This interview with Brent Frei,executive chairman and co-founderof Smartsheet.com, a provider of online project management software, was conducted and condensed byAdam Bryant.
Q. Were you in leadership roles when you were younger?
A. I grew up on a wheat, barley and beef cattle farm in Idaho. Probably more than most kids, I had an opportunity to do big things early on. When I was 6 years old, my dad needed to get a tractor and a pickup home from five miles away. He put me in the pickup, put it in first gear, and I drove it home with my 5-year-old sister in the passenger seat. He drove the tractor behind us.
I did real work from a young age on the farm. It was fascinating, and it was fun. We were fixing machines, cutting down trees and everything else. It was like a boy’s playground.
How big was the farm?
It was 800 acres. That was a little bit below the threshold for break-even, but Dad kept it going just through sheer willpower. When I started my first company, he and Mom put money in because I couldn’t get anybody to finance it. Fast-forward five years, and the $13,000 they put in was worth $3 million. Now Dad farms about 3,000 acres.
How have your parents influenced your leadership style?
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