Leadership Stories

Clubhouse CEO's advice for fellow founders and entrepreneurs

Ben Martin

Clubhouse's CEO, Kurt Schrader, was recently interviewed by Josh Machiz of Nasdaq at the Battery Ventures Leadership Summit. The theme of the conference was about creating long term value and Kurt had some very helpful advice for fellow entrepreneurs and start up founders, especially those who may be just starting out on their journey.

Here are Kurt's top 5 pieces of advice from the interview:

1. Optimize for people before anything else.

Josh: "Is there one piece of management advice you'd give to another founder or entrepreneur?"
Kurt: "I've started a few companies now and the one thing I've found consistent across all of them, the best management advice I have, is to treat people the right way. Treat them the way that you want to be treated. About a third of my company has worked for me before and I work really hard to respect people. Give people hard feedback when they need hard feedback but really, treat everybody right.

Optimize for people before anything else. That always comes back in my experience. It builds loyalty and really helps people do a great job, and work hard for you, over time."

2. Write down what you're going to go after in the short term vs. the long term.

Josh: "Can you talk a little about the trade-offs between short term value creation and planning for long term innovation?"
Kurt: "It's really hard, especially in a smaller company, to trade those off. You have to have a long-term vision on where you want to get to further down the road. But there's a lot of short term constraints like making sure you have enough money in the bank, people can go and eat every night, a lot of those things.

We think about trade-offs almost like a pie chart. What is the short term value we can gain over the next month, the next quarter? Now, how can we dedicate say a third, or a quarter of our time to building out our longer term vision? How can we take what we have now and think about what it looks like in two or three years, when we have even more customers globally? How can we make it better for everyone?

It's a hard trade-off. You give up revenue and sometimes customer happiness in the short term, but you have to trade those off and explicitly write down what you're going to go after in the short term vs the long term."

3. Optimize for good people that fit with the values of your company.

Josh: "What is your greatest obstacle, in this iteration or previously, in your professional career?"
Kurt: "When I was younger, one thing I used to sometimes over index towards was 'this person seems really smart and they're going to be really good at writing code but they seem kind of like a jerk. But maybe we'll just ignore that because they're going to be really good for us in building stuff'. I've learned over the course of my career that I never look back at those people and, long term, thought that it was a good idea.

Something I've learned over time is to optimize for good people and people that fit with the values of your company. Assuming your values aren't 'hire jerks', it usually works out really well."

Something I've learned over time is to optimize for good people and people that fit with the values of your company. Assuming your values aren't 'hire jerks', it usually works out really well.Kurt Schrader, Clubhouse CEO and Co-Founder

4. When it comes to establishing company culture, write expectations down and be explicit.

Josh: "You're very proud of the team you've built so far As you scale, how do you continue to scale that culture? Especially when, as you grow, you're going to have to do a lot of other things than focus on the core staff?"

Kurt: "I've found over the years is that, the more you write down and the more explicit you can be about things [the better]. If you leave any whitespace in how people interact with each other or whatever, they're going to fill it with whatever they want. Then your culture starts to grow in a direction you might not want it to grow."

If you leave any whitespace in how people interact with each other or whatever, they're going to fill it with whatever they want. Then your culture starts to grow in a direction you might not want it to grow.Kurt Schrader, Clubhouse CEO and Co-Founder

Kurt: "We try to be very explicit about how we interact. We write down everything. We write down expectations — everything from how our weekly meetings operate, to what the expectation is when you start a meeting, to cultural things and things that are explicitly not acceptable.

I think a lot about stuff that happens at companies all over the world. When you think about [that stuff], you think 'that's completely inappropriate'. But nobody ever wrote it down, no one ever said 'don't'. The more stuff you can put down on a piece of paper and say 'this is what our expectations are, this is not what our expectations are' and be able to point at it, the better."

5. Write those expectations down early.

Josh: "It sounds like you're building some of the structures now. In a lot of startups, they patchwork as they go along rather than putting those foundational elements in place to begin with"

Kurt: "The earlier you can get started on this, the better. If you're only reacting to problems, then you're just going to have lots of problems. If you can get ahead of things and lay things out as you go, you'll be able to grow a lot more smoothly."

You can watch the full video below. We'd love to hear any thoughts or feedback on Kurt's advice on Twitter - tweet us @clubhouse. Thanks Josh and Nasdaq for the interview!

Kurt Schrader, CEO of Clubhouse Software #BVLeadershipSummit

Posted by Nasdaq on Thursday, November 8, 2018

Note: Battery Ventures, the host of the conference where this interview took place, is a Clubhouse investor.