Tag Archives: Motivation

Amp It Up

“Only the government can print money; the rest of us have to take it from somebody else.”

Frank Slootman

Frank Slootman has been the CEO of three companies: Data Domain, acquired for $2.4 billion, ServiceNow, market cap $94 billion, and now Snowflake, market cap $52 billion. His track record has few parallels.

But Slootman wasn’t always a big success. As a teenager in the Netherlands, he cleaned toilets for a living. When he moved to the United States, he had his heart set on joining IBM.

They rejected him. 12 times.

So how did Slootman go from obscure Dutchman to one of the biggest names in tech? By bringing a warrior’s mentality to business.

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Slootman focuses like a laser on destroying the competition, on breaking their will to fight. And the most powerful weapon in his arsenal is growth.

When you grow much faster than your competitors, it demoralizes them. And as you become the winner, you can begin poaching their best people, causing the rest to lose all confidence.

The importance of growth to Slootman’s approach is impossible to overstate. It’s also born out by data:

“‘Grow Fast or Die Slow’ is the title of a 2014 McKinsey & Co study that examined thousands of software and services companies between 1980 and 2012. It concluded that growth trumps everything else as a driver and predictor of long-term success. ‘Super grower’ companies, which McKinsey defined as 60% or more annual growth, had five times higher returns than medium growth companies (which had less than 20% annual growth). Super growers also had an eight times greater likelihood of reaching $1 billion in annual revenue. “

So how do you grow fast? Slootman recommends focusing on one key thing.

Many priorities means no priority.

You should also push everyone to move faster at all times:

“Leaders set the pace. People sometimes ask to get back to me in a week, and I ask, why not tomorrow or the next day? Start compressing cycle times.”

Frank Slootman

But not just any team can achieve this. Finding the very best talent will make or break your business:

“Hire more for aptitude than experience and give people the career opportunity of a lifetime.”

Frank Slootman

This talented group of people also must be motivated by an important mission. Snowflake is making data queries 10-100x faster, leading to a total revolution in how humans use data to make decisions.

That’s the kind of mission that will put pep in your step!

Slootman also has some interesting info for investors in startups, such as myself. The way he spotted “super grower” companies to take the helm of was by looking for a fast growth track record, a huge market, and extremely happy early customers.

We can use the same criteria to find great investments.

Slootman’s book is energizing, exciting, and a true page turner. That’s rare in the world of business books.

I strongly recommend getting this slim volume for yourself! After reading Slootman’s words, I felt ready to run through a wall.

You will too!

Let’s close with a great quote from Frank:

“Only in hindsight will you truly realize what your experiences have meant. That is why it’s okay to embrace your inevitable challenges and setbacks as part of your journey. They are there for a reason.”

Frank Slootman

What do you think Slootman got right, and did he leave out?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know what you think.

Have a great day everyone!

More on tech:

Hedge Fund Giant Tiger Global Losing $28 Million an Hour

The Startup Pitch Checklist

The Lean Startup

Photo: “Frank Slootman” by Thomas Hawk is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

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How the Bulls Dominated the NBA

Michael Jordan plays basketball better than anyone else in the world does anything else.

Scott Turow, quoted in Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

The Chicago Bulls dominated their league like no other team in no other sport during the 1990’s. They won 6 NBA championships, an astounding record. 

I just finished reading the outstanding book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. It’s an insightful look into what made Jordan and his Bulls so special. 

Here are some of their secrets:

1) Hard work. Jordan came to practice before anyone and left last. This got him from being rejected for the high school varsity to dominating the pros. 

2) Coachability. Anyone who coached Jordan, even in baseball, said he was unusually coachable. His willingness to learn from others, rather than think he knew everything, set him apart. 

Consider that for a player of his stature, it would be easy to dismiss a coach’s suggestion! But he didn’t. 

Even the quirky Dennis Rodman listened carefully to coach Phil Jackson’s lessons.

3) Love of the game. Both Jordan and Scottie Pippen stood out for truly loving basketball. 

Jordan even had a highly unusual clause in his contract. He could stop at any basketball court in the world, any time, and play a pickup game.

And he did so, frequently! I like imagining Jordan pulling up at a playground in a fancy car, lacing up his sneakers, and heading out onto the court.

I just wouldn’t want to have to guard him!

This type of clause is highly unusual due to the risk of injury, but Jordan insisted on it.

It’s hard to work at something so intensely for so many years if you don’t love it! And that’s what it takes to excel. 

4) Ability to see others strengths, not just their weaknesses.

Jackson was upset when Pippen refused to play at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals.  But he didn’t let that incident sour him on Scottie as a player.

Instead, he viewed it in the context of all of Scottie’s great work over the years.  Even the exacting Jordan became more aware of his teammates’ strengths over time.

This is an area I struggle with. If someone does one thing wrong, I tend to view them negatively, forgetting all their great work. 

I plan to take a lesson from Coach Jackson on this in the future! 

5) Never giving up. Jordan was famously cut by his high school team. 

Rodman didn’t even make the team at all. And Pippen started college basketball at a no-name school as the team equipment manager. 

These are not people you would think would’ve ever even made it to the NBA, much less won 6 championships. 

Their perseverance made the difference!

Check out this excellent book along with the addictive Netflix series The Last Dance. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you can learn a lot from the Bulls about excellence in any field! 

More on leadership:

From Anticommunist to Navy SEAL: “I Owe Everything to America”

Jocko on Leadership: “Ownership Is the Most Valuable Compensation”

The Best Motivational Speech of 2021

Photo: “Michael Jordan” by simplistic.designs is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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I Found a Secret Gym!

One of the benefits of not travelling in 2020 has been discovering what’s right around me. I’ve made more new friends this year than in the prior 5 years combined. I find myself actually (perish the thought!) saying hello to neighbors! We’re even exchanging baked goods like something out of the 1950’s. And it’s totally awesome.

Besides new friends, I just discovered something else: the building I’ve been living in for 2.5 years has a gym! I peeked through a hole in the laundry room wall, where plumbers were working on a pipe. As I got closer, I could hardly believe what I saw. A secret room filled with…exercise equipment?

I passed through a door marked Meter Room, past our electric meters, and went through a second door…this one unmarked. Inside was a gym straight out of the 1970’s. Rusty iron weights, exercise bikes without a single transistor, and bodybuilding posters from decades ago.

Our superintendent created this gym entirely on his own. It’s not the Equinox, but the equipment is surprisingly varied and of high quality. He made it for himself and shared it with whoever might wish to use it. After his recent retirement and return to his home country of Colombia, he left all this here for us.

Working out in this secluded space alongside exposed pipes makes me feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Gym in the 1970’s. Until I look into one of the mirrors, at least. 🙂

I wanted to tell you about this to emphasize the wonderful things we gain from being at home more this year. We are not just missing out on travel, concerts, etc. We get something too…a new familiarity with and appreciation for the world right outside our own doors.

It also shows me the great effect one person can have on others, even others they’ve never met, with just a little care and individual initiative. People our superintendent will never see will be healthier because of what he did. What a great example for the rest of us!

How are you guys staying healthy this year? What have you discovered nearby? Let me know in the comments!