Passion Into Practice: Building Billion-Dollar Market Leaders 1 Client at a Time
3Qs with Patrick Viau, Chief Client Officer, Breathe Life
Patrick Viau (pronounced “V & O”) is the newest member of the C-Suite at Breathe Life, joining the team as Chief Client Officer in March 2020.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What makes Patrick Viau tick?
Can I be blunt? I’m a PASSIONATE guy.
I’m passionate in everything I do – I’m passionate about my work, my team at Breathe Life, and my clients. I am passionate about my kids, and I am passionate about skiing – especially with my kids.
For me, there is no middle ground. I always go hard at whatever I’m doing. That’s what people should know about me, and, honestly, it doesn’t take long for them to figure it out.
Q: You bring a lot of enterprise software sales and business experience to Breathe Life. Can you walk us a bit through your career journey and what has brought you to the company?
I am from Montreal, but from an early age, I wanted to test myself in the U.S. and learn as much as possible about doing business throughout North America and the world. As soon as I started working, I looked for an opportunity in the States. When I finished grad school, I was blessed to have three opportunities present themselves: to sell hardware at IBM; consult at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture); or implement software at Oracle.
These were all great opportunities, but I chose software implementation at Oracle because I knew I would learn the most by “doing,” working not only with technology but directly with clients to solve problems. Those early years at Oracle shaped me – I not only learned the ins-and-outs of implementations but also took what I learned and applied it to new challenges. After implementing software throughout the US, I moved on to pre-sales, and then sales itself at Oracle, and physically moved to the US east coast. I was the first rep from Oracle selling Business Intelligence (BI) solutions in New York and then moved across the stack, selling everything from databases to security to identity management solutions. Oracle also gave me the opportunity to build a team from scratch and build a net regional business unit, and I just loved the experience.
As a part of this journey, I got a real taste for being the first in an organization to do something new, as someone who could start a business or business unit and reliably turn it into a winner. That’s something I did in my last job before Breathe Life, where a great friend of mine convinced me to join a later-stage startup with no product, team, or income for the business unit I joined. We built a team, hired friends that we relocated across the world, met great partners and clients across the world, built a multi-million dollar business, and most importantly, had a blast doing it.
I’m a doer. I build teams, I guide product development so it meets customer needs, I manage implementations – because that’s where the (software) rubber meets the (customer expectations) road – and I develop deep, trust-based customer relationships, the most valuable asset in all enterprise software.
So with great experiences working for and with the biggest names in enterprise IT, from Oracle to IBM and SAP, and then on my own and with other startups, I have come to Breathe Life with a skillset and determination to help grow a billion-dollar leader in the InsurTech space. And I am super-confident we are going to achieve just that. The opportunity in this space, and for this company, is huge.
Q: What is a Chief Client Officer, why does Breathe Life need one, and why are you the right person to fill this role?
Well, I’ll start with your last question. I am not the person to say who is the “right” person for this role, but what I can tell you is I am 100% confident I will spend every day to ensure people feel it was the right decision a few years from now.
So many companies make the mistake of thinking their work is done once they’ve “made the sale.” I learned a long time ago – and I’m pleased Breathe Life knew this right away – that the hard work has only just begun once the contract is signed. Implementing the solution, doubling- and even tripling-down on communication with the customer throughout the implementation process and beyond it, and looking for ways to continually add value are the lifeblood of building loyal, lifelong customers.
That kind of customer rewards your efforts a hundred-fold: in recurring revenue, in future sales – because they know they’ll get a return on what they invest in you – in providing references to your prospects, and in communicating their success more broadly to the market. So you need to treat your customers like gold.
Whenever I ran sales teams, I’d always say, “You have two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.” Listening to clients is the most important and, ultimately, rewarding skill in business, no matter whether you are in pre-sales, sales, implementation, product development, marketing, or customer satisfaction. We aren’t selling code, we’re selling results, we’re solving problems. The only way you do that is to constantly ensure you are delivering what your customer wants and needs – and you do that first by listening, then by acting on what you learned.
So, back to the beginning. I’m a passionate guy. I LOVE working with clients at every phase of solution delivery. Our clients are experts in insurance with decades or even centuries of experience in the market. Our own insurance experience will never match theirs, but we are also experts in technology and on how to bring new ways of thinking to this solid industry. It’s how we bring our respective expertise together to solve problems that creates the magic and drives great results. At Breathe Life then, my key responsibility as Chief Client Officer is to ensure our clients are at the center of our universe, and that I do everything I can to make sure every part of our organization is working together to make our clients’ businesses thrive.
When I began working at Breathe Life, I was blown away by the fact that every single one of our clients is a reference for us – 100% reference-ability! That excites me! And my favorable impression was only deepened after meeting personally with a number of these partners. They each had very positive things to say and a palpable belief that their partnership with Breathe Life would be game-changing for them – and for us.