CMO Files: Jim Kruger, Polycom

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Name:  Jim Kruger    

Organisation: Polycom

Job title: CMO/EVP

Location:  San Jose, CA




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(1) Where were you born and raised? 
I’m a native Californian through and through.  I was born in Oakland and grew up in Pleasanton.  I have such deep roots in the San Francisco Bay Area with a lot of family and friends nearby that I don’t think I will ever leave.  It is great to be just an hour’s drive to the beach or Napa Valley, 45 minutes from San Francisco and about 3.5 hours from Lake Tahoe for skiing.      

(2) What was your first job?  
I got my first part-time job while I was in high school at Squier’s Sports, a small local sports store in Pleasanton that carried mostly shoes.  I sold lots of soccer shoes!  My first real job out of college was with Crum and Forster Personal Insurance, part of the Xerox financial network, as an Operations Manager.  It was an amazing experience.  I gained excellent management experience by managing a team of 12 people.   The people I worked with were exceptional, and it gave me a great foundation for the rest of my career.

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?   
I worked on wireless services for the Palm VII, the first wireless handheld PDA (personal digital assistant) in the market.  This was a breakthrough product that added wireless access to content and applications for the first time on a PDA.  I learned a lot from Joe Sipher, who I reported to while at Palm.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 
Both my mom and dad are the biggest influences on my career—and who I am today.  My mom pushed me hard to get out and find a job while I was in high school.  This helped me to be more aggressive and tenacious because I was pretty shy growing up.  My dad was in sales and taught me how critical integrity, relationships, hard work and commitment are

(5) What has been your greatest achievement? 
My greatest achievement—so far—was taking on the role of CMO at Polycom.  I have been with the company for 14 years, so I rose to this position from the ranks of the company.  I love every minute of my job and feel super fortunate to be leading marketing for Polycom.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake? 
Not having a better work/life balance.  When I look back, I wish I would have pushed back more on some of the “fire drill” requests to get something done in a weekend vs. what should have taken 3-4 work days to complete.  While I’m a true believer in moving fast, sometimes fast isn’t the best option.  I thankfully have a very understanding wife and daughters who have supported me throughout my career – I’m very lucky.  Work/life balance is a constant struggle, so I continue to try to prioritize and focus on the most important initiatives and leverage a great team to help me.

(7) What is your greatest strength? 
Putting myself in other people’s shoes.  This has served me well in my marketing career. Not only relative to messaging and positioning and understanding customers, but also in managing the people I work with.

(8) What is your biggest weakness? 
I don’t show my emotions enough and sometimes people don’t think I care about the topic/situation.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   
Many don’t understand how sophisticated marketing has become.   Marketing has evolved significantly over the past few years through digital, technology, targeting and segmentation, and how people purchase in the B2B market. I just heard an interesting statistic recently; there are now over 1,400 companies specifically in the area of marketing technology to help companies become more efficient in driving demand and generating awareness.  That is a huge change from just 2-3 years ago.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? 
My mantra is “Lead with the numbers.”  If you don’t have a good sense of the impact your initiative or program has on the business, then you probably are not focused on the right things.  While measurement and metrics have become critical and marketing is becoming more of a “science,” in order to be successful, you need to balance that with the “art” of marketing and creativity, which you can’t always measure.

(11) What makes you stressed? 
There are certainly a few stresses that come with being a CMO, but surprises that make my organization or the company look bad are at the top of the list.  I have a high standard, so I get disappointed when we miss a committed date, deliver poor/half completed work or we don’t meet our objectives.

(12) What do you do to relax? 
I love the outdoors.  I love running, playing tennis and golf, mountain biking and hiking. I just hiked Mt. Whitney in one day, which was an awesome experience and I have signed up to run a ½ marathon in October.

(13) What is your favourite song?  

My wife and daughters always tease me because I have no idea what the titles to songs are, but I love listening to music.  I think one of my all-time favorites is “That’s what I like about you” by the Romantics.

(14) Which book taught you most? 
I’m currently reading “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I recently heard her speak at a leadership conference and was inspired to read her book.  There are lots of things we can learn from Lincoln and his approach to leadership.

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow? 
I’m a big fan of both the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers (like I said, I’m a Californian through and through!).  I played soccer growing up, in college and one year of semi-pro, so I’m also a big soccer fan and follow my alma mater UC Berkeley.  I love watching the World Cup.

(16) Which country would you like to work in? 
Italy – I love the people, the history and the food. 

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing? 
Of course I like what we are doing at Polycom.  We launched a game changing campaign called Defy Distance that is getting excellent traction.  I also really like what Kaiser has done with their positioning and their brand and making healthcare fun.  And, since I’m a sports fanatic, I like what Nike has done, and appreciate the fact that they have stuck with “Just Do It” for so many years.  So simple, yet it says it all.

(18) What do you love most about your job? 
I really like meeting with customers and hearing how our solutions have transformed the way they collaborate and work.  I also love driving messaging and positioning for the company and bringing new solutions to market that help our customers succeed.  It is also very rewarding to see the results of our initiatives.  It gives me a huge sense of accomplishment when my team works together as one team to achieve our goals. 

(19) What is your favourite book? 
I really liked the book “Pour Your Heart Into It” by Howard Schultz.  It’s a great story about how Starbucks got started and how selling coffee was transformed into selling an experience, which really resonates with me.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?   
How fast the market is moving and making sure we’re keeping ahead of the competition is what keeps me up at night.  There are many new competitors in the collaboration space, and I feel compelled to keep my eye on all of them to make sure we stay ahead.