Bobbi Leach blazing trail in technology leadership

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

Bobbi Leach has never been one for following rules, the prevailing trends or the crowds. A powerhouse of a personality and a natural leader, Leach has always been the kind of person to take the less obvious approach and clear the trails herself rather than walking down well-worn paths.

It’s an approach that has suited Leach, the chief executive of Victoria-based RevenueWire, an e-commerce platform for digital product sellers. And through her career it’s provided a driving force, energy and vision for the companies she’s worked with.

“I love things that aren’t entirely figured out yet,” said Leach. “I think if something becomes a bit more routine then I’m put off.”

It appears the only thing routine about her is a knack for finding success.

Leach was recently named a silver-level winner at the 12th annual Stevie Awards in New York in the Female Executive of the Year in Canada category.

Last year, she was named executive of the Year by the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.

The awards have been richly deserved.

In her six years as CEO of RevenueWire, revenue has grown by almost 400 per cent and the company has expanded its workforce to 80 from 15.

That kind of growth seems to follow in her wake.

Straight out of business school at Laurentian University, Leach broke with the crowd, opting for a small sports-marketing firm over a corporate cubicle. Over 10 years, she helped grow the small firm into a 30-person agency.

Leach said success has been about employees.

As a leader, her instinct is to let her people get on with it.

She’s not a details person, preferring to set the table for others to have success.

Leach said her approach to business has evolved, as she got to know herself better, to the point she realizes her job is to provide direction, a toolbox and parameters within which her team can work. “Over the years I’ve learned to be more collaborative, more the coach who says what she expects in terms of results,” she said. “I don’t like to be told what to do, and I’m sure most people are like that. So my style has evolved into me saying, ‘This is the target or vision ... let’s figure out how we’re going to get there.’ ”

Leach said the team at RevenueWire has been behind the impressive growth rate, and she has learned to give them their space to operate. She has empowered her executives to drive their own teams.

Her ability to bring people together played a big role in drawing her to RevenueWire in the first place.

Co-founder Elton Pereira said Leach was initially hired to do business development, but they soon realized she had the leadership quality they were looking for when it came time to hire a new CEO. “She has this amazing, fun, charismatic personality and drive that we’d really never seen before and she really stood out from the pack,” said Pereira, noting when they hire they often look at character and personality first before moving to skill set. “Skills I believe you can learn and train and if you’re driven and want to keep learning that can always come.”

He also noted Leach is never afraid to get her hands dirty and do the hard work that helps to build small start-up companies. “She’s also a high-performance individual and I know those are the kinds of people she likes to grow with and work with,” Pereira said.

Sitting literally at RevenueWire’s centre — her office is surrounded by the team — Leach seems content, though never complacent.

Leach knew from the time she left sports marketing in the late 1990s that her career would be tied to the Internet. She worked with a number of start-ups, software and e-commerce firms as staff, management and as a consultant. And she’s not about to rest having managed to land the top role at a dominant firm.

“I’m so future-wired, always thinking what’s next and what’s the next milestone?” Leach said. “I’ve learned from my management team you do have to stop and celebrate, but I am wired to think about what is the next big thing we will achieve.”

That may come with FuturePay, a new business started by RevenueWire that provides a new, non-credit-card option to allow shoppers to buy online.

The company has grown rapidly into a team of 20 employees servicing more than 600 retail clients who wanted to add a buy-now-pay-later option for their customers. FuturePay has taken off in the last year.

It won a gold Innovator Award as the best credit innovation at Innovation Project 2016.

Leach noted that FuturePay’s revenue has increased by nearly 400 per cent from January to February.

“We now have more recognition in the marketplace and it’s generating interest for retailers,” Leach said. She noted retail clients have found the addition of instant financing online is helping to drive higher-ticket sales. “It’s a very exciting time.”

Leach, who was born in Vancouver and raised in Victoria, is also committed to helping build the tech community in Victoria.

“She has strong roots in the community and is very community minded and supportive,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of VIATEC, which has had Leach on its board on two occasions. “When you get traction and success outside of your own hometown it’s easy to ignore the hometown and she definitely hasn’t done that.

“She’s a great person.”

Leach said that desire to give back and get involved is a bit of fatherly influence. Her dad was a social worker and her mother instilled the notion that she could have a career and excel.

“In hindsight, I had that role model, my mom was a working mom when most of my friends’ moms stayed home,” she recalled. “Mom worked and kept getting promoted and didn’t see limitations for her daughter and I think that helped.”

To a certain extent, that’s why Leach bristles when she gets drawn into conversations about the lack of women in leadership positions in technology. “I don’t see things that way — male and female. And when I talk with other women executives and founders of companies or others who have risen in the ranks, none of us seem to think that way,” she said. “We think of the job we’re doing, whatever we’re passionate about.”

Leach prefers to think along the lines that the perception is different from the reality — if you don’t think there are barriers, there may be none.

She said changing the perception that tech is a man’s world starts in the home, like her mother did for her.

“At some point around 12 or 13 years old they think [engineering, sciences, technology] is not in their future and either their parents or teachers need to tell them it can be,” she said.