How I met Tracy Young, the CEO of PlanGrid

It is around 6:00 am on a Tuesday and I am rolling out of the hotel bed in beautiful San Francisco. Still heavily jet-lagged thanks to the flight from the East Coast, I stumble to make myself a small pot of coffee to get the day started. A light breakfast, a cup of coffee in hand, and I am ready to tackle the day.

By 6:15, I am checking my messages on LinkedIn and skimming through a few articles online to get caught up on the latest news and events. No, I don’t always jump right into the news first thing in the morning, but sometimes it helps me to generate some ideas for the direction of my day a bit better as I was attending the investor roadshow as part of the DreamIt Urbantech accelerator program. I figured what better way to get the brain working and moving in a forward direction, right?

And then I see it…

Article after article, all congratulating a company by the name of PlanGrid for their recent $875M acquisition by Autodesk.

It was this company that, in many ways was an inspiration to me, and it is ultimately what led me to pursue my place in the Construction Technology industry. My first experience with PlanGrid was while working as a glazing project manager for one of the best curtain wall and glazing contractors down in South Florida; Continental Glass Systems. We utilized PlanGrid as early-adopters to their system, and I had the pleasure of being able to watch the company grow over the years.

Needless to say that this company has held somewhat of a special place in my heart ever since. So to see them achieve such massive success in this way really gives me an even larger sense of hope.

After reading a few articles, I decided that I wanted to reach out to them and let them know that I had been watching their growth since inception and just wanted to personally congratulate them on their recent success. I quickly jump over to Crunchbase to check their company profile for some direct contact information for their CEO. After all, if you’re going to do it, do it big! I find the link to her company profile and head on over to send her an email.

But something caught my eye…

I realized that the profile looked as if it had been hacked, as the company name hyperlink had been changed as you can see in the picture below. Hackers probably seen a way to profit off of the high traffic that this CEOs page undoubtedly receives by dropping in their own contact info and siphoning off a little bit of that juicy traffic for themselves.

So, what did I do? Well, I did what just about any other logical thinking entrepreneur would do, of course! I turned the situation into an advantageous one by solving a problem.

I took a screenshot of both the business page as well as the CEOs profile and then sent out emails to both of their support email addresses.

No more than 10 minutes had passed since I sent the email before I received a very brief, straight-to-the-point reply from their support team to let me know that they appreciated the heads up and would be working on it.

Since the email was signed by David Cain, I thought to myself that it must be someone who isn’t just a run-of-the-mill support team member. Sure of myself, I decided to test the waters and go ahead and look up the name on LinkedIn and sure enough… it’s the CMO of PlanGrid!

I had to reply, I needed to introduce myself… properly.

This was the perfect opportunity to do some networking, and I could not simply let it pass me by. I replied to David Cain’s email and introduced myself and SmartBarrel. Trying to keep it short, so as not to lose his attention, I simply asked if it would be possible for me to meet the CEO.

Of course, his reply was exactly what I had expected; “You must be dreaming.”

The email continued, “But I will introduce you to our head of Alliances and Corp Development, James Cook.”

At this point I am feeling good about the connection I have potentially made, so I send off an email to James… Who I am sure is super confused at the moment. A reply came back within minutes to let me know that he would be able to meet with me the very next day at 5:00 PM.

It wasn’t even 8 AM and I had already secured a meeting with corporate-level folks at a company that I have admired for years.

The next day rolls around and I am walking into PlanGrid’s offices. I am feeling overwhelmed that I am even in the building, but I composed myself and hid my giddiness as much as humanly possible. I had to be professional about this meeting.

Not long passed and I was able to meet with James in one of their conference rooms where I pitched him SmartBarrel He let me pick his brain and get his thoughts on the product, the industry as a whole, the market…

and then all of a sudden, he excuses himself. He gets up, leaves the glass office and within mere seconds he is walking back in with no one else than Tracy Young. Yep, the CEO of PlanGrid.

Less than a day ago this was nothing more than a dream, and now we’re shaking hands. I start talking to her about my product and the direction of my company. We chit-chat for a while about the market, and she even gave me some incredible pieces of advice and insight before needing to excuse herself. This woman has some true hustle!

My only regret is missing the opportunity to document the moment with a photograph or a few finely-timed selfies, all I have is this memorable VISITOR badge from the checkin kiosk. What I learned in the hour or so I was able to visit that office thoroughly surpasses any fan boy simply meeting one of their idols… I got to actually see how she and her team work cohesively to achieve greatness. I learned a lot about her success even before meeting her, by just watching how the office moved. The way her team was responsive at 6:00 AM, the engagement of the CMO, the amazing knowledge of James Cook and choosing when, why, and how to approach me.

Meeting this team of people and especially their CEO, was nothing short of a mind-blowing experience. Such success requires way more than coming up with a great idea or launching a magnificent product. If you don’t have an absolutely phenomenal team standing behind you, you may find that none of the rest of that stuff matter. I congratulate Tracy on not only the recent exit of PlanGrid to Autodesk but also on the fact that she has built a completely stellar team.

On my drive back to the hotel on Wednesday night, one word kept bouncing around in my head; HUSTLE.

This is what hustling is all about:

  • Desire -> Know what you want! Be very clear! I wanted to reach Tracy Young and was able to make this happen by defining my goals clearly and then taking steps that potentially would lead to my desired outcome.
  • Detecting and Grabbing the opportunity -> The website hack was my opening. After sending that first email and making that first contact, it is all about building on that further from that point. Simply engage.
  • Luck -> A response came from the CMO, who in turn, put me in touch with all the right people.
  • Determination -> I approached this from a few different angles. Reaching out to say congrats lead me to the website hack which I promptly reported. This only furthered good standing for myself in the eyes of the company I was contacting. Then I pushed for a meeting with the CEO if it was possible.
  • Be Ready -> Pitch, Product, Story… I was ready to impress, gain credibility and prove my presence in the room!

Albert Bou Fadel | SmartBarrel CEO | November 2018