“Evolution doesn’t linger on past failures, it’s always building upon what worked” -Jason Fried
As we think about what makes businesses successful, we call on leaders in small businesses and startups for insights. Sharing experiences about starting and running a business is invaluable, because learning from your peers is the best way to grow and improve. Today's topic is fail smart.
I spoke to Rand Fishkin via email, and he is the CEO of the SEO software company SEOmoz. He was generous to answer a few questions about business and failing. If you'd like to get his full story, check out his About Me page. Read his answers below!
What is your biggest mistake or failure starting your company? What did you learn?
We went deeply into personal debt when starting the business, and it was primarily because we had no experience or examples of what a startup looked like or how we were supposed to scale. I wish I'd spent the first few years of my career (after dropping out of college) at another early-stage company or two, so I could have watched and learned first. Since then, I've tried to stay very close to companies that are a few years ahead of us in progress and get mentorship from other founders and CEOs.
What would you consider to be your biggest hiring mistake?
Hiring for productivity/intelligence/performance over culture fit. I tried to explain this in my blog post here
What is the worst advice you were given and followed? What did you learn from it? Or…looking back, what’s the best advice you’ve received but chose to ignore?
I recall early in my career getting advice to be heads down and "get stuff done," rather than try to concern myself with the running of the organization, how team members are feeling, what's happening across the company, etc. The thought process went "lead by example – do what you do well, and hire/trust others to do what they do well."
In reality, it turned out to be terrible advice. Team members lose trust in leaders who aren't involved and aware across the company. As a founder/CEO, your responsibility is to be a little bit involved everywhere, not just "heads down" on the things you do well. As I've evolved as a CEO, I've tried to be a "mile wide and an inch deep" across the entire team, and I think that's a far better strategy.
Is there such a thing as growing too fast? Have you ever failed planning for growth and pace? If yes, how?
Is failure necessary? Can you learn from your mistakes?
I think failure is inevitable, and those who believe it isn't are fooling themselves. But, it's probably the best learning tool there is – I rarely see people change their nature and behavior unless they personally encounter or are exposed to failure. It's probably why political opinions only get changed when we're personally close to an issue.
What makes SEOmoz a great place to work?
#1 – the people who work at Moz
#2 – the community around us – our customers, users, and consumers of our content
#3 – the excitement of being at a company that's grown so much over the past few years, and has the potential to grow even more
What's going to change the way you do business 10 years from now?