“When Grit Is Not Enough”: Infragistics CEO Dean Guida Writes An Entrepreneur’s Playbook

Dean Guida founded Cranbury-based global technology company Infragistics some 35 years ago, and has experienced many of the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.  He saw his company through a series of tumultuous moments in the internet’s ongoing evolution, such as the dot-com tech bubble of the late ’90s, the explosion of the internet, the 2008 recession, and the launch of the iPhone.

Infragistics has weathered hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic and various economic crises, and has always come through. The company is steered by Guida’s beliefs that a company should encourage its employees to ask “why,” that the use of data is important, that talent matters, and that no problem is too great that it can’t be overcome by sales.

Infragistics provides tools and solutions to accelerate application design and development and to foster team collaboration. More than 2 million developers worldwide use Infragistics’ enterprise-ready UX and UI toolkits to rapidly prototype and build high-performing applications for cloud, web, mobile and desktop. Infragistics’ clients include 100 percent of the S&P 500 as well as global software providers.

Via email, we asked Guida some questions about his new book and why he wrote it. Here are his answers:

What is the name of the book and the publisher’s name?

Tell me about your background.

I’ve always been fascinated by the technology industry. At just 16, I worked extra hours to buy an IBM PC, teaching myself how to code as well as the nuances of computer systems in between school, work and sleep. I built on this knowledge and continued pursuing my passion for software and coding while working towards my bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami.

Once I graduated with my degree, the first two years of my career were spent as a freelance developer for MetLife, IBM and various Wall Street companies. It was during this stint as a coder on Wall Street that I began to build my first software startup, Infragistics.

Fast forward 35 years to today and Infragistics now has operations in six countries and a client roster comprising 100 percent of the S&P 500, including Fidelity, Morgan Stanley, Exxon, Intuit and Bank of America. 

How did you get the idea for this book? 

When I started Infragistics in 1989, I needed to go from being an early internet coder to a business operator seemingly overnight, and the transition forced me to learn some of business’s biggest lessons the hard way. Reflecting on this journey, I knew that the insights I gathered at each key moment — whether from common growing pains or completely unpredictable challenges — all together could serve as a helpful blueprint for other global CEOs and startup founders as they navigate today’s tech landscape. I wrote this book as a way to share my hard-won philosophy with others and to help them navigate people, build a lasting culture, compete in the market — and withstand its forces — on their path to scaling far beyond what’s possible with grit alone.

Why were you the best person to write this book?

Starting, growing and maintaining a business is no easy feat — and I know that firsthand. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve needed to navigate and withstand a series of tumultuous moments in the internet’s ongoing evolution, such as the dot-com tech bubble of the late 90s, the explosion of the internet, and the 2008 recession — not to mention a number of my own personal wake-up calls. I’ve had experiences on both ends of the spectrum, from standing on the edge of potential bankruptcy to landing a victory against Microsoft for a $300K deal with Philadelphia Conrail.

Each lesson in this book originates from a real challenge or triumph I’ve faced, which I’m now sharing with the broader business community. 

How did you go about gathering material for this book?

The insights that make up the hard-won philosophy found in this book have been gathered throughout my career, spanning over three decades’ worth of key learning moments. I’ve outlined the major milestones throughout Infragistics’ history; analyzed where and why we succeeded; and highlighted the lessons that were learned in the process, both from my perspective and my employees’ perspectives.

Who should read the book and why?

Anyone from team managers to global CEOs to startup founders will be able to take away from this book at least one lesson on how to better navigate the current business landscape, whether it be in the technology field or another.

Please give the readers three takeaways from the book.

  • BE DATA DRIVEN. Too often, important business decisions are made based on gut instinct or by listening to the loudest or most senior person in the room. It is essential when starting and building a business to make data the backbone of every strategy. Gather all the data you can and analyze its meaning. This will guide you in every aspect of your company, from why a product isn’t performing to showing you a change that needs to be made to a solution before launching. With data, you are armed with the facts. Without it, you’re running blind.
  • DON’T STOP AT THE WHAT.  ASK WHY. Instilling a culture of curiosity is essential to ensuring business growth. Too often, people stop at the “what” or the “how,” and never get to the “why.” Why didn’t this product sell well? Why are consumers dropping off after one purchase? The right “why” questions can turn mere insights into actionable strategies for success.
  • BE A LIFELONG LEARNER. It’s impossible to ever reach a point where you know everything there is to know. New information is constantly being discovered, and industry landscapes are always fluctuating. It’s essential to develop a mindset that adapts to this change. Embrace the “what if?” mentality, and always be open to exploring seemingly unconventional solutions. The relentless pursuit of improvement will keep you learning, adapting and performing better, faster and more efficiently.

What two quotes best represent the book? 

  • “One of the most difficult things in life is to take a leap of faith. Fear keeps us from taking such leaps. In a world of constant change, there really is no other option but to cast aside fear and ancient ways of doing things and try something new.”
  • “Constantly ask why something is happening. Always search for the truth of a situation. Keep generating hypotheses and testing them. Continually engage in conversations about how to improve your product or service to have better and longer relationships with your customers.”

Is there anything else you want NJTechWeekly.com readers to know about this book?

I believe that the success of a business is deeply intertwined with the growth of its leaders, which is why the lessons in this book act as a guide to personal development in addition to a road map for improving your company.

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