California-based software company Intuit Inc. has been developing software, specialising in financial software, since 1983. And, as of 2019, over 95 per cent of its revenue and earnings have come from its U.S.-based activities… And it is also since 2019 that this company has been led by Sasan Goodzari, an Iranian immigrant whose story proves that anything’s possible in the world of modern business
Born in 1968, Goodzari arrived in the U.S. from his native Tehran at the tender age of nine, having managed to flee with his family prior to the Iranian Revolution. He wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by his peers in Florida’s Orlando… He says he was bullied on a daily basis, told to get back to his own country by other kids in school and the neighbourhood, and all due to the infamous Iran hostage crisis… That period of his life haunted him for years, and even led to him being expelled from school over his abysmal grades.
“I had horrible grades and I was kicked out of school. My grades were so bad – I had a 1.9 GPA – that I couldn’t even get into a four-year college. So, I started out in a community college. These things make you stronger. It makes you a better person. Frankly, to this day, I don’t take for granted being in the U.S. With all the opportunities, it’s a blessing to be here,” he said speaking to Forbes.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Central Florida and a Master’s in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, he embarked on a career in business.
Prior to his arrival at Intuit, where he has been employed for 14 years, Goodarzi worked for automation specialist company Invensys Ltd., a global provider of software, industrial automation, transportation and energy controls technology headquartered in the UK, where he served as global president of the products group. He has also held a number of senior leadership roles in the automation control division at Honeywell, as well as serving as the CEO and co-founder of technology start-up Lazer Cables Inc.
During his time at Intuit, Goodarzi has successfully led each of the company’s largest businesses, most recently serving – until becoming CEO – as executive vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group, prior to which he served as executive vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Consumer Tax Group; chief information officer; general manager of Intuit’s ProTax organisation; and general manager of Intuit’s Financial Services Division.
With Goodzari at the helm, Intuit has achieved record results since 2019, while he is also spearheading the transformation of the company through additions to the range of products. However, he is also quick to praise company co-founder Scott Cook for establishing Intuit’s ‘DNA’ when he created the company nearly 40 years ago.
My grades were so bad that I couldn’t even get into a four-year college
Back then, explains Sasan, “it was a company focused on two things: our employees and customers, and that’s carried on for almost 40 years. With our team, we can improve upon it and make it better. But first and foremost, it’s in the DNA of the company. There are three big things that, over the years, have evolved to guide what we do every day. One is our mission, which is to power prosperity around the world. Whether it’s the products and services that we create, or what we need to do to help the communities around us, to make them better than when we found them, we need to do our part to power prosperity around the world. Second, our values are key to our success. These values have evolved several times over our nearly 40-year history, most recently about 18 months ago. They are something we live by, and the actual proof of our values is that when we’ve opened offices in places like Paris or Sydney, where we didn’t even have a product to market, we succeeded. We became known there as one of the best places to work, because our culture carries with us, wherever we go. Lastly, the way we set expectations is essential. We have this thing called “true north goals”. We have goals for employees, customers, communities and shareholders. It’s how we run the company, and how we talk about our performance within the company and externally. And those three things guide who we are today, which is a company committed to doing what’s right.”
As a company driven by a purpose and a vision, which demands high employee engagement, Sasan is clear about the way his team motivates itself and ensures the company’s values and culture remain aligned despite so many employees being located in different locations?
“We are intentional about that in every setting. We always focus on the three things that I mentioned earlier. We always talk about our mission, and examples of how we’re bringing our mission to life. As one example, we have what we call “state of the company” four times a year, where we get all our 15,000 employees together to talk about how the company is doing. At every single state of the company, I go through our values. It’s a refresher for those who have been with us, but it’s also essential for those that are new to the company, to share how important they are.
“We talk about the problems they will solve for our customers and the vision for each of our five big bets. But, beyond that, we talk about our big bets that we declared across the company. We announced these bets about three years ago. I talk about the progress that we’ve made and where we are constructively dissatisfied.
It may sound straightforward, but it’s the one we are committed to doing because, as you can imagine, our most significant power – and the most enormous challenge – is to leverage and align 15,000 folks. It’s something we work at very hard.”
Sasan, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children, has been busy expanding the company since he became CEO three years ago, with Intuit having acquired MailChimp and Credit Karma, among others. As he explains, “three plus years ago, we were a company focused on tax and accounting, a platform company, but focused on solving those two fundamental problems. And we wanted to be a company that helped firms make ends meet, helped you save money, helped you get out of debt, and succeed as a small business. That shift led to our five big bets. For us, speed of impact is everything. We live in a world where impact matters, but the speed at which you work matters a lot.
With Goodzari at the helm, Intuit has achieved record results since 2019, while also spearheading the transformation of the company
Beyond accelerating our internal organic innovation, we felt like there were two areas where we needed to move much faster. One, how do we help small businesses grow their business? And the other is how do we move beyond tax to serve consumers more broadly? Because typically, what we’ve done is to help you run your business.
“The other important element was establishing relationships and truly understanding that our missions were aligned and getting excited about what we can do together that we can’t do apart.”
Goodzari says that he never envisaged himself as succeeding in one specific moment, but rather that his success in life and work have come as the accumulation of things that happened over time, when he kept himself busy.
“I’ve always believed in keeping my head down – focused on hard work, resilience and creating an environment where our teams could win. I think of one time when I gained more confidence in myself. I used to work in sales for Honeywell. One of the executives at Honeywell flew down to spend an entire day with me. At the end of that day, he said, “I think you’re a gem, and I think you have a bright future.” That stuck in the back of my mind. It was one of those moments when I remembered that famous quote, “Anything is possible, and don’t let anyone ever tell you what you can’t do”.