You've successfully transitioned from middle management to startup founder and CEO. And now you are in the position where you need to make sure that your team leaders bring their A game each day so you can focus on running the company. But how? What do successful CEOs do to ensure management delivers their best performance and the best possible product? At a recent talk at RocketSpace, Trulia founder Pete Flint shared five tips on the topic. Zillow purchased Trulia for $3.5 billion in 2014, and Flint now sits on Zillow's board of directors.
1. Set Firm Expectations
Initially Flint took a hands-off approach, giving the world-class VPs he hired at Trulia carte blanche to take whichever steps they saw fit to advance the company. “That was a big, big mistake," Flint admits. “They do what they did in the previous company that they worked at and it's just not appropriate for the new company." Some didn't pay enough attention to the details. Others micromanaged the details so meticulously that teammates didn't want to work with them. Flint quickly learned that for the company to succeed, he needed to make his wishes as explicit as humanly possible.
2. Clearly Define Roles and Deadlines
It's not enough to tell the team you want the product to ship by the end of the year. Even if you're all working in the same room, you need to detail who's responsible for which pieces of the puzzle, which milestones you want reached by which dates, and what success looks like. “That drives efficiency, that drives execution, and that's just good performance management," Flint says. “But so many companies don't do it."
3. Learn to Love Memos
Flint has always been a fan of sending his people carefully outlined memos about the tasks he wants accomplished. As proof he's not alone in this tactic, Flint points to a 2014 Inc. article on the importance of giving written instructions versus verbal ones. “Written communication… is superior because it is more consistent across an entire product team, it is more lasting, it raises accountability," the article cites Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz as saying. Or as Amazon's Jeff Bezos puts it, “There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."
4. Test the Product Yourself
Nothing kills a product faster than poor user experience. As CEO, paying attention to bugs and staying on top of engineering until those glitches get fixed is part of your job. “I would use the product incessantly, I would spot things, and I would email engineers 24/7," Flint says of his time at Trulia. “That ensures the team doesn't get lazy and they realize that quality is critical."
5. Get on the Same Page as Your Cofounder(s)
It's essential that each cofounder articulates the same vision and instructions to your startup's top leaders. To ensure Flint saw eye-to-eye with Trulia cofounder and COO Sami Inkinen, the business partners had dinner together at least twice a month. “That enabled us to create an environment of feedback from the beginning so we could help each other improve," Flint says. “But it also gave us a place outside the office where we could think about bigger issues." Check out what else Flint has to say about being an effective CEO: