore, the ability to use it would fall short. 

I recognized that there was a shortcoming, in that the relationship management tools and the data that we were using in those tools were heavily dependent on a person's willingness and effort to enter in the information. This wasn't that person's day-to-day job; this had to be on top and outside of their normal behavior, which was a shortcoming. 

We don't rely on having customers do things that they don't already do. 

The Lesson: 

After I recognized that shortcoming, I decided to take a break — leave Lehman Brothers, leave banking, and reimagine how data could be captured and utilized in another business context. For me, that was in retail. The goal was to align our client relationship, understanding, and communication to fit the way that business already engages with shoppers, to provide an underpinning technology that would use those activities and help us be better shoppers and better retailers for our customers. So, that's what Cue Connect does.  

We don't rely on having customers do things that they don't already do, or businesses having to provide something they don't already provide. We are using the technology in a way that supports and is grounded in existing behavior that utilizes devices, software, tools and networks that people are already engaged with. With better use comes better outcomes.  

Find Cue Connect on Twitter at @cueconnect.

Photo courtesy of Berkley Bowen.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article inaccurately reported the name of one of Berkley Bowen's employers. He worked for Lehman Brothers.

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