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Do CEOs Need to Understand their Company’s Tech?


When I first founded National Retail Solutions (NRS), a company heavily reliant on tech, the single most common question I got asked was, does a President and CEO of a tech company need to understand their company’s tech? People were surprised when I told them that CEOs don’t necessarily need to understand their company’s tech, even though I’ve found that it helps tremendously. I’ll explain why.

On principal, CEOs don’t need to know everything about technology, but it benefits them to have enough knowledge to identify market trends in order to lead their teams wisely. Many CEOs don’t get too involved with the technological side of the products. They often delegate, without interest in the back end details of their company’s product development. However, if they have an interest, a CEO can be both a leader and team player in their company - not just a supervisor and bystander, but an active participant in the company’s behind-the-scenes development. This enables the CEO to connect and interact productively with multiple tiers within the company, not just in their position as CEO at the top looking in. Leading NRS, I’ve found that knowing my products’ ins and outs helps me run the business with efficient delegation. I have a vision for our technological advancement and the front end users' experiences, not just in the business and oversight sides.

NRS offers a technology that’s utilized by convenience stores, also known as bodegas in some parts of the country, to improve performance with real-time management information. The technology tracks sales and performs data analytics, and offers loyal customers exclusive promotions and loyalty programs, encouraging them to come back. In this way, NRS supports the local bodegas and family-owned businesses and enables them to thrive against the backdrop of the bigger chain stores taking over not only New York, but the country. From well before I became President and CEO of NRS, I’ve always had a strong interest in both business and technology. It runs in my family. Because of my passion for technology, I understand the back end of our systems. I am proactive in every department, asking questions, providing input, and being in the know.

A CEO’s most important job is to be attentive to the three P's of business: People, product, and performance. For people, businesses are only as strong as their teams. With the right people in the right positions, a business will succeed exponentially. Also, if employees are properly taken care of, both financially and emotionally, a business will thrive, because fair compensation combined with maintaining high team morale, provides employees motivation to work harder and stick around as team players in the company’s long term growth.

Additionally, you must have the right product to be successful, a clever idea that is valuable and fills a niche in the market. Do your research, and be confident that your product doesn’t already exist, but be sure that there’s an interest or a need for it. Have an elevator pitch for your product, and run the idea by peers you trust, to make sure that it will add value to the market, and that you’re not getting caught up on a dream that can’t be backed by a successful reality. After you gain the support of the people you’re close to, survey a broader audience. In today’s era of internet technology, the ability to survey and poll larger demographics to obtain market research data is literally at our fingertips. Based upon findings, you may want to modify and adapt the products and marketing strategies. When your product does come to fruition, make sure that your passion is evident. People will be more excited to stand behind something when you’re excited about it.

Performance-wise, if the performance of each of your departments is not up to par, you will not succeed. You need to make sure that customer service, technology, sales, finances, marketing, and everyone else is doing their jobs properly. This comes through hiring competent, excellent employees, ensuring employee satisfaction, and proper oversight and delegation. You also have to make sure that your product is performing as expected, or even better. Particularly in the tech industry, which is fast-paced and highly competitive, constant product updates and improvements are necessary to stay on top. This requires regular performance evaluations and attention to product sales analytics.

It’s important to be able to rely on your employees and your winning team. No company has to be a one-man show. Rather, everyone has specialties and talents to bring to the table, whether it’s technological skills or otherwise. CEOs have to be experts in a lot of things, primarily overseeing three P’s of business - people, product, and performance. This being said, understanding your company’s tech could help you best position your company, even though it’s not a prerequisite to being President and CEO. Personally, knowledge of the industry, both in technology and user experience, has been invaluable to me, and helps me be the best CEO I can be.

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Elie Y. Katz

Written by Elie Y. Katz

Mr. Elie Y. Katz is President and CEO of National Retail Solutions, a subsidiary of IDT Corporation. NRS operates a DOOH point-of-sale (POS) terminal-based platform for independent retailers and bodega owners nationwide. Elie Y. Katz, a dynamic, forward thinking leader in the industry, believes that a strong advertiser-merchant-customer relationship is the key ingredient for retail success. Under Mr. Katz’s leadership, NRS strives to build lucrative relationships between advertisers, merchants and customers. “CPG providers love the advertising potential of our POS network because it helps promote their products and increases sales. We help bodegas and other small independent urban retailers compete more effectively with bigger box stores and retail chains,” says Mr. Katz. With a keen eye for business, Mr. Katz sees the clear advantages of CPG on-screen point-of-purchase ads. “We are excited to show how effectively our network can extend marketing reach in the Hispanic and larger multicultural markets. Our program boosts branding awareness and increases sales with proven impressions reaching a targeted audience of loyal customers and merchants. Superior to conventional ad venues, our ad network directly reaches customers while they are checking out at the point of purchase. Not many other companies can proudly vouch that consumers are seeing their ads. Close to 5,000 independent convenience stores already enjoy the benefits of NRS' POS terminal platform," he says. Mr. Katz has coordinated the creation of multiple service lines including a Point of Sale (POS) system, Cash Advance, and Credit Card Processing services aimed at helping our 50,000 affiliated businesses grow, nationwide. He has also created a loyalty program for IDT’s 5 million+ customers, to reward them for their continued business and promoting long term relationships. Mr. Katz has recruited and built a team of experienced professionals from multiple industries to expedite the growth of NRS.

Read more posts by Elie Y. Katz

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