“Speed is everything. Speed and logistics, frankly. For us, maintaining the speed is actually critical to our success.” — Kate Gulliver, Wayfair
This week on Radically Agile, we’re sharing an exclusive panel of speakers at Catalant’s recent Reimagining Work Summit.
This impressive panel entitled “The Disruptors” includes Uber’s North American General Manager Megan Joyce, General Assembly’s General Manager Charlie Schilling, and Wayfair’s Head of Talent Kate Gulliver.
Moderated by Catalant’s Vice President of Growth Pat Griffin, the panel discusses the opportunities they saw and the strategies they used to make their companies more agile and more successful.
Tune in to hear more!
[Full transcript below]
Rich Gardner: I would like to bring up our first panel. This group, we’re calling this group “The Disrupters.” They represent three different perspectives on re-imagining industries. Many of you from large, mature enterprises told us that you wanted to hear today from companies organized in very different ways than yourselves. So please join me in welcoming Meghan Joyce from Uber, Kate Gulliver from Wayfair, and Charlie Schilling from General Assembly along with my Catalant teammate Pat Griffin. Take it away Pat!
Pat Griffin: Good morning everybody. I’m the VP for enterprise here at Catalant. I help large enterprises think through how they can be more agile, how they can adapt their programs in tech to solve some of the problems they face. My goal for this panel is to speak as little as possible because we have such fantastic people here, and also to start a discussion so that you all can get your questions answered and hear from these folks. Before they introduce themselves, I want to brag about them a little bit because I’m afraid that they won’t do it themselves. This is the disruptor panel, meaning that they saw a disruptive market opportunity, either a route to market a unmet customer need, and they’re not just people that saw the strategy. As all of you sitting here can probably think about the disruptive forces in your market, the market opportunities that somebody is going to capture — these are the people that not only saw those opportunities and saw those strategies, these are people that did it.
I remember, five years ago, I had the wrong ride-hailing app and then I needed to download Uber because somebody said, “What are you doing man? That’s the wrong one.” What I want us to focus on today is not only about how you could hire a consulting firm that could tell you that these are the disruptive forces. A lot of companies were on the starting line thinking about e-commerce, thinking about transportation, thinking about education — and for some reason the organizations at General Assembly, Wayfair, and Uber were able to ride the wave, react to the customer, and capture the market opportunity which is, I’m sure, what we all want to do. That’s the preface: we want to focus on how we get it done, not necessarily the strategy.
By way of introduction, I’d love everyone here to just introduce themselves, tell us a little bit about your organization and your role at the organization, and then one practical thing about the way your team works that has enabled you to capture the disruptive opportunity.
Charlie Schilling: Yeah, absolutely. Well, number one, thanks for having me. I’m the general manager of the enterprise business at General Assembly. We exist for one reason, which is to help individuals in companies bridge the technologies skills gap. We started in 2011 and had 60,000 plus grads from our programs in areas like software engineering, data science, digital marketing, UX/UI, and product management. That’s not by accident — that’s because our corporate customers, who ultimately are the consumers of the talent we build, either on our campuses around the world or within the four walls of a company, tell us are the biggest areas of skill gaps.
The practical advice I’d share, and this is a layup given that we’re at a Catalant conference, is that GA has on the order of 550 full-time employees, but now north of 5,000 subject-matter experts with whom we work, either to teach our classes, design our curricula, and so forth. The reason we believe that’s so important, is that we only want practitioners to teach. We employ zero academics, and we think, given the pace of technology change, that is so critically important.
Many of you represent very large entities. There’s just so much subject matter expertise that exists within the four walls of your company, if you could only find it. Obviously, we want to be in the business of helping those people learn how to do things better and learn things, but that’s a very practical insight. Our scale wouldn’t be possible without that network of expertise.
Kate Gulliver: I lead global talent for Wayfair. We sell furniture online, it’s pretty simple actually. Complex to get a couch to you, but the idea is simple. So you may have ordered from us and noticed just how complex it is because it doesn’t always go perfectly. We are 10,000 people globally. Primarily our headquarters is in Boston, but we also operate in Germany and London.
Of our team of 10,000, about 5,000 of those are folks who are out in the field — call centers and warehouses — and about 5,000 are back in corporate. I share that mix because I think often people think that we think of ourselves as a tech company. In other large established enterprises, when they think of tech they think, “Oh, that’s only a certain profile of employee,” but we have 5,000 frontline employees. I’m sure many of you have a similar footprint if not quite a bit larger, so we definitely have a sense of what that employee base is like.
I think there are many things we do to maintain a spirit of innovation. I would say one of the most important is we have a deeply-rooted, cultural comfort with failure — and that is hard to create from scratch. Pat asked for practical advice, and I think that is difficult to start if you don’t have it. But I do think you can begin to nurture it, and where that plays out is, when we hire, we actually look for people who are comfortable with failure, who have failed, and who have taken a learning from that and pivoted. We do that all the way from someone who is answering the phones in a call center, to a shift supervisor in the warehouse to the person who is going to lead part of the digital marketing.
I think that’s really important because that is what maintains the speed. If you’re comfortable with failure then you will move quickly; you will put something out there even if you know it’s not 100 percent right, and ultimately in e-comm, speed is everything. Speed and logistics, frankly. For us, maintaining the speed is actually critical to our success.
Meghan Joyce: I am regional general manager for Uber’s U.S. and Canada business and not dissimilar from Wayfair. The idea is relatively simple behind Uber — tap a button, get a ride, or more recently, get a meal delivered to you. Logistics and delivery, the execution has been a bit more complicated as I am quite positive many of you have experienced. But, you know, I think, over the last eight or nine years we have survived only because we have been willing and able to disrupt ourselves over and over and over again. When I first started at Uber five and a half years ago, we only had a black cart product really, and a competitor was quickly coming onto the market with a lower cost, peer-to-peer style product.
Really, introducing that product risked cannibalizing our big money-maker and our more profitable, pervasive product. We were willing and able to roll it out faster, more effectively. Years later we rolled out a car-sharing product again, at risk of cannibalizing our core product, faster and more effectively — and even now have introduced food delivery, have been willing to dabble in autonomous vehicles, flying cars for the long term, things like bikes and scooters, all different sorts of products that really, not only provide access to transportation but build a platform that enable people to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible, irrespective of the mode of transportation or delivery.
I think what’s been so critical to enabling that to happen is a real willingness to experiment, and to take a lot of small risks in very time-dated and risk-dated ways, and to see what sticks. A lot of people don’t realize that our first foray into food delivery was actually under the guise of a promo in Uber Ice Cream, where one day, over the summer, for many years we put ice cream trucks on the platform and actually brought ice cream to people as a marketing event. And it did serve marketing purposes, but it had a deeper purpose, which was to understand what it took to deliver things on the platform, not just deliver people.
That was how we first dipped our toe into the water in terms of delivering things. And I think a willingness to carve out dated budgets, dated time periods, and to empower people to run hundreds and thousands of little experiments in that way have enabled our company to pivot really quickly, to try things that might feel risky, or may seem threatening, and to do so in a way that really did minimize risk.
Pat Griffin: Three super-practical tips around have an ecosystem for your business: hire people who know how to pivot and run a lot of small-scale experiments. I think the ability to risk cannibalizing your own business is something that’s where, really, the rubber meets the road.
I have a question about managing people. Managing people in an environment like this where it’s not stable, there’s not a mature market with predictable growth year over year. What mindset do you want your managers to have when they’re operating in such a rapidly changing environment?
Meghan Joyce: I think some of it comes down to your team structure. We are highly, highly cross-functional in nature. It’s actually, when I talk to recent hires about six months in, that are at the senior level and I ask them what their biggest surprise is, it’s actually the degree to which we are matrixed. Right, that’s pretty crazy on $6 billion of sales and 10,000 people, but the benefit to that is A, you have to be incredibly transparent, because if you’re working in a matrixed org, you only own a chunk of that P&L, you have got to share out what you’re doing because everybody else won’t work effectively with you. It also means that if what you’re doing isn’t working, that’s okay, you can share that with people and they can step in and help you solve that problem from another angle, or it might be that if you were going down one path and that path isn’t working, you actually would shut down your project and move on to another project. That fluidity both in the workforce and the forcing of the transparency through the matrix structure I think allows you to both pivot quickly and be agile as you said, which is sort of the core, inherent, mindset that we want.
I think for us, it’s been all about culture and we’ve had our cultural challenges in a number of kind of shifting values over the last eight or nine years, but two of our cultural values that have remained consistent throughout the entirety of our existence are, one, we all act like owners of this company and two, we value ideas over hierarchy. Great ideas can come from the CEO but they can also come from our frontline staff or our interns, or drivers or customers.
I think the combination of those two values that every single one of us is acting like the owner of the company and great ideas can come from anywhere, has been incredibly powerful for us because it means that each and every one of us comes to work everyday looking for ways to make the company better, and we are willing to put the company first before our own individual interests or our own product or our own team or business line, even if it means disrupting or cannibalizing what we come to work and do every day. We are willing to give great ideas a shot no matter where they come from, so a small experiment that came from a frontline team or that came from another market has as much legitimacy as an idea from your own team.
The idea that those great ideas can crop up from anywhere and that all of us are expected to put company first and act like owners and think about the long-term ahead of our short-term personal interests, has enabled us to culturally pivot so much faster than an organization that is kind of stuck in its own personal interests or its own business lines’ long-term or short-term benefits. Those cultural values have been key to enabling that to happen.
Pat Griffin: A lot of you have touched on experiments and getting good ideas and things getting traction. We have a lot of companies represented here that have global scale and that do things in a big way and move markets. Talk to me a little bit about that scaling process. You’ve hit on an idea, you’re very close to your customer, and now it’s time to go all in and build an organization around it. How do you go and capture that opportunity without building a hierarchical organization? Kate, let’s start with you because in the Boston market, for those of you who aren’t from around here, Wayfair is like a magnet for top talent. If you’re in the New England market and you haven’t had people go to Wayfair then, I don’t know, that could be a bad sign.
Kate Gulliver: But we’re not getting enough from Catalant, so if anybody wants to come.
Pat Griffin: You’ve been able to add people to the team and run after the opportunities that are there. Tell us, how does that work?
Kate Gulliver: So, I think, and thank you for the pitch, I think it’s a few-fold so one, it’s interesting, Charlie, you mentioned talking about hiring subject-matter experts, and certainly for our engineers and our data scientists, we want people with those skills and we actually hire some from General Assembly. I always tell people our general counsel is legitimately is an attorney, he has passed the Massachusetts’ bar, but most of our other roles we actually don’t look for subject-matter experts.
I have never worked in talent until, I was actually a private equity investor, and before that I was a consultant. We are very comfortable putting people in roles that they have never done before. Our marketing people mostly came out of consulting, or the people that are running actually large chunks of our finance team don’t have formal finance training. Right, that would be kind of terrifying, I think to some people, but for us we feel like those people bring new ideas. It also allows us to move people around very easily internally.
Getting to your question of, well how do you start something up and how do you staff that and then if it’s going to scale, how do you bring it to scale? Often our ideas, our new ideas, are actually started by existing team members so, for example, a few years ago we launched a business called Castlegate which is a third-party logistics business within Wayfair, all e-comm ultimately becomes a logistics company. And this was the start of how we might provide that to our suppliers. Castlegate was originally founded by a long-term Wayfair employee, he was deeply schooled in the Wayfair DNA and culture, and I think that’s very important for when you’re starting a new initiative, to make sure that initiative is sort of part of your broader cultural norm.
We originally staffed up that team with support, actually, from other adjacent organizations in the company that were doing similar work. So it allowed us to be flexible with how we built that team in case the idea didn’t take off. So if that idea didn’t work, we were actually gonna be able to put those people back out into their old job or into a new job in the company but into different business units. It didn’t really matter that those people had never worked in third-party logistics before.
That idea did end up taking off, it’s actually quite a large team now and we’ve staffed that team with a mix of folks that are new people that we brought into the company and existing people that have wanted to move into that area, and that has allowed us to scale much faster because we’re not trying to train up an entirely new team. Similarly in talent, many of us don’t have talent experience, there’s some with deep-rooted talent experience, but the team is very much, at the leadership level, a mix of people sort of generalized, general managers from out in the broader Boston or U.S. market, talent experts, and Wayfarians who have moved over into those roles. And we think that knowledge transfer is absolutely critical to our success and to sort of rapidly scaling different businesses.
Meghan Joyce: Yeah, for us it’s been critically important to empower and enable a highly decentralized model especially in the early years as we were scaling, and scaling not only across U.S. and Canada but also globally. An idea that our founder and CEO had very early on was that once you’ve proven the business model and have on market where you show that unit economics work, create a playbook for that and then empower some general managers who can go into various markets, enact that playbook and problem-solve where it’s not working. And that was our system, that was our org structure for many, many years.
And it meant that we had really empowered people who were told, “You are the CEO of your market, here’s the rough playbook so don’t reinvent the wheel where you don’t have to, but you will come across idiosyncratic challenges based on the various dynamics of your particular market, and it’s up to you to problem-solve when you encounter those challenges.” And it meant that we did have a standard operating procedure that teams were expected to follow for the purposes of efficiency, but that teams were also encouraged to find customized solutions where they had to, and that they didn’t have to ask for a terrible amount of permission within the bounds of reasonable problem-solving, where they encountered challenges.
And it was a much different tack than many organizations were taking at the time, frankly it was much different than what a lot of our competitors were doing with a highly centralized model, but it meant that we could problem-solve and adapt very quickly, scaled globally faster than anyone, and get our foothold around the world faster than many other organizations before us and certainly anyone else in the market.
And, over time, we have certainly centralized more, there are certain solutions that we’ve needed to roll out globally. Our recent set of safety initiatives for example, those are things that we don’t wanna compromise on and we have had to develop centralized solutions for them, but particularly when we were scaling it was absolutely essential to have a decentralized model where we were empowering people in the field to problem-solve accordingly, and to support them as they did.
Charlie Schilling: I think what I’d add to that is, we actually have sort of a backwards approach to this scale problem in that, in general our recommendation to companies is not that you need more data, or not necessarily that you need more people, but you need to get more out of the existing assets you already have. And that we can accomplish a lot to that end by changing the mindset of individuals on individual teams. I’ll give you an example, so we do a lot of work with Fortune 50 industrial company who would tell you they are awash in project managers, but need more product managers, and so we can borrow concepts like customer centricity from UX/UI, take that to a new place in an organization and empirically prove that that organization will get more products through their various cycles, therefore increasing their velocity and improving their chances of success.
That’s digital mindset shift that in part has to start at the top of an organization, but for many of the players in this room your problem isn’t scale, you have global scale, so how do you actually take advantage of it in new ways, I think really is the key question.
Pat Griffin: We’re empowering our people with General Assembly, we’re upskilling them, reskilling them, we’re being agile and adapting the market. We’ve got a great group here, I’m curious what questions are in the audience for them.
Audience Member: A question for Kate about the interview processes — you’re trying to find people who are comfortable failing in the past, what interview questions do you go to to be able to figure that out?
Kate Gulliver: Great question. Most data suggests that we’re actually all bad interviewers, right? Any of the empirical data shows we’re not good at this. What we try to do is, for the entirety of the interview process for non-tech roles, remove as much individual decision-making as possible from it. We have four concepts in competency that we interview on, these are the same four competencies that you are evaluated on throughout your career at Wayfair.
They are sort of intrinsic characteristics that we think of are important. One of them is critical thinking, which we generally test through a case that’s typically getting at quant and logic and data analytic skills. One of them is innovation, and we test for that by behavior interviewing that, very well-established type of interviewing, many of you probably do that in your companies, and we actually ask people to give us examples of when they started something or when they tried something and it didn’t work and how they pivoted from it. And we will ask repeatedly for those examples, which is how you typically uncover if someone is sort of creating a great story for the first example, it’s kinda hard to do that over and over and over again if that’s not consistent and true.
We actually train all of our, we now train, I say this like this has been the established practice since 2002 when the company was started, this is all rapidly evolving in the last two years. You can put in places, when you don’t have it, we have been training most of our employees to go through a very in-depth behavioral interview training before they actually can become an interviewer, because the default we found is for people to just go back to a resume walk.
We know the resumes are good; we’re screening those resumes before they come in, so the behavioral interview questions are actually really critical.
Audience Member: A question for you, Meghan: you say you do a lot of pivoting of projects, you do at least kind of micro programs — what’s the process within your company to kill a program? There are so many of them and you’ve got stakeholders saying, “I really wanna push this through.” How do you guys deal with that?
Meghan Joyce: That’s a great question and it’s certainly evolved over time as we as an organization have become more mature and have increasing levels of accountability and different priorities right? I think a few things have been critical. Even since the early days it has been essential to, number one, define success before you start the experiment. It is so easy, when you’re weeks into an experiment, to subconsciously tweak the definition of success based on the results that you’re seeing, because everybody wants their project to succeed, right? You can usually find some value in the project itself. But we need to be really clear-eyed about what we are trying to achieve before we go out and do it. And one question that is super important is, can you measure that definition of success before you start the experiment?
I can’t tell you how many times, in the early days, we said, “This is the definition of success” and launch our experiment only to find we weren’t actually tracking the metric that we were trying to measure, or we had different definitions of the metric we were trying to measure, so define that upfront in a universal way everyone can agree, here’s the dashboard, here’s how we’re gonna calculate, here’s how we’re gonna measure, and here’s the time frame in which we need to see that success. That last part is so important because, again, it’s so easy to let it drag out and say, “Let’s see another week, let’s see another month of data,” but we need to be pretty disciplined about the time frame in which we wanna see that successful set of results.
And, if you define that upfront and, frankly, write it down, have it in a place that’s accessible to everyone in the brief before you lay out the experiment or any kind of a shared document, write it on the wall if you have to, here’s the definition of success, here’s the metric we’re gonna be watching, where we’re gonna track it, and in the time frame in which we’re going to evaluate results, and then you can have that accountability without dispute, right? To revisit those results within that time period, everyone gathers around the table within that pre-defined time and says, “Alright, here’s the dashboard we’re gonna be looking at, here is the result we were aiming to see, and are we there or not?”
And then it depersonalizes it, then it forces a bit of accountability in that time frame. Over time, we have gotten more deliberate around carving out budgets or staff or divisions in which to incubate experiments so in the last several years we set up incubation teams that are designed to house major product investments. Uber Eats was its own ring fenced experiment. Autonomous vehicles, it’s its own ring fenced division of engineers so that those major bets have dedicated resourcing and time, but the principle is the same. Here are the results we need to see within this time frame, here’s how we’re gonna measure it, so that we can hold ourselves accountable to shutting things down, as you say, when they don’t work or to reinvesting.
Audience Member: How do you deploy resources against the work?
Meghan Joyce: I’m happy to start and then I’m sure you guys have similar reactions, but I think similar to what Kate was describing earlier, having a culture and a talent-staffing approach that sets the expectation that folks may be staffed on something for a period of time and it’s part of our culture and our norms to lend resources to experiments has been really helpful for us, because it means that you can take resources in a really lightweight way, put people on something for a dedicated period of time and reintegrate them back into their original team if and when we do need to shut something down or we need to pivot priorities.
It means that we probably have a bit more buffer in our staffing model than the average company, which is super leanly staffed, but we have found that that’s really effective, not only to enable us to staff experiments but also to keep people energized in the workforce. And I know this is a huge part of what Catalant focuses on and enables in organizations, but we find especially with the millennial workforce and talent, this kind of talent market where people could be working anywhere, it’s highly competitive, keeping folks engaged and working on new and exciting challenges a couple times a year you get to peel off your normal course of business and work on a special project for some period of time is incredibly helpful for retention and engagement purposes, and so we find that that extra bit of buffer in our staffing model is well worth it, not only to enable strategic investments but also from a talent-adjacent perspective.
Charlie Schilling: I think I can add to that, which is to say that we meaningfully and positively change the inflection of our growth curve when we realized that we were actually a professional services business, rather than a company masquerading as a SAS business. And that has allowed us to focus on where we see the biggest area of client opportunity and, to your point, keep the work really interesting for people that are a challenge to retain. These are super smart millennials, in fields like software engineering, like there are lots of companies in the world that want those people.
If you can keep it interesting, they’ll stay. Also, and we’re clearly, I say this humbly, here sitting on a panel with Wayfair and Uber, but our game is a logistics game. The reason that we’re able to execute in now north of 400 individual cities across the globe on behalf of really big companies is because we figured out something in the ecosystem and the quality of delivery that doesn’t just exist in San Francisco, California or New York City, New York. It needs to exist in lots of strange places wherever our clients will take us. So it’s not one thing, it’s the ecosystem of how that all works together.
Kate Gulliver: I agree with all of it, and in addition to retaining employees, to us it actually helps us attract employees. To say, “Hey, you can come in and run this,” I only tell people the only thing I can guarantee you is that in a year, you’ll probably be doing something different. And there’s a certain profile of individuals who are people that are typically comfortable with failure who actually get excited by that, and they like that.
The one other point I would add, is we actually don’t operate with a formal budget. We’re a publicly-traded company, and my first job was actually running the IPO, so that was terrifying. I was like, “I wanna go tell Wall Street that we’re gonna do x and we’re not gonna do x,” — this is gonna be a disaster. Amazingly it works and four and a half years in and we’re still four and a half years into my tenure at the company, we’re still doing that. And I actually think that really helps with this idea of how do you staff up new initiatives, because no one says, “Oh, well I’m getting a bonus if I hit this quarterly number that I committed to a year ago, which may no longer be relevant.” And so for us, because we’re all highly matrixed, as I mentioned, because everyone owns different pieces of the P&L, we’re quite comfortable internally moving people around because it doesn’t negatively impact the person.
That’s a decision that we’re all making as a company that we want to move people from A to B, and that’s fine. If that works out, the company’s going to work out, and we’re all going to do well as a result of that. But it’s not, “My little fiefdom is being impacted.” And that was, to me actually, very different way of thinking, the company that I had worked with before, and sometimes it still gives me a little panic, that we don’t have a budget, but it actually has worked to our benefit for sure.
Audience Member: I have a question with two filters on it. One is, you all talked about logistics, and if you could unpack a little bit more about what that really looks like and how you figure that out and, related to that, if you can talk a little bit more about the messy middle in your companies. There’s sort of a how you got started and where you are today, but the messy middle and the logistics I have a feeling, are tied together, so if you could just unpack a little more of that.
Kate Gulliver: I’m happy to jump in first because we all are logistics-oriented but very different types of logistics. Wayfair was founded in 2002, when I started at the company in 2014, I left Bain Capital to go to the company, I think people probably thought I was crazy, nobody had really heard of it yet in Boston. We rebranded in 2011 from CSN Stores to Wayfair, and from 2002 to 2011 the company was actually bootstrapped by the co-founders. I didn’t share this at the beginning because we were talking about practical points. You can’t go back and redo your capital structures, but the fact that our co-founders were able to bootstrap the company for that long that it was a negative working capital cycle, that they still have majority voting shares so we have a very limited corporate structure for a public company, is certainly a competitive advantage, right? And certainly helps with innovation because we can move very quickly.
I don’t have to do a massive board presentation every time I want to change something. So, that said, for the first 10 years, the company growth was slow and steady. When they took on outside capital in 2011, that is when the growth really accelerated and they started investing significantly in digital marketing. The first decade was really about establishing the product market fit, building up that front-end storefront, and establishing who our customer was and trying to understand that customer.
The next, about four years, so let’s say from 2011 to about 2015, 2016, was all about building the marketing engine and getting our brand out there. That’s probably when most of you started to find out who Wayfair was; that’s when we started national advertising on TV and we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in brand-building at that point because we had outside capital. We IPO’d in ’14, we took in about $300 million in that, which we helped invest back into the business.
2016 is when we started really investing in the logistic space. We share all that because it’s not as if in 2002, Niraj and Steve, the co-founders, sat there and said, “Oh, we’re going to be a trucking company,” in 2018. Definitely not. And, actually, a significant portion of our business is now invested in moving goods across the country and, frankly, we’ve shared that we’re now going into Asia, and moving goods from Asia directly to the U.S.
I don’t think they could have foreseen that, but as we got scale, we knew that if our end goal is to serve the customer better, one of the most frustrating things about home delivery of furniture is, you go to order a couch, they tell you, “Oh, it’s three or four months ’til you get that,” Nobody wants that. The faster we can bring that to the customer — the more cleanly we can bring that to the customer, the better off we’d be. We couldn’t even get there though until we had the scale to make economic sense to own that part of the logistics infrastructure. So talk about the messy middle, I would say A, we’re somewhat in the messy middle still, and probably will be forever, but there was certainly a long period in there where we, the company itself, was doing well, but was not a brand name. The ultimate vision wasn’t clear and, I’m sure five years from now we’ll look quite different than we look today.
Audience Member: We’re here talking about disruption, the theme, and it got me thinking, how do you respond when disruption happens to you — and I’ll primarily put this one to Meghan but Charlie or Kate, feel free to jump in. Looking at Uber over the last 16 months, it seems like you guys have had some disruption that has come, and you guys have responded well, safety obviously, the implementation of your tip program, your drivers working with your competitor and it feels like, as a very heavy user of your product, you guys have responded exceptionally well and your agenda gets moving very quickly, it feels like on safety, you almost turned it to a positive. Could you talk a little bit about how does your company deal with rapidly responding to disruption?
Meghan Joyce: Yes, and I first want to thank you so much, not only for your business but also for the kind words. I wish I could say that we responded and pivoted and were as effective as I wish we were every time. I think it comes down to a couple things, to the extent that we have been successful and pivoting quickly and responding to disruption. One is, the best strategy in the world, we’ve found, only gets you so far, because a competitor can copy that pretty quickly. For us, over and over again, success has been about executing faster and better than anyone else in the market. And that gets increasingly difficult when you are the large player in the space, because you do have increasing investor expectations and budgetary needs and things like that.
I think for us, continuing to prioritize excellent, speedy execution has been absolutely critical, and it means that there’s gonna be some messiness along the way, and I was chuckling to myself thinking, “We are absolutely still in the messy middle, we’ve probably been in the messy middle since the day we started and will be for a while, and that means accepting some messiness internally, it means we’re not gonna have perfect budgets or perfect staffing models and we’ll make some blunders along the way. And frankly, we’re going to be a bit spikey in what we prioritize because our company is going to run after one thing really hard for a long time. I think it’s well known, this is what got us into trouble in 2017, we ran after growth almost single-mindedly for a really long time.
Then we realized that that meant we had deprioritized some other things like customer obsession and delivering on our promises, reliability and safety, as consistently as we wanted to. We have shifted our priority to that, and have poured an enormous amount of resources into making sure that we are executing as quickly and effectively on those priorities as we had on growth for so long. I think it really speaks to, for us, the value of excellent execution almost more so than having the perfect strategy every time.
Charlie Schilling: Yeah, I’d add actually, in a way, we’ve been disrupted by my friend on this stage. Which is, as companies scale, they inevitably turn to their own learning organizations to help develop talent, and we’re in that business, so clearly we’d like to partner in those ways. We were successful out of the gate with Wayfair, with other companies, and then have definitely seen a trend where companies will try to go do this themselves, and so that’s caused us to rethink how we approach the market, meaning not necessarily that we need to be the only provider across the entire value chain, but really focus on where we feel like we can make the difference. You’re only in business if you have a better product or charge less. We want to be in the better product business and focus on a limited number of areas where we think we can do that. You’ve always got to be listening, I think that’s so key. Especially I love that you guys think that you’re going to the middle, we would love to be in your middle. I think that ability to interact with your clients in a way that isn’t sort of a one or zero binary outcome, but that you can bob and weave along with your clients, is so important.
Rich Gardner: Thank you Meghan, Kate, Charlie and Pat. Thank you very much.
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