How I Got Here: Omniture's John Mellor:
Executive Vice President
of Business Development
By ELIZABETH GARONE
Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
After John Mellor earned his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering in the 1980s, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. So, he took every graduate admission test available, from the GMAT for business schools to the LSAT for law schools. He was even accepted to dental school at the University of Iowa. Instead, he chose a very different path. Mr. Mellor and some friends founded Viewpoint Corp., a 3D computer graphics company, which they later sold to Computer Associates International, now CA Inc., for an undisclosed sum. Mr. Mellor eventually did do a stint in graduate school -- earning an M.B.A. -- and landed at Omniture Inc. in 2003 with stops along the way at Frontline Educational Products LLC, and RichFX Inc. Elizabeth Garone spoke to Mr. Mellor about his career path. Edited excerpts follow.
Full name: John Mellor
Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.
Current position: Executive vice president, business development and corporate strategy, Omniture Inc.
First job: Co-founder, Viewpoint Corp.
Favorite job: His current one
Education: B.S. in mechanical engineering from Brigham Young University; M.B.A. from Brigham Young
Years in the industry: 10
How I got here in 10 words or less: Identify a great market, find great people, deliver great product.
Q: Plenty of Web-savvy companies have heard of Omniture, but for the rest of us, what does Omniture do?
A: We measure online effectiveness for Web sites. They need to know how visitors are interacting with them, what marketing campaigns bring visitors to those sites, what activities on those sites make visits successful, how often visitors come back, what products they find most interesting, what products generate the most revenue. It's kind of like an online dashboard for what's going on with your online business.
Q: And what's your role in all of this?
A: I oversee business development and the strategic growth of partnerships at Omniture. We have a very rich and growing ecosystem of partners that we interact with in order for our customers to be successful. I also work on defining and articulating the strategy of the organization as it applies to what we're going to be doing in the next two to five years.
HOW YOU CAN GET THERE, TOO
Best advice: "The biggest thing I have learned is that numbers are your friend and measurement is your friend," says Mr. Mellor. "The days of gut feel management, gut feel marketing and strategy are very numbered."
Skills you need: Having an appreciation for "cause and effect" and "the technical side of life" is very applicable in the new worlds of marketing and business, according to Mr. Mellor. "We're in a cause-and-effect world that is understood by data and is managed by data. It doesn't mean the art goes out the window, but it means that the left side of your brain has to become much more exercised."
Degrees you should go for: "I love the sciences. I think the sciences teach people how to think," says Mr. Mellor. "Any degree that really exercises your mind in terms of how to think and how to solve problems, I personally have found that to be very helpful."
Where you should start: Follow your passion, says Mr. Mellor. "You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do absolutely anything for the company and then just gravitate toward the parts that seem to resonate with you."
Professional organizations to contact: While Web trends is still an emerging field, two organizations Mr. Mellor recommends getting involved in are the Web Analytics Association (WAA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
Salary range: $200,000 to $350,000
Q: How did you end up at the company?
A: (I was) recruited. I had several friends that I'd worked with previously that were here, including Chris Harrington (who worked with Mr. Mellor at both RichFX and Viewpoint).That's how the connection was made.
Q: When you moved from the title vice president to executive vice president, did your responsibilities change? Is there a real difference between the two?
A: I've been here for four and a half years. When I started, I was employee number 40 or 50. We were at a run rate of $10 million to $12 million when I started. The company is now at 1,000 employees, and in 2007, we did $143 million in revenue. I have been fortunate enough to be part of the team that has been able to make that happen. So, the change in title for me does not really change my day-to-day responsibilities. I'm one of those people who will work just as hard regardless of my title, regardless of my salary. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way.
Q: You use the word "entrepreneur" a lot when describing yourself. What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur who is working for someone else?
A: The challenge for some entrepreneurs is to throw away all the frogs until you find a prince, because you love what you do so much that you almost do it for free. Sometimes, the challenge can be engaging your left brain enough to really be smart about the decision of which company and industry and most importantly the team. Where do I spend those 14 hours a day that I know I'm going to spend anyway?
Q: After a number of successful years in the "real world," you still chose to pursue an M.B.A. Why?
A: I was on the plane to Tokyo with one of the founders of Viewpoint. When I told him I wanted to go back to business school, he said to me, "It doesn't matter how anyone else did it. We're going to do it our way." I said to him, "I know, but I want to know what rules I'm breaking. I want to know what I'm not doing. I want to consciously choose to not do it the way other people did it rather than just do it ignorantly and look in the rearview mirror and say, 'Wow. I did that different.'" Plus, it was a very valuable skill set to acquire.
Q: What do you think makes Omniture successful? There aren't many companies that do what Omniture does, but there are some. What sets the company apart?
A: I view three key elements of success in a corporation. The first, and by far the most important, is the team. The second is the product, and the third is the market. At every company that I've been at before, one of these three legs of the stool was missing, and it was disappointing. You might have a great team and a great product, but the market just isn't there. And it's very frustrating, because you end up spinning your wheels, and you're never really rewarded for it. At Omniture, we're fortunate to have these three things in place.
Q: Were your previous positions at other companies steppingstones to something bigger?
A: I didn't really view them as steppingstones. I put my heart and soul into everything that I do. I think that's the challenge for entrepreneurs. You're really good at what you love to do, and you sort of live in a world of "I'm going to make this work come hell or high water." You don't really think about the alternatives very much.
Q: You've already done it once -- so, do you see yourself founding another company?
A: I would love to work with multiple companies at an advisory level. I love the grass-roots, start-up phase of companies, and I think I could carve out my perfect job. It would be working with five or six, young, start-up companies, spending a day a week at each company, and helping them understand the challenges of raising money, the challenges of handling major growth, and eventually picking an exit strategy, which may be to sell the company, which I've done before, or maybe taking the company public, which I've also done before.
Q: What next?
A: Omniture is just such a great situation for me still. I would love to see it be the last place where I really have to earn a paycheck. There may be an opportunity at some stage in the future to work with a bunch of smaller companies once I feel like I've exhausted this opportunity or at least taken it as far as I can personally take it. One thing about our team is we are all so competitive and have such a big belief in this market. Our next goal is a billion dollars in revenue, and if we hit guidance this year, we're still $700 million away, so there is still a lot to do.
Write to Elizabeth Garone at email@example.com