8 ACC DOCKE T’S TOP 10 30-SOME THINGS | A SPECIAL SUPPLEMEN T OF ACC DOCKE T
2017 TOP 10 30-SOMETHING
OFFICER & SECRETARY
“When you’re doing business in Silicon Valley, you have to do it at the speed that Silicon
Valley moves,” says Thomas Chow, general counsel, chief compliance officer, and secretary
of Exponential Interactive, a digital advertising company with approximately 600 employees
and more than US$100 million in annual revenue. The company has a network of different
websites where it has first rights to display digital advertising. Exponential’s customers are
major brands that want to increase their visibility. The company can also create content and
provide data analytics, since it has a billion hits of internet traffic a day.
Chow views the legal department through a singular prism: its contracts. “Contract
flow is the lifeblood of a company and its revenue,” he explains. The first thing he did when
he joined Exponential was engineer a ticketing system and email aliases so all contracts are
automatically routed to a legal specialist and designated backups for review. Once submitted, the business team receives approval or requests for more information within 48 hours.
The process has helped Chow reduce his time spent on triage because most contracts fit
within predetermined categories like sales, marketing, or publishing.
Reviewing every contract connects him to the business in surprising ways. Take the
janitorial contract. Something as mundane as knowing how the offices are cleaned gives him
more knowledge about office space and how to maximize office decisions in a particular city.
Chow had another mandate from management when he joined: reduce legal costs.
Exponential had filed an S- 1, the precursor to an initial public stock offer, but decided
against it. In the aftermath, the company was spending and being billed like a public company. Chow cut down the expenditures by doing his own due diligence on international law
firms. He created a shortlist of potential firms and test their responsiveness with an email,
looking for a well articulated answer in flawless English. The second step is an interview.
Just like his employees, he wants to partner with a firm that has enthusiasm and energy. “If
they’re enthusiastic during the RFP process,” he explains, “they’ll be enthusiastic to do your
work later.” The new network of firm partners reduced legal spend by over 50 percent.
Exponential has offices around the world and corresponding challenges. When Chow
evaluated the legal risks facing the company, he determined that human resources issues
were at the forefront. One of the issues he helped resolve was the ever-important sales compensation plan. The executive team decided, after long deliberations, that each salesperson,
regardless of location, would have a fixed salary component and the other half is based on
compensation. “There was a need to treat the salespeople equally across the globe despite
the legal complexities,” Chow says.
Other international matters range from the prosaic to extremely serious. When India
shuts down for the Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights, Exponential relies on the
Ukrainian team to cover for them. But when an armed conflict breaks out in Ukraine, what
happens? Chow says the company offered its employees the chance to relocate to an office
away from the hostilities.
Regardless of the problem, Chow helps Exponential solve it — quickly and tactfully. 30