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Rick Hanson shares his rules of three for companies, customers, and careers


delinea-headshot-leadership-hansonAs part of our interview series with Delinea’s leaders, I talked with Rick Hanson, Delinea President. Rick shares strategies he’s honed during his career, including his thoughts on company leadership, customer relationships, and what it takes to be successful in the cybersecurity industry.

Q: Tell us about your path to Delinea.

I started my career in the US Air Force as a crypto engineer, and as I transitioned out of the military, I began my cyber career as one of the early employees with RSA as a Sales Engineer. During my tenure at RSA, I was very intrigued with the customer’s buying habits and solutions. After about 10 years, I moved into direct sales and then a sales leadership role with RSA. At that time, we were one of a handful of cybersecurity companies and we had the privilege of defining what cybersecurity is and how identity is defined.

From RSA, I moved to lead all security sales for Symantec in North America. This is where I was fortunate enough to work hand in hand with our very own CEO Art Gilliland. Art and I also led the global security teams at HP. I moved on to a couple of other companies but always kept in touch with Art along the way.

During one of our conversations, Art let me know about a great opportunity here at Delinea to build something special. One of the things I admire most about Art is that we share these three characteristics, the same kind of moral compass, the same ethics, and the same high level of integrity. So we have that implicit trust. With Delinea, bringing together Thycotic and Centrify, I have the ability to transform a business in an industry that I absolutely love.

Q: Why is selling cybersecurity different from selling hardware or other technology?

Cybersecurity is personal, it’s emotional and affects people and companies all differently. If something goes wrong, people lose their jobs and sometimes their entire careers. When one of our customers has a problem, it affects us, and we must have a relationship of trust. In cyber, it’s not a sale; it’s a relationship of credibility, confidence, and trust.

Q: Can you share a time when these personal relationships came into play?

One of the biggest retail breaches in the world happened in the early 2000s to one of my prospect accounts. A few weeks before the breach, I met with their CISO and pitched them an identity solution. The meeting was pretty contentious, and he basically said it’s all about price and you’re more expensive. He then said, “Why should I go with you?” I told the CISO, “If anything goes wrong, we'll be here.” He actually laughed and he said, “You know what? We'll pilot you guys.” They piloted us and purchased a small installation for a segmented group the next week.

Well, two weeks later they were breached, and it was bad. I genuinely felt terrible for the CISO because he had just moved his family across the US for this position. I immediately called and said, “I'm really sorry. I'll do anything I can to help you. We’ll have service people in your office. I’ll bring you food if you want. Whatever you need. No charge.” He called back and said, “Rick, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your call. I'd like you to call me at my home number because my voicemail is full of vendors telling me if I had bought their product, this wouldn't have happened to me. You are the only vendor who called and asked what he could do to help.”

This experience was a turning point for me in my career; it’s about the people!

Q: How do you build those strong relationships with your customers?

Sometimes, you only get to talk to a customer for an hour. If you're lucky enough, you get to sit down and have a drink or a bite to eat with them.

There are three core tenets that I always ponder after every customer interaction—another rule of three: credibility, confidence, and trust.

  • Credibility comes when you know your business and industry. When I’m talking with a customer, I ensure they understand my knowledge of cyber as well as my history of helping customers through tough times, which instantly helps build my credibility.

  • Confidence means the customer feels confident that Delinea’s solution can solve their problem. Do they trust that if something goes wrong, Delinea is going to be there? If we do our job correctly, they do.

  • Trust is critical not just to building relationships but also to keeping them strong. You must continually build trust with your customers as it's the foundation of everything we do. Be upfront, honest, and genuine in your approach.

What we can’t do is say, “We’re a PAM vendor and we’re going to protect your privileged accounts. What privileged accounts do you have?” We need to inspire our people to know more about the wider context and the impact on our customers and know them better than they know themselves. Understand their pain, and be authentic in your approach.

Understanding our customers’ priorities and pain points is vital. For example, right now, cyber insurance is top of mind for our customers, as is compliance, especially third-party access for contractors and partners in the supply chain. I continually educate myself on those areas to ensure I understand the issues and strategies in these areas.

When you understand what your customers care about, then you’re a true partner, and these are relationships you’ll have for life. That’s the key to a successful career. It's a long journey we're on. Be passionate about it and always have that intellectual curiosity.

Q: What do you enjoy about being a leader?

To lead an organization, you must have a sense of purpose. When I joined Delinea, I joined to be the number one player in PAM. We have a lot of work to do to get there, but we have a path and strategy. We have something to prove to the market and it’s pretty inspirational.

That said, the best part of leadership is seeing people be successful. I want to build a place where people want to be, not where they have to be. I think people feel good about working here and that people care about them. We should be proud of where we work and what we do for a living.

Q: How do you describe your leadership style?

Over my career, I have derived three key principles that guide everything I do as a leader: Clarity, Consistency, and Alignment.

  • Clarity means everyone in the organization should know exactly what it takes to be successful. I sometimes tell people, “You should know exactly what it takes to get an A.” At Delinea, we need to show our exactly what success looks like and help get them there.

  • Consistency is critical for a go-to-market function. If something breaks, you need to know how to fix it. At Delinea, we must strive for a consistent motion across marketing, sales, and customer success. We need to speak the same language and understand what success looks like.

  • Alignment is unconditional. It’s non-negotiable that business functions align to the corporate strategy.

Because of these three things, there's never a hard decision. Because all I have to do is say, “Is it clear? Is it consistent, and does it align to our corporate vision and strategy?” And if it does, then off we go. And if it doesn't, then we don't do it.