Tag Archives: Strategy

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

What motivates subordinates? A fat paycheck, stock options, maybe a free trip to Hawaii?

Perhaps. But on Monday’s Debrief podcast, Navy SEAL Commander and author Jocko Willink named another, more powerful inducement:

“Ownership is the most powerful compensation you can give a human being.”

People want control over their lives, including at work. So, rather than have subordinates execute your plan, Jocko favors giving them a goal and letting them figure out how they’ll get there on their own.

When a person gets a chance to come up with a plan themselves, they’ll find increasingly efficient ways to do it. After all, most of us like to think we’re smarter than the boss and should really be running things. This is our chance to prove it, and we’re unlikely to blow that chance.

What’s more, whether in the military or civilian world, subordinates are a lot more familiar with the nitty gritty of a certain job than the boss is. Leaving the details of a plan to them, with the boss just setting overall goals and then approving the plan to reach them, gives them more latitude to bring that experience to bear.

Finally, running things is fun! When it’s your little idea, you’re a lot more invested in it. So give your subordinates a chance to come up with plans themselves, rather than just waiting for instructions. You may be surprised how well they do.

For more on business and leadership, check out these posts:

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