SAN JOSE -- In its nine-year existence, Xactly has grown from three employees to more than 300, and their ongoing praise for the company has earned Xactly honors as a great place to work from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the Bay Area News Group.
Christopher W. Cabrera, Xactly's homegrown founder, president and CEO, was raised by a San Jose "serial entrepreneur" whose innovations ended up in everything from microwaves to NASA's lunar rover. While Cabrera learned valuable lessons about entrepreneurship from his late father, Eduardo, a Colombian immigrant, the younger Cabrera's soul beats with the DNA of a natural-born salesman.
Xactly sells cloud-based management systems that instantly -- and more efficiently and cost-effectively, Cabrera says -- allow both managers and sales people to track critical issues such as bonuses and what products offer the most incentives for sales people. Xactly has more than 600 clients -- many with offices around the world -- including LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, Twitter, Motorola, Specialized Bicycles and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. Xactly's customers use its services in multiple languages and 90 currencies.
Cabrera sat down recently with this newspaper in Xactly's offices on West Santa Clara Street to talk about why his employees are so happy and why he has no plans to ever leave downtown San Jose. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q Describe Xactly's employee culture.
A It's a younger culture, a fun culture. The average age of our employees is in the low 30s. It's not a hoodies-and-bring-in-your dog culture, but I'm usually the only one who wears a suit. Giving back to the community is something I'm passionate about. It's easy to write checks and we do that, too, but it doesn't give you the same employee camaraderie. Every week a group of Xactly employees somewhere is working on food drives, assembling bikes and refurbishing houses.
Q In your lobby's trophy case, among all of your company awards, is a large rubber band ball. What does that symbolize?
A Every month we have an all-hands meeting where every new employee puts their rubber band on the ball. Rubber bands come in all different sizes, shapes and color. Together, when they're combined, they take on a whole new set of properties and the ball can be bounced or thrown where an individual rubber band can't. So our motto is, "That's how we roll." Somewhere in that ball is my own rubber band. There is no single band in there that's more important than any other. It's the collective that counts. Our employees are part of something bigger and we're trying to build something great.
Q Why do sales-oriented companies need a cloud-based system for sales people?
A We have data that shows 89 percent of companies use Excel spreadsheets for commission compensation. That means one person is trying to keep a spreadsheet for 200 sales people. All it takes is one fat finger to pay people inaccurately. At age 25, I was one of three area managers who were due $8,000 for the quarter. When I got my check it said $80,000, which was my annual income, instead of $8,000. When I brought it to my admin, she said, "You know, Chris, we would never have caught this."
The error was multiplied by a simple mistake so all three managers got $80,000. You can imagine how popular that made me with the other managers (who did not report the $80,000 mistake). It taught me that manual systems just don't work and don't motivate behavior. Under our model, sales reps can get on their iPads and smartphones anywhere in the world and find out where they're at in real time and how much they're being paid. Or in a remote sales office, a salesman can find out how much they'll earn based on certain sales before they close the deal. It's laughable compared to a spreadsheet-based system.
Q Since your original Race Street location, Xactly moved to the old Knight-Ridder building and now to your current location on West Santa Clara Street. Why San Jose -- and why downtown San Jose?
A I'm a big proponent of downtown. The location's great. There are a million places to eat. You're not fighting the traffic. It is the 10th-largest city with the benefits of a real city without the hassles. It's a wonderful place to do business and our employees love it. I don't intend to leave San Jose. I love it here.
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Current job: Founder, CEO and president Xactly
Previous jobs: Senior vice president of operations for Callidus Software; sales and sales management at Silicon Graphics
Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration, University of Southern California; MBA, Santa Clara University.
Family: Married to wife, Marla, for 23 years; they have a daughter and son.
Residence: Almaden area of San Jose
FIVE THINGS ABOUT CHRISTOPHER W. CABRERA
1. Taught himself to paint with acrylics 12 years ago after he was inspired by a painting of a building he saw in a gallery window in Carmel. "I'll start at 10 o'clock at night and finish at 6 in the morning and say, 'Wow the sun's up.' "
2. Dreams of raising a herd of a dozen or so buffalo near his home in the Almaden area of San Jose and is working on a painting of a buffalo.
3. Keeps a revolving bucket list of 20 or so things to do before he dies, such as meet Pope Francis. Already accomplished some items from the list, including watching a Boston Red Sox game from seats on top of Fenway Park's Green Monster and writing a book (he's actually written two. The latest, "Game the Plan," is about using big data to create sales incentives).
4. Wants to teach a college-level class devoted to sales. "Through my undergrad years at USC and an MBA at Santa Clara University, I didn't have a single sales class. Yet a high percentage of business students will get their first job in sales. It's a learned art."
5. If he had not gone into business, he would have chosen a career as an archeologist, perhaps studying dinosaurs.