Ziv Kedem is known for being Zerto’s CEO and you probably can guess that he loves his company, a lot. DSA was invited to be a special fly on the wall for a day to go behind the bells and whistles of being a CEO.
During our exclusive interview with Ziv, we found that not only in our opinion is he brilliant, he’s humorous, down to earth and loves his family very much. Being an entrepreneur is busy as is, but being married with a nearly 3-year-old daughter, and another on the way, it’s unimaginable how Ziv juggles his time. He told us he’s got a formula though.
“To be honest, it’s not that difficult. I keep at least a couple of hours in the evening open for my family during work days, which is more than I can say for most people I know. It’s not a problem if you do it right.”
In preparation for the baby on the way – Ziv has in mind for a Zerto day care around summer time again this year. Having trialled it with positive feedback, he is planning to make it a regular service. He understands that it is not easy having to arrange for day care over the school holidays. Not only would it be beneficial for himself, he believes many of his staff (and their spouses!) would appreciate the convenience as well.
We often read articles about inspirational leaders and a fair number of them wake up early to start the day. Ziv on the other hand has a different approach to his busy lifestyle.
“Israel has a lot of dealings with the US. Keeping in mind the time difference between Israel and the US, which is about 10 hours, I have plenty of time to do the calls between 9.30pm and midnight. I live close to work so I can wake up around 8 and it takes me about 10 minutes on the scooter to get to work.”
We were surprised at how he could juggle an international business, dealing with many countries and different time zones, keeping on top of his work and all his conferences, a family with soon-to-be 2 kids, but yet still have time left for himself.
“There’s always more to do. I’m lucky to have found an executive team that are independent and I’ll tell you, each one of them are better than me! I’ve told them before - apart from my own job, I’m not qualified for anything else in this company!”
“People who work too hard are not working efficiently. It’s easy to be busy but not productive.”
Of course, every success is built from failures. As Ziv mentions and emphasises “Setbacks are a part of life.” Starting off with a technical background and taking over his dad’s love for coding. After leaving the military, Ziv co-founded and ran the sales team in Kashya and that is where his transition of loving coding turned into a learning curve into sales. He believes that his time in sales taught him not only the importance of sales for a company’s success, but also the skills he possesses that allows him to run Zerto.
“A lot of entrepreneurs come from a technical background, and most aren’t aware of how other aspects of the business contributes to the success of a company. Of course your product and the technology is important, but the difference between a good product and a popular product comes down to sales and marketing.” He told us that he owes his success to his time in sales and strategic business development.
But it’s not only him though. He founded Zerto with his brother Oded and he speaks very highly of his brother. As with many companies, they aren’t without
disagreements within the top levels of the company. However, Ziv believes it’s how people work it out between themselves that is important.
“Disagreements are not just a family thing – there is a lot of passion in a startup and that contributes to a lot of heated but constructive conflicts. It’s because people care and feel strongly and are passionate about their work – it’s not something specific to working with siblings. But with friends – you could potentially lose a friend but with brothers you don’t really have choice.” He chuckles. “My brother is the smartest person I know, and I respect him greatly for that. I enjoy working with him to build Zerto. Besides who gets to say that at this age they see their brother on a daily basis?”
With his time being primarily occupied by family and Zerto, Ziv has had to give up on quite a few of his hobbies. Ziv has a big heart, with a bigger passion; unfortunately, with limited time in the day - between family, Zerto and friends, he has to painfully let go of one.
“I really like spending time with my daughter, but I haven’t had much time for hobbies. I mean, I was really active and I used to go kite surfing, basketball, hiking, reading. I keep telling myself I need to get back to that.”
“Some time back I got a GoPro from a friend – and it was the worse gift! It reminded me of all the things I did and could be doing. But at the same time I love my family and I love Zerto very much. So unfortunately I have to sacrifice my time away from friends and hobbies.”
Although it’s difficult to balance family, work and the life that happens in between, Ziv likes to think that he is keeping a fairly balanced lifestyle, despite not paying too much attention to what society deems to healthy habits.
“I think it’s all in moderation. When my dad had a heart attack (Ziv assured us his father is fine now) the doctor said it was rare because he didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, he exercised and ate healthy, and he didn’t have a family history. Whereas I on the other hand, smoke, drink, don’t really exercise or eat healthy and from that day on I had a family history!” He adds that he does take care to not do anything in excess but still keep a relatively healthy lifestyle.
Despite having more to care for in the form of another baby, he’s not looking to slow down anytime soon. “I am travelling for only about 14-15 weeks a year. And I still get regular time with my family, so I’d like to think that I’m balancing it quite well. But some of the people spend up to 75% of the time on the road and that is crazy, I don’t know how they can manage and I definitely won’t be able to. But I do enjoy travelling and meeting people. It’s tiring, but if you are tired enough, you will sleep on the plane. If you are not – then what are you complaining about?”
Although he doesn’t quite mind travelling for a fairly significant amount of time for his business, he believes it’s not always essential to meet face to face. He puts a lot of faith in his team and trusts them implicitly.
“You can get a lot done with phone calls and emails and conference calls. There is no need to be in front of people unless you are sales – in which case you need to meet people. It’s always been my philosophy to have a strong team. And if you can trust your team to do what is required, and you can communicate effectively, there is no need to keep supervising everyone and having face to face meetings.”
Despite his current successes, it wasn’t without failure and difficulties. But for Ziv, it’s part of life and learning and he doesn’t let it get to him. “If your plan is built on getting everything right and according to plan – then you don’t have a plan. You want to have a plan that is the right balance of aggressive and achievable.”
“We plan for ambitious but achievable goals – and we always plan for things going wrong. Setbacks are a part of life. If you assume that there are no setbacks, then you will definitely not meet your goal. You don’t want to over promise on things that you cannot deliver. Even recently we had a version update that was late. It’s during these times where having a strong team to put out the fire quickly that is important – they are able to absorb the problems and provide a solution quickly.”
Although Zerto is stable with a strong team behind it, Ziv is not looking to go anywhere in the future.
“In 5 or even 10 years’ time, I hope to be exactly at the same place, maybe with bigger company. I love Zerto very much and I want to see it continue growing, and I would love to still be doing what I do now. Provided I don’t get booted out if I did something stupid.” He added humorously.
“I want to continue to grow with the people at all different levels and continue to scale [the company]. I want to provide the people with the tools to continue to grow.”
It’s admirable that he is able to trust and love his company and his team so extensively. We wish him the best of luck and hope that he is able to continue doing what he loves, and provide the world with good technology as they do now.
The editor also wishes to extend personal best wishes to his family and the baby that is coming! May your children be just as brilliant and good natured!