The CMO Files: Alistair Agnew, Ipsoft

What makes you stressed? "I don't really get stressed by other people's failures. But if I've made a mistake or missed something, that's what really stresses me out."

Name: Alistair Agnew

Organisation: IPsoft

Job title: CMO


Alistair Agnew oversees IPsoft's global marketing activities across 18 countries, building the company's brand and reputation as the No. 1 privately-held AI company. Central to his role is educating the market on how IPsoft's AI platforms, Amelia and 1Desk are revolutionising how we work, live and play, now and in the future.


Where were you born and raised? I was born in Lancashire, in the North of England, but I moved down South at the age of 11 which means I don't really have a Northern accent - although you might hear a slight Northern twang on the odd word.

What was your first job? My first job was sweeping the floor of a music store in West London, owned by the famous music businessman, Jim Marshall (of Marshall Amplifications.) It was being in this retail environment that taught me how to sell things.

What was the first product you got really excited about? If I had to pick one, I think it would be the Hammond B3 - which, if you don't know, is an organ. I was brought up playing jazz and loved listening to Jimi Smith groove on the B3.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? I think the biggest influence has always been my former boss at Yamaha, Mike Ketley, where we worked together for 16 years. He was a great moral guide, and not only showed me how to use my position to coach and encourage people, but also taught me the importance of having structure patience - which is a key in B2B marketing.

What has been your greatest achievement? I think my greatest achievement has been my ability to move through different industry types. From the music industry, into health dotcom and enterprise software, I'm proud of the fact I've travelled through so many different product categories, serving both consumers and businesses, and have been successful in each one.

What has been your biggest mistake? Perhaps it's not spending enough time studying the piano. You can never spend enough time playing music and now that I'm always on the move, I don't always have easy access to a piano!

What is your greatest strength? I start every morning with respect for others and that has helped me build lasting teams and drive long-term success.

What is your biggest weakness? It may sound cliched, but I tend to see the good in all humanity. Sometimes this has been to my detriment - I can miss recognising the bad side of people, like those that only want to misbehave.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? I think my involvement with the sales teams. Joining the dots between sales and marketing is essential in B2B marketing, given the complex nature of the buying and selling process - especially given the pace sales is changing at. It's key that my team know who is buying, why and how they are buying, and - in a perfect world - when. You often meet marketeers that sit in the marketing silo and don't go out to speak to other departments.

Which word or phrase is your mantra? and which word or phrase makes you squirm? My mantra is respect - I start every day like a beginner and give respect to everyone I talk to, no matter their job title, background, sex or race.

Passionate is a word that makes me squirm - the meaning of the word has been lost because everyone describes themselves as passionate these days.

What makes you stressed? I don't really get stressed by other people's failures. But if I've made a mistake or missed something, that's what really stresses me out.

What do you do to relax? Learn more about New York's restaurant scene - the good, the bad and the ugly - I've just started Anthony Bourdain's ‘Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.'

What is your favourite song? ‘Adios Habana' by David Grusin, the soundtrack from the film Havana - it's such beautiful and moving piece of music

Which book taught you most? A book that really underscored my views on management is ‘Black Box Thinking' by Matthew Sayed.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow? I'm a Formula 1 fanatic, so my team is the Mercedes Petronas team. I love the complexity that makes up the sport, in fact, all F1 teams are using AI technologies, which makes it all the more exciting for me.

Which country would you like to work in? I've always wanted to work in the States, having been back and forth sporadically throughout my career. The fact that I'm working here now is such a privilege.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? I think the best brand that has reframed an entire category is Nespresso coffee. Until recently you couldn't even buy Nespresso in a store and yet it has taken the coffee market by storm.

What do you love most about your job? I love the fact that I'm working for a company which is at the centre of this exciting field of AI - a nascent market with massive opportunity.

What is your favourite book? Leslie Bricusse's autobiography called Pure Imagination is the most entertaining book I've ever read. My daughter bought it for me, so that makes it all the more special.

What keeps you awake at night? The only thing that keeps me up at night is being able to stay at the forefront of technology in this rapidly changing world.