Making a mark
Mark Stiffler, the Founder, President & CEO of
Synygy, shares with Priya Jain his formula for entrepreneurial success
The renowned American author, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo
Emerson had once said, Wise men put their trust in ideas not in circumstances.
Mark Stiffler, Founder, President & CEO, Synygy, is among those who pursues
this belief in life. Says Stiffler, From the very beginning I have been
very stubborn about my dreams.
From a very young age Stiffler wanted to start his own company. He was in fact
the only one from his family who went to college. Destiny paves the way to success
for those who are determined, and Stiffler was no exception. He received an
MBA from the prestigious Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT) and Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering (Project Management)
and Management Information Systems from MIT.
He started his career in the late 1980s as a management consultant. He worked
in two small agencies, namely Strategic Management Group and Pugh Roberts International.
During his work as a consultant, in one of his consulting projects he was asked
to teach sales people to analyse data. It was then that he realised that sales
people were good at marketing but you could not expect them to be analysts.
This realisation was the initial brainwave for him that resulted into the master-idea
for starting his own company. The master-idea was to provide a solution that
could analyse data and automate that process.
Stiffler pitched on this idea and started looking for customers.
IMS (a Dow Jones company) was convinced with his concept and gave him his first
contract. Says Stiffler, We provided IMS with our first product, Automated
Data Evaluation Processes and Tools (ADEPT), an automated data analysis tools.
And, the sign of its success was the other companies that followed suite like
Key Pharmaceuticals, Sche-ring Plough, Wyeth, Johnson & Johnson.
Founded in 1991 by Stiffler, Synygy today has over a decade of experience helping
companies turn performance management into a source of strategic advantage.
Based in suburban Philadelphia, with operations in Phoenix, Romania, and India,
Synygy was recently named among the Philadelphia 100 for a record
ninth time in a row. With nearly 500 employees, Synygy has implemented hundreds
of performance management plans and manages these for tens of thousands of professionals
in many organisations, including Pfizer, Siemens, GE Lighting, Saxon Capital
I had no intention of playing the
shoemakers child. I knew that our success would depend on how well
we practised what we preached and on how effective we could be in achieving
ambitious organisational goals
Stiffler concedes that while achieving success is never easy, being in that
position is tougher stillone has to be alert at every step. To create
an engaged workforce, he is very focussed on nurturing the right work culture
in his organisation. As the Founder, President, and CEO of Synygy, a sales
effectiveness, incentive compensation, and performance management solutions
company, I had no intention of playing the shoemakers child. I knew that
our success would depend on how well we practised what we preached, on how effective
we could be in achieving ambitious organisational goals and continuously improving
the performance in all aspects of the business.
A firm believer in the bonus culture he asserts that it should be
incorporated in every organisation. We only hire the best people and give
them responsibility a little more than their capability, and reward them when
they achieve it, he points out, adding that the goal is to create a differentiation
betw-een the good performers and the bad performers, by giving the good ones
bonus. This will make the bad performers realise that they dont deserve
more. This differentiation not only increases competency but also helps
in creating employee recognition and participation, adds Stiffler.
Talking about the organisational structure, he adds, We have a flat structure
in our organisation and a 360 degree evaluation culture, where anybody in the
organisation irrespective of their position can evaluate another on his performance
and behaviour with others. So it becomes the employees responsibility
to make himself a better performer.
His success in creating and leading Synygys growth
won Stiffler the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award by Ernst and Young.
He is also an active member of Young Presidents Organisation (YPO), a
group of 8,000 chief executives under age 50 from 75 nations.
There are many other factors that reflect his zeal in life. I like travelling
to places where I can contemplate and think. One such favourite destination
is Bali in Indonesia, which is a very peaceful place. I am now writing a book
on performance management, and places like Bali rejuvenates my spirit,
says Stiffler. He is also a frequent speaker on the subject of performance management
and a long-time guest lecturer in entrepreneurial marketing at the University
of Pennsylvanias Wharton School.
During one of his lectures he asked his students, What do you need to
start a company? Everybody came up with different answers, like concept
or courage. The real answer evaded all, till Stiffler said, You need customers
to start a company. As a lecturer, Stiffler always likes to share his
real-life experiences with students and enlightens them with ideas that might
some day help them to realise their dreams.