The CMO Files: Grant Halloran, Anaplan

Get inside the minds of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job... and what keeps them awake at night.

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Grant Halloran

 Organisation: Anaplan

 Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

 Location: San Francisco, US


1.      Where were you born and raised?  
I was raised in the Australian capital Canberra, but born in rural New South Wales, in a very small town called West Wyalong. I’m a country boy at heart.

2.      What was your first job?  
My entrepreneurial side came through at an early age. When I was eleven, I started a car wash and lawn-mowing service, ending up employing six other kids. We brought our equipment to the customer’s house and mowed the lawn and washed the cars all in one session. I implicitly understood marketing and even worried about branding. We were very successful, for eleven-year-olds.

3.      What was the first product you got really excited about?
It would have to be my StarTAC flip phone from Motorola, as it was the coolest mobile on the planet at the time. But, throughout my professional career, Anaplan’s platform stands out. When I first learned about Anaplan, the product and market potential got me really excited about being the CMO here—and it hasn’t disappointed.

4.      Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
I would say it is a former investor and board member named Alan McDonald. He became a very close friend of mine. As well as being 100% loyal and supportive, he encouraged me to continue to be adventurous in life, to dream big, to “keep turning stones”. I have learned much and gained great joy from my relationship with him. He’s also one of the funniest people you could meet.

5.      What has been your greatest achievement?
I think that successfully balancing a wonderful family of four children and a wife that deserves a sainthood, with being an entrepreneur and executive.

6.      What has been your biggest mistake?
Early on in my entrepreneurial career I built a Rolls Royce version of a product instead of starting out with a Buick. I over-engineered the initial product and discovered that the foundation of the business was wrong, which taught me so much early on in my career. Increment, experiment, learn from customers.

7.      What is your greatest strength?
Shifting quickly from big picture to detail has always come easily to me and I enjoy that. I think that fits well with the ability to ‘deep dive’ and ask the right questions to get to the heart of an issue very quickly.

8.      What is your biggest weakness?
Other than my bad jokes, I would say I am very results orientated, rather ‘driven,’ and like things done quickly. I think this brings out a weakness … sometimes I need to slow down and be more patient with people. I’m very direct, which sometimes isn’t situationally ‘elegant.’

9.      What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   
I think that many business software marketers neglect brand positioning. They instead focus on software categorisation, features, and economic benefits. Not a lot on branding.

10.  Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
I wouldn’t call it my mantra, but apparently I use the Yoda quote a lot: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” I think I mix the words up but people get the gist! I believe it reflects a big part of my personal attitude to life. The expression that annoys me is when people use the phrase “mm-hmm” as a response, especially in restaurants. Just say “you’re welcome!” Maybe I’m becoming a grump.

11.  What makes you stressed?
I get stressed when I’m running out of time.

12.  What do you do to relax?
I mostly use sports to relax, usually boxing, golf, basketball, or swimming. I also read a lot, drive on windy country roads, and taking my kids to the cinema is also one of my favourite ways to chill out.

13.  What is your favourite song?
I would have to say “Where the streets have no name” by U2. It’s a very powerful, anthemic, and spiritual song that epitomises what the band represented at the time.

14.  Which book taught you most?
“Being Digital” by Nicholas Negroponte inspired me in 1997 to start my first company with my brother. Having read that, I could see that most things analogue were going to shift to digital, and I wanted to be part of it. The book pushed me to leave my banking career at the age of 27 and cemented in the minds of my brother and I that we were on the right track.

15.  Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
Yes, lots! I follow teams in rugby, NFL, basketball, golf, and cricket.  I go to every Rugby World Cup tournament, every 4 years. Obviously I follow the Wallabies!

16.  Which country would you like to work in?
Fiji. Serving cocktails in a bar would be fun.

17.  Which company do you think has the best marketing?
Apple, without a doubt. The thing I love most about them is their control over their brand positioning. The way they manifest it through every interface they have with the market and their customers is not easy to do. Pervading it throughout every aspect of their organisation, especially on such a big scale, is a monumental achievement in my eyes. It doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can absorb their brand messaging and feel the way they want you to feel, throughout their entire experience with the brand.

18.  What do you love most about your job?
It has a lot of diversity that challenges the creative and analytical sides of my mind. That malleability is something I think I’m good at, but it is made better because of this job. I am also always encouraged and excited by the colleagues, customers, and product that Anaplan has to offer, and that’s another big reason why I love it.

19.  What is your favourite book?
A book called “I am David,” by Anne Holm, is the one that comes to mind immediately. It’s a profoundly uplifting story about a boy that escapes from a concentration camp. I read it when I was 11 or 12 and remember it having a significant effect on me at that age. I recently gave a copy to my 12-year-old daughter and she felt the same. What did it teach me? Evil is real – watch out for it; persistence and resilience are underrated. We take so much for granted.

20.  What keeps you awake at night?
Boring answer but I sleep pretty well.