Be like Mike!

Mike Troiano“All the pain in your life will be caused by distance from the truth,” said Mike Troiano, CMO and self-proclaimed “Communicator-in-Chief” at Actifio. Think that’s profound? Now think about how a company that’s only 5 years old is already worth $1.4 billion dollars. With Troiano and a group of seriously intentional leaders at the helm, it’s no surprise that the copy data management company is rapidly growing into one of Boston’s biggest success stories.

On Monday night, Mike joined’s Abbie Waite for a fireside chat about leadership with 200 members of startup community. Perhaps most impressive about Mike is how he commands a room, like that funny uncle who you deeply respect and are also a little afraid of disappointing. In spite of huge success, he maintains his humility and charisma- admirable characteristics of a seasoned leader.

During the evening, Mike relayed sound words of advice. As a new professional getting my career off the ground, I’m making them words to live by. The resounding theme was that people are perhaps the greatest (and sometimes most difficult) part of being in business, and as a leader you have to establish enduring trust and open lines of communication right from the start.

Mike broke effective leadership into three actionable buckets:

Be Human
“Understand people, what matters to them, who they love, and what they’re afraid of,” Mike advised. Starting with the human side of management helps leaders motivate their teams, foster healthy conflict, and drive results.

Mike entertained the crowd with an anecdote about the epic difference between Italian sauce and gravy; sauce takes 20 minutes to whip up, while gravy is an all day affair, that requires slaving over a stove, and putting blood, sweat, and tears into the final product, but is worth every ounce of effort. The effort Mike puts into his gravy is paralleled only by the thought he puts into building relationships with his team. Ultimately, good business is good people, and exceptional leaders understand what motivates and challenges each individual member of a team.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Mike Troiano
Mike asserted that managers need to ask themselves, “What are the three most important things right I can do to grow our business right now?” Focus solely on doing those (and only those) three things. Take for instance, when Mike joined the executive team at Actifio. His first move was to identify key stakeholders, focus on understanding their needs and challenges, and create lists of each team member’s goals. Within the first week, he realized where the communication gaps were, and set a clear vision for moving forward. He asked himself, “What am I good at?” and set an actionable strategy for using his skills to fill in the gaps and add value to the team.

As a leader, you’ll have boundless opportunities, but Mike urged us to proceed with caution to avoid falling victim to the overwhelming choices that come with growing a company and a team. Choose a few areas where you can add value to your team, and give them all you’ve got. Prioritize.

Keep it Simple
Mike drove this home over and over: it’s a manager’s responsibility to set clear expectations for each team member right from the start. Communication should be clear, direct, and honest. This is the best (and if we’re being honest, only) way to retain employees for the long haul.

When a team member lacks success, leaders need to take a good hard look at the mirror and think about why this person’s results are not measuring up to the expectation. And then you have to think about what you can do to support each individual on your team. Do you need to clarify your expectations? Provide your team member with a tool or resource to improve their performance? Is there tension within the team? Whatever it is, it’s up to the leader to provide clarity. It’s as simple as that.

Preach, Mike. Preach.

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist

Special Event: Libations + Leadership with Mike Troiano

There’s a reason Mike Troiano is ranked as one of the top 1% of influencers on Twitter: people TRUST him.

Libations + Leadership with Mike Troiano

Helping to cultivate major brands (Ogilvy & Mather), leading a company from inception to record-breaking exit (m-Qube), and growing a billion dollar business (Actifio) are all pretty impressive pursuits. But what really knocks our socks off is how Mike so effortlessly enables people to act.

Join us on December 1st for Libations + Leadership to learn how Mike builds lasting relationships with colleagues, inspires greatness in his teams, and creates a unifying vision that drives results.

We’ll kick off the night with winter beverages and small bites, jump right into discussion, and then hand it over, so you can ask Mike the questions you want answered most.

Button: Register Today

This fireside chat format is a fundamental component of every Exchange management development session. Now we’re giving you inside access for a chance to get personal with one of Boston’s strongest leaders. Tell your bosses, bring your friends, spread the word – Mike is truly an exceptional leader to learn from.

Truth: The first time I met Mike, the whole dynamic of the room changed, the office stopped, and people listened. He wasn’t even saying anything, but people knew they were in the midst of someone great! I’ve seen Mike in action and am honored to sit with him (and 100+ of our favorite friends!) for, what I’m sure will be, a stellar evening of libations + leadership lessons!

Photo: Abbie


Abbie Waite
Executive Director

Brand Positioning: Easier than Mad Libs

In early May, kicked off this season’s schedule with “How to Tell Your Startup’s Story Effectively”. Taught by Mike Troiano, Chief Marketing Officer of Actifio (arguably one of our city’s greatest marketers), it was the perfect way to start off a summer of classes focused on startups and innovation. Last Thursday, Troiano was back in the house schooling Boston’s brightest with a proven framework for developing a winning brand positioning statement.

Brand Positioning

A successful brand positioning statement tackles two goals: first, it sums up what your business does, and next, it explains what makes your company or product special and unique. Competition among startups can often feel daunting, especially when you’re still just trying to get noticed. Taking the time to brainstorm and conceive a positioning statement that captures your business’s mission gives you an edge over the crowd, conveying a clear vision for you and your customers around the value you provide.

Positioning Statement Elements

  • Target: The actionable universe of buyers.
  • Segment: The key, predisposing attribute. Within the target audience there’s a segment of people with a specific attribute that makes your product or service appealing.
  • Brand: A name you call yourself.
  • Category: A competitive frame for the buyer.  Think about who you are competing against, and then separate yourself from them.
  • Distinction: What makes you unique, setting you apart from the competition.
  • Proof: A perceived evidence of truth to back up your distinction.

You can’t tell someone who you are and what you do without already having clear-cut definitions previously determined–at least not effectively. These six terms, once customized with definitions that represent your business most accurately, can form your positioning statement. The trick is organizing them.

“You’re betting on your livelihood in a value proposition you believe is significant… So you should write it down,” Mike said, referring to people losing focus on what they stand for, simply because they don’t have an unchanging, visible reminder. This next sentence is the backbone of your brand’s positioning statement and is applicable to any brand you might conceive in the future…so you should take notes:

“For target who are segment, brand provides the category with distinction because of proof.”

If you’ve ever completed a Mad Lib or color-by-numbers, you have the ability to create your statement. By taking your definitions of those six terms and plugging them into this sentence you have the most effective positioning statement style possible. The tricky part is getting the wording right. It’s key to keep it simple while including all crucial information that will convince your employees, investors, and customers that you have something unique and valuable to offer.

Winning Examples

“For drivers who value auto performance, BMW provides luxury vehicle that deliver joy through German engineering.”

“For people around the world, Coca-Cola is the soft drink that has been the real thing since 1886.”

Your final statement should follow the guidelines, while simultaneously manipulating the English language in ways that move people. To learn more, view slides from Mike’s class.

Instructor Nomination: Who inspires YOU?

Anyone who’s ever had any kind of formal education has more than likely had an instructor or two who really stood out. A good teacher has the ability to leave students in awe, while ensuring them of their own ability to grow. They impress you with their knowledge, while encouraging you to progress as a student and as an individual.

Joe Chernov Elle WoulfeThat’s the kind of expert we’re looking for here at! It takes a special kind of person to help shape the minds of sharp, ambitious startup folks and business professionals who are motivated to learn on their own. We look for instructors who can distill complex subjects into simple and exciting lessons that go beyond the basics. Our instructors are folks like Mike Troiano, Christopher O’Donnell, Aaron White, David Cancel, Kai Gray and Joe Chernov, who have done it before with proven results.’s instructors help students to realize their potential to strive to become the best they can be in whatever they do; it’s the difference between telling someone the facts and teaching someone a lesson.

Have you ever had a professor, boss, co-worker, or mentor with mind-blowing expertise and a knack for helping people learn and grow? Give ‘em a shout out by nominating them to become an instructor!

  • Email us at with their contact info so we can reach out
  • Talk to one of our team members before or after any class

And there’s no shame in nominating yourself. If you think you have something to offer, pipe up–we’d be thrilled to work with you!