In this special episode, part of a series of discussions from our recent FC BUILD Conference, my partner Joanne Chen interviews Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman. In the wake of his third software IPO, Frank discusses what it takes to build a high-performance machine.
Performance culture. Frank makes himself very clear: a weak culture is a weak company. Fostering a high-achieving environment means expecting excellence and asking the hard questions—sometimes at the expense of others’ feelings. He describes this team as “malcontented” (“we’re not celebrators”).
Tactically, Frank reinforces this culture by:
1. Compressing timeframes.
2. Sweating the details. If you present something, you should be thrilled about what you’re talking about.
3. Focusing. One KPI. One priority. Reinforce with your incentive program.
Frank’s hiring philosophy:
1. What are you exceptionally good at?
2. I can give you experience. You come with aptitude.
3. Culture: I hire people with a chip on their shoulder, who need to prove themselves.
Firing. You’ll hear it from most successful business leaders: there is no such thing as “too soon.” As Steve Jobs said, “It has to be insanely great or I’m not interested.” If you wouldn’t hire this person again, you have your answer.
“You risk holding your company hostage to mediocrity…. The whole organization is watching what you’re doing. And they’re not just watching what you’re doing, they’re watching what you’re not doing.”
Founder to CEO. As entrepreneurs make the transition from founder to CEO, they should keep the following in mind:
1. Do not preside. Be a driver.
2. Hire executives who will challenge you.
3. Develop high clarity of mind. Without laser focus, an organization will suffer mass confusion.
4. Develop high conviction about every decision you make.
5. Cultivate intellectual honesty. Honestly evaluate organizational issues head on.
One sentence takes.
Covid: Things have changed, but by making excuses, “you are locking yourself into nonperformance.” Make the necessary changes and keep pushing forward.
Board management: “You lead the board. You don’t allow vacuums. Boards need to be and want to be led.”
The future of data: The next big data successes will perform value-added data processing.
“If the most average salesperson in the world can sell your product … you have lightning in a bottle.”