Software company CEO discusses the importance of being customer-centric
Ari Kaplan. Photo by Tori Soper.
Ari Kaplan recently spoke with Eric Thurston, the president and CEO of SurePoint Technologies, a provider of client management, practice management and financial management software to law firms nationwide.
With a community of more than 100,000 members, SurePoint Technologies’ mission is to transform the legal industry by enabling firms to unlock higher performance, freeing lawyers of administrative burdens, so they can spend more time focusing on their clients and their practices.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and your new role at SurePoint Technologies.
Eric Thurston: I have spent many years in the software industry and have worked at Oracle and SAP, among smaller private-equity-backed software companies. The private equity model offers so much to these types of firms by helping founders exit the business and providing capital to invest. I have done that across four or five companies and have developed expertise in vertical software. SurePoint focuses on law firms and on offering the best solution and value proposition to our customers, including how we provide service and help them run their businesses better. I am very excited to be here. It is a great business with a tremendous amount of opportunity to which I am looking forward.
Ari Kaplan: How are you planning to integrate SurePoint’s recent acquisitions into a unified offering?
Eric Thurston: My goal is to integrate the recent additions to our portfolio—both from a brand perspective and to enhance our technology suite. We are considering ways to share intellectual property across our products, as well as how to leverage the technology to meet the needs of our customers. Operationally, we want the support and service experience to be consistent across our products, so we emphasize integration across every aspect of what we offer.
Ari Kaplan: How are private-equity-backed companies like SurePoint unique?
Eric Thurston: They are all unique and very similar at the same time. Their uniqueness comes from the vertical market they serve and the needs of that market. Successful teams learn how to build what their market requires. You cannot offer a simple generic solution and hope it will work. You need to solve the tougher problems for a given vertical. So you will not sell software for a law firm to a manufacturing company given their different needs. The uniqueness is in learning about those challenges and then building the product in a way that is scalable, repeatable and useful for our customers. The commonality is in how you execute that goal and run the business and an efficient and effective manner.
Ari Kaplan: What opportunities do you see for law firms to learn more from software companies about growing and scaling their businesses?
Eric Thurston: There should be a partnership-building relationship between law firms and the software companies with which they work, particularly because they leverage customer advisory boards and rely on client-centered roadmaps to determine what to build, develop or acquire to help meet the needs of their customers.
Ari Kaplan: How does legal technology compare to other technology sectors in which you have served?
Eric Thurston: Legal technology is mission critical for most law firms. For example, it is essential to be able to seamlessly enter time, process payroll and manage financial reporting. There is always some uniqueness in every industry. I have been in different verticals, some with products that are more of a utility, and that if it goes down, it is disruptive. But it doesn’t stop their business. Given the importance of our software, it is especially important to be highly responsive to customers and consistently exceed their expectations.
Ari Kaplan: How can new leaders most effectively get to know their customers?
Eric Thurston: Meet with them in person. I have several video calls scheduled with customers over the next two or three weeks, and I appreciate the opportunity to get to know them. I am also going to travel from city to city, with at least one trip per month to learn from our customers and understand what we are doing well and where we can improve. I will also be meeting with our employees because they have so much knowledge and great industry experience.
Ari Kaplan: What’s your mission for the first 60 days?
Eric Thurston: The goal is to learn and let our team members know I support them. I also want to convey that same message to our customers. I will avoid making decisions without full knowledge of the organization. At the outset, it is really about being patient and learning.
Ari Kaplan: How do you see your business and legal technology evolving this year?
Eric Thurston: It is a consolidating industry transforming with many dynamics in play. ChatGPT presents a big frontier that we need to monitor over the next 18 to 24 months. The uncertain economy and disruption associated with interest rates are areas to monitor. Ultimately, we need to make sure that we stay the course and continue to run our business well.
Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.