Mark Smith | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mark Smith


Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Rubrik offers data management through an appliance that delivers automated backup, instant recovery, unlimited replication and data archival.

The Mistake: 

I was looking at my CEO as sort of a sales target. 

It was 2004, and at the time, I was running sales for a company called NetScreen. We were doing extremely well, growing 100 percent annually and rocking and rolling.

My mentor, who was a board member at NetScreen. He said to me, “Mark, you’re a good VP of sales. [But it] would be great if you would be a good businessperson.” That became a real turning point for me in my career.

I was looking at my job as selling the CEO on the idea that I needed to get as much of the budget as possible dedicated to sales. I did this because I thought it would make my job much easier.

I realized at that point, that the more successful I was in convincing him to spend more on sales, the more these things actually impacted the company. If sales is really successful at selling the CEO on spending massive amounts on sales and marketing, it’s to the detriment of other aspects of company, like the product, innovation, product quality and support.

 I looked differently at the view of sales vs. the business as a whole.

The Lesson:

From that point forward, I looked differently at the view of sales vs. the business as a whole. I learned that I actually needed to do a better job of managing the sales budget and managing the marketing spend so we actually had a great product that was highly differentiated.

I’ve taken that lesson through my career.

Many companies have sales and marketing that is over 100 percent of revenue. They don’t have a balance between sales, marketing spending and innovation. They’re not paying attention to business basics. You could have a short-term success in revenue with this approach. But when product quality goes down and renewals go down, you can’t build a great company.

In Silicon Valley, in the microwave world, people often do things for short-term gain, but to the detriment of the company. Companies need to learn not to sacrifice product quality and innovation for the sake of growth.


Follow Rubrik on Twitter @rubrikinc.

​Photo courtesy of Rubrik.