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Posted: December 01, 2013

CEO of the Year: Tim Miller

Bolstered by IPO, Miller's Rally Software sets sail for expansion

Gigi Sukin

At the heart of its technology is the Agile coding technique, which improves the speed of development and enhances quality.

“Software is where all the innovation is happening,” Miller says.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC) figures, the application lifecycle market (ALM), which includes software configuration management, IT projects, portfolio management and automated software quality, was estimated at $5.4 billion in 2012; the software market in its entirety totals more than $372 billion, according to information technology research and advisory company, Gartner, as of 2011.

Miller admits there have been some obstacles to overcome.

“Probably the biggest was around the time of our third round of financing," in 2008, he says. "We were very confident in the business. We had taken on some debt and hired very aggressively. We found out that our investors didn’t want to do the financing: We were told we’re ‘all steak and no sizzle.’”

As a result, it looked as if they would have to lay off about 50 employees.

“But we licked our wounds and found someone else the next week that could do the financing," Miller says. “Lo and behold, we were able to continue on our growth curve as previously estimated.”

Miller says building the business in Colorado has meant the company’s efforts had to be “that much better than if they were a Bay Area company,” especially when on the hunt for funding. “We are a company of substance … I believe we always will be.”

Rally has been charging down the IPO path for about two years, timed to what the CEO hoped would be a receptive market.

“From my perspective, we were exceptionally well-prepared,” Miller says. “We really had no surprises.”

In the several months post-IPO, Miller says his job hasn’t changed dramatically. “We’ve always had a responsibility to our shareholders because we were funded by private equity since day one.”

Beyond the headquarters expansion, Rally sees aggressive hiring on the horizon to grow its 400-person global team, as well as a significant uptick in the Denver business.

Miller's ongoing attentiveness to make Rally an outstanding company from the inside-out has been awarded with local and national honors, including: Best Company to Work For nods in ColoradoBiz 2006 through 2010 and again last year, Fortune magazine’s No. 8 Great Place to Work (Best Medium-Sized Workplaces) in 2012; Wall Street Journal’s “Next Big Thing” of Top Venture-Backed Companies twice in 2011 and 2012, and four separate Best Place to Work listings in Outside magazine.

“Tim and the culture are what attracted me here,” says Liz Andora, Rally’s VP of People – a position found under "human resources" at most companies. But Rally isn't most companies according to Andora, who made the move more than two years ago after spending the bulk of her career in tech giants such as Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems.

“It’s an intense culture,” Andora says of her work environment and its team-based ethic. "If you’re someone who doesn’t want to work on a team or who has a hero mentality, it would be hard here.”

Though Rally’s write-ups regularly reference work-life balance and perks, such as unlimited sick days, available Razor scooters and free on-site Friday yoga classes, “People want to do well and work hard here,” Andora says.

“Everyone balances differently,” Miller adds. To achieve personal balance, the CEO says he tries to take a vacation about once a quarter. Mirroring Miller’s periodic breaks from the office, Rally started a sabbatical program in 2010, which grants employees who’ve been with the company seven years or more a six-week, fully paid leave to “do something bold and grand.”

Andora says Miller’s servant leadership style defines Rally’s core culture and ability to maintain highly efficient, collaborative teams.

“It’s not about command and control," Andora says. “In Monday morning management meetings, [Tim] is not front and center. He tends to sit back thoughtfully and listen. He’ll challenge people and he’s very analytical. But he encourages others and does not point fingers. If there were a problem or a mistake, a lot of executives want one throat to choke, but Tim asks, ‘How did we find ourselves here?’ He really tries to create a learning organization.”

Miller’s support for innovation, collaboration, transparency and individual empowerment seems to work for Rally.

“When Ryan and I first started working together, I wanted to create a great, big company, and Ryan wanted to create a great product and raise capital," Miller says. "My goals have always been to grow the company fast, build a great culture and support our great customers.”

As of September, Rally had achieved year-over-year quarterly growth of 42 percent, 38 percent, 24 percent and 45 percent in the past four consecutive quarters. The company’s stock price has nearly doubled since its IPO, with a recent market cap in the range of $600 million. This fall, after its quiet post-public period, Rally delivered on its founding promise with 1 percent of its founding equity pledged to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and a donation of 22,396 shares to its own Rally for Impact Foundation, with a $655,108 yield.

The numbers are adding up in Rally’s favor, but Miller seems even more proud of his ability to create a people-centric environment.

“I want the bright, ambitious people that make up Rally to create their own reality,” he says. “Really, it is about empowering our team to take risks – to do interesting things that they’re passionate about.”

______________________________

Now in its ninth year, the ColoradoBiz CEO of the Year award seeks to recognize outstanding professional achievement and community impact while taking into account obstacles surmounted, career-long body of work or other unique elements
of the CEO’s life and work.

Nominations from Colorado’s business community, ColoradoBiz readers and staff are evaluated by a judging panel made up of the magazine’s editorial board.

CEO of the Year winners

2005 – Jeff Potter, Frontier Airlines

2006 – Marc Katz, Mercury Payment Systems

2007 – Steve Ells, Chipotle Mexican Grill

2008 – Kim Jordan, New Belgium Brewing Co.

2009 – Mark and Annie Danielson, Danielson     Designs

2010 – Mike Gilliland, Sunflower Farmers Markets

2011 – John Horan, Horan & McConaty

2012 – Steve Bartolin, The Broadmoor

2013 – Tim Miller, Rally Software

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Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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