Boomerang Spotlight - Jim Steele
“Jim Steele is @RoadWarrior247”
The Beginning of a Historic Run
Jim Steele’s Boomerang story starts back in 1999 when his employer at the time, IBM, moved him out to the San Francisco Bay area. After a successful 23-year career at IBM, Jim decided to leave the company and head to Ariba in 2000. While at Ariba, Jim saw the company take a meteoric rise before the historic .com bubble burst in 2002. This would lead to a new journey that Jim didn’t see coming.
Later that year, Jim was visiting his parents in Stone Harbor, New Jersey when he got a call from a headhunter letting him know that Marc Benioff, Chair & Chief Executive Officer at Salesforce, wanted to talk. Jim told us, “Salesforce? Why would they be calling me? I was running sales in big enterprise companies.” Nevertheless, there was Jim on a video chat with Marc talking about Salesforce. After about a hour and a half of talking with Marc, Jim said, “My wife was in the back of the room for the entire interview and when it ended she told me she thought Marc was amazing and she knew I would be going to work for him.” After progressing through the interview process, Jim was offered and accepted a position at Salesforce. During his final interview with Marc, Jim told us he had a couple questions for his future boss. Jim said, “I asked Marc about how we could ensure the success of the business. I also wanted to know who the largest customer was at the time. I had never managed customers this small before so I knew this was going to be different.”
Before long, Jim was back in San Francisco as a Salesforce employee. Jim said, “Marc told me my job was to build out a playbook that would help get us into enterprise customer accounts.” Jim knew it was not going to be an easy task but that he was the right person for the job. “I immediately reached out to my contacts and was told ‘no’ each time. At first, it took us a while to earn the trust of the customers and win their business. We were the new company in the enterprise space and not many people wanted to give us a chance initially,” Jim told us. However, that would soon change. As Jim said, “We kept on knocking on doors and those doors kept opening. We started to see a shift in our customers mindset and our business continued to grow.”
After eight years of being the President of Global Sales, Marc named Jim as Chief Customer Officer of Salesforce. Jim said, “I thought to myself, what is a Chief Customer Officer? I had never heard of a title like that. I suspect I was the first Chief Customer Officer in the industry at the time. Marc wanted me to focus 100% on our customer and make sure I was helping them innovate while closing deals for the business.” When Marc said he wanted Jim to focus 100% on the customer, Jim didn’t know how serious Marc was until he walked by Jim’s office one day and saw him sitting at his desk. “What are you doing here? I don’t see any customers in the office today!” said Marc. From that point on, Jim knew that he was not to be seen in the office. Jim told us, “Marc was so serious about this that he went on Twitter and made me an account named @RoadWarrior247. I had no idea how to use Twitter at the time but that is still my account today.”
This Isn’t Goodbye, It’s See You Later
As @RoadWarrior247 entails, Jim was constantly on an airplane, in a car, or in a hotel on his way to visit customers. Since the pandemic has grounded all travel, Jim has had to adapt to this entirely new lifestyle. Jim told us, “I lost 15 pounds between March and July. I can attribute that to not eating airplane and hotel food and developing a normal exercise routine. In March, I ordered exercise equipment to make myself a home gym. We also live in mountains so I am constantly hiking with my family.”
In addition to adopting new rituals to maintain personal wellbeing, Jim has honed his approach with customers. To develop relationships from a distance, he utilizes best practices to tell compelling stories virtually and fosters an environment of digital togetherness.
Life as a Salesforce Alumni
As we heard before, Jim always knew he would end up back at Salesforce. He told us, “Keep in touch with your Salesforce connections. Be careful to nurture relationships, even during your departure, because you will never know when you will want to re-cross that bridge.”