[AUDIO BLOG] The Builders: "The Resilient Leader's 5-point Guide to Make Things Happen" with Ed Boyajian

June 28, 2023
Business Leadership

Thanks for tuning into EDB’s audio blog series, The Builders, where business and tech thought leaders weigh in on top database industry trends and insights. 

In this episode, EDB CEO Ed Boyajian discusses how he's helmed EDB for 15 years, leading through 3 sales and 2 economic downturns to more than 50 consecutive quarters of growth. Here’s the resilient leader’s 5-point guide to make things happen.

Want more business tips? Check out our on-demand webinar, Cloud High Availability: Future-Proofing Your Business



I was a newly minted second lieutenant in the Army, driving through the Korean countryside with my company commander who I had just met and he turned to me and said: “Lieutenant. I believe there are two kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen and those who let things happen. Which one are you?”

I’d always thought of myself as a take charge type of leader, but it was a defining moment in my life. I didn’t know at the time, but committing to that “make things happen” philosophy would later serve me considerably in my role as CEO of a tech startup. 

Fast-forward to 2008. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to lead a company, so when I had the opportunity to become CEO of EDB, a cutting-edge technology company, I dove in head first. During my 15 years with the company, I’ve led us through three sales, and steered the business through two substantial economic downturns.

Through it all, my company has come out on the other side stronger than ever, more than 50 consecutive quarters of growth to show for it so far, built by a fast-growing team of over 900 professionals who are remarkable. One of the major lessons I’ve learned is that having relentless determination to “make things happen” is what separates durable and enduring high-growth companies from the ones that are here today, gone tomorrow. 

The journey always begins and ends with the team. Attracting, hiring, and developing talent is more important than any other task I focus on as a CEO. I ground my thinking by applying a mental mantra of, “if I can only get one thing right, what is it?” The answer to that question at the highest level is always related to the team and people, both leaders and frontline staff.

Fortunately, we can get more than one thing right to grow a durable company. So, beyond the team, here’s what it takes to create a company that is built to last. 


Sounds obvious, right? Yet so many leaders gloss over this highly critical step in an effort to scale quickly. Most of us have seen the scenario play out: a company develops products and services within the vacuum of their organization and makes assumptions about the needs and desires of their “ideal customer.” Then they rush things to market only to find they were talking to the wrong people or solving a challenge that buyers didn’t really care about. 

Why? Because addressing and deeply understanding product-market fit requires investment, time, and critical thinking. Getting it right is an absolutely essential foundation that leaders must establish to ensure company success over time. To properly assess product-market fit, leaders must be prepared to be proven wrong. Getting to know our customers—whether through their product-usage experience, surveys, focus groups, or the support of consulting experts—forces you to face the fact that you may be wrong about what customers need. Or, maybe the process actually reinforces that you are right on the mark. In either case, having the answers early on will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration in the long run. 


Bringing people into alignment and harmony is a delicate task. Oftentimes, people have meaningful differences that don’t get properly addressed and sorted because it’s much easier to avoid hard conversations. However, I’ve learned that the moment I want to walk away from a difficult conversation is the exact moment I need to engage.

As a CEO, this means it is also my job to encourage others to face conflict head on. Usually there is a disconnect on what the truth is, so it is important to ground the conversation in data, rather than opinions and sentiment. But that’s easier said than done. People rarely rely on data alone, and engaging in difficult conversations usually means parsing through gut feelings and personal experiences to get to the truth. While both are important in decision-making, sorting through it requires an incredible amount of energy and can be downright exhausting. Over time here is one of the most important takeaways I have found; it is shocking how often reasonable people, when armed with the same set of facts and data, come to the same or similar conclusions.

Ultimately, leadership requires a total willingness to have hard conversations. In fact, leadership is essentially a series of hard conversations leading to an outcome that everyone can live with. So if you see an issue that needs to be resolved, or an outcome you need, shine a light on it and talk it through, even when it’s uncomfortable. 


Every economic downturn has been followed by an even longer period of sustained economic growth. As we head once again into uncertain times, market volatility should remind leaders to be financially focused at all times, not just in a downturn. Successful CEOs know that financial discipline is not a fleeting exercise—it must be a long-term commitment that is relentlessly managed.

That said, this season may be a good time to spark a change in your approach to finances. In order to sustain your organization’s financial health over time, you must know your math, know your metrics, and then manage all things at all times towards financial outcomes. 

It is also an ideal time to consider new technologies. Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed the transformational power of open source in the enterprise. Alongside cloud-based solutions, open source delivers breathtaking possibilities both in terms of performance and economics. Solutions powered by open source technology, in addition to vastly increasing the speed and scope of innovation, can reduce the cost of doing business while giving developers the flexibility and scalability they seek. All organizations, both corporate and public sector, need to be mindful of IT spend as we enter a possible recession. However, it’s also imperative to look at the bigger picture, including technologies that will help your organization be more effective and efficient when the economy rebounds. 


Building a strong relationship with your board of directors is critical. It’s important that they trust you to the point that they are confident and inspired by your command of everyday operations. A key step to building this trust is always being clear about objectives and outcomes and knowing your numbers inside and out, in every department. This deep understanding of how the business is performing is critical to building trust, as is transparent communication. 

One secret to earning anyone’s trust (including that of board members) is to simply do what you say you’ll do. If you say you’ll hit a certain amount of revenue in a quarter, you need to do whatever it takes to deliver on that promise, and hold your leaders accountable to that. This means establishing a regular cadence of touchpoints on OKRs (objectives and key results) and not waiting until the end of the quarter for surprises. 


In any organization, the CEO ultimately has the responsibility to set the tone for the company’s culture. More than ever before, our colleagues want to be deeply connected to the leaders, teams, and companies they work with.  Approachability and accessibility are fundamental to ensuring that employees embrace the vision, understand where the organization is going, and feel connected to the company’s mission. It all starts with authenticity and accessibility: I believe in having personal contact with as many people in the organization as possible, and I invite them to connect with me to share their thoughts. This not only helps me understand what’s resonating with employees, but often results in some surprising insights. 

My time in the Army instilled in me a deep understanding of the gravity and importance of leadership, and my view that my duty as a CEO is to serve our company and its people. Being an approachable leader is part of that. It requires high levels of involvement and constant communication, and it’s something every CEO should continually work on and make time for.

The future is never certain, but by knowing your target market and ideal customers, embracing the hard conversations, demanding fiscal discipline, aligning closely with your board, being authentic and approachable, and showing heart, you have the best shot at weathering the storm and building a company that endures.

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