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Brett Hurt Bio
Brett is the co-founder and CEO of data.world, a data catalog company that co-created the Manifesto for Data Practices. Brett founded Bazaarvoice and served as CEO, leading the company from bootstrapped concept to almost 2,000 clients worldwide and through its successful IPO. Much of his early-stage venture investments are done through his own company Hurt Family Investments. Brett established the Bazaarvoice Foundation and is very active in the philanthropic arena. He received the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation’s Community Leadership Award in 2012.
Byron Reese: So, you have a new book out called The Entrepreneur’s Essentials.
Brett Hurt: I do.
You were kind enough to publish for free for everybody. Why did you write the book, and why did you decide to distribute it that way?
Yeah. So, as you know, I started a blog in 2012 after I “retired” from Bazaarvoice. I did that because I realized that I’d just gone through an incredible journey as an entrepreneur, culminating in an IPO with over a billion-dollar valuation, six years from inception of the company. On my 40th birthday – I actually turned 40 on our IPO roadshow – and I just thought, “How lucky am I to just have this experience?” I needed to capture, really, what I learned for my children, for myself, and for anybody interested, in a way that forces me to reflect on it.
The beautiful thing about writing that I learned from that initial desire to do that when I started my blog, is that you’re on a journey, too, as the writer. I know you’ve written books that I love. I love your books. When you start writing, you literally are on a journey. You don’t always know where you’re going. You know? You can have a thesis about what you’re writing, but these creative forces just kind of come in.
There’s this great book called The War of Art. Have you read that book, Byron?
It’s written by the guy who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance. This is his only non-profit book. He didn’t come into his own as an author until he was in his fifties, but he talks about that process of writing and how these muses come to your aid and give you all types of creative insight. That’s how I viewed writing. It’s been this really amazing journey.
So, I really just loved that I was getting to learn more by writing. You know, to attempt to teach is actually to learn yourself. I named my blog, as I think you know, “Lucky Seven” as a tribute to my mom, who, unfortunately, passed away seven years ago now. She passed away, unfortunately, very young, after my father passed away. She was just an incredible force in my life. I mean, she bought me my first computer when I was seven years old. I was the kid who was trying to take the Pong machine apart when I was four. So, I wasn’t just satisfied with playing Pong; I was trying to see how it worked. She thought that was weird.
I have memories of playing Pong. I don’t have memories of trying to take apart the machine at four, but I do have memories of playing it. But she thought that was very strange, in a good way, and she bought me my first computer when I was seven when she read an article about the first Atari coming out, and the fact that there was an option where you could get the basic cartridge with the plugin, keypad that plugs into the joystick ports, and program. She learned how to program with me. I became completely infatuated with that, and I did it over forty hours a week, from age 7 to 21. I went through the whole Atari line. The 400, the 800, the 1200, the XL, and the ST. I think they even had a 2400 before the XL. But, anyways, I digress.
Then, I ran through PCs, and then I eventually got on Macs. But I just became so passionate about that, and I realized that I was so lucky in several ways. One, for growing up in Austin, which was one of the few cities that would have supported that habit starting when I started, in 1979. What I mean by that is, my mom was able to drop me off at user group meetings when I was 10, and I’d get to learn from people like the Bitmap Brothers—you know, who became very famous video game creators later on in life, but they were much older than me.
It was just so cool that Austin had that kind of culture. I didn’t realize it as a kid that that was so lucky, but in hindsight, as an adult, I realize that.
The main thing that I realized, in terms of my luck, is that I’d found my passion at age seven, and I had a mom who would fight all the societal forces – including some of my teachers, who were telling her, her child was completely unbalanced and had no future, because all he talked about was computers. My extended family would say that during Thanksgiving. My third-grade teacher pulled my mom aside and said, “Your son’s going to be a loser in life. All he talks about is computers.” She was very offended. She didn’t tell me that until I was successful as an adult.
So, that’s why I named my blog Lucky7.io as a tribute to her – as a tribute to a superhuman person who believed in me from that age.
So, I started to write on my blog, and that lead me to this place of writing more and more things that I’ve learned, and being able to share more and more things in fundraising conversations. So, I started to invest in startups, and today my wife and I are investors in 77 startups, and 21 VC funds. [Editor note – Full disclosure, GigaOm is one of the 77 startups Brett has invested in]
So, you know. Here I was, making startup investments and trying to help entrepreneurs. I found that my writing was a great way to do it, because I would get asked questions like, “How did Bazaarvoice become the number one place to work in Austin?” You know, how did I create a culture like that?
I would say, “Well, it starts with hiring.” I said, “If there’s anything that made a massive impact in the Bazaarvoice culture is the way we hired,” and I would describe our hiring process.
Then, I thought to myself, “Well, why not I just write that down, since I keep answering that question over and over again? I’ll spend four to six hours writing it down in a much better way than kind of off-the-cuff talking about it.” Because, you know, sometimes you have good days and bad days, in terms of all the things you remember about that. So, I’m like, I’m going to really concentrate, write the best answer I possibly can—the most complete answer I possibly can for them—and then I would give shorter answers when I was asked that question inevitably again, and direct them to the blog post after the conversation. I’d say, “Here, just check it out on Lucky Seven. I spent five hours writing this, and it’s the best complete answer to your question.” They would come back and thank me.
So, I did that more and more over the years. It was our daughter, who – at age 13 – came out with her first book. Her dream, since age seven, was to be a writer. It’s kind of a cool story. She saved up to write a book since she was age seven. She saved up by selling jewelry—like, handmade jewelry that she made—at coffee shops. She accumulated enough money were, by the time she was thirteen and she decided she was going to come out with her own book, she was able to give 100% of her savings. She literally gave 100% of her savings to the illustrator of her book. He was an award-winning illustrator and has illustrated 80 children’s books. The illustrations in her book are just beautiful. It’s called “Guardians of the Forest.” You can only buy it via her website, which is guardiansoftheforestbook.com.
But, anyways, she achieved that. I thought to myself, “Okay. My daughter has achieved this goal and really inspired me and inspired others. She’s giving lots of public speeches about it. And here I am, with this blog that has a lot of utility to entrepreneurs.”
By the way, I had already gotten back into the arena to start data.world after trying on retirement for three years, but it was a very active form of retirement. I was very actively engaged with startups and the rest.
I thought, “I’m going to start packaging up the best of these posts—the ones that I know have gotten the most inquiry, have gotten the most comments, the ones that VCs and entrepreneurs alike have told me are the most important. I’m going to start to package these up in a book, and since I’m a couple of years into data.world, I’m going to force myself to reflect on how I’ve applied this to data.world and whether or not I’ve done a good job of it. I’m going to do it in a way where the whole team at data.world can follow along, where it’s a way of me teaching, as a CEO, on things that I wrote in terms of the best plays I ran at Bazaarvoice, and Coremetrics before, and judge myself in a way—very publicly—on whether or not I actually lived up to these at data.world.” I think that that recalls all good types of cultural conversations and company.
So, that was another forced reflection exercise. The reason I decided to make it free is very simple. When I read The Bootstrapper’s Bible by Seth Godin—it was the first book he ever came out with—he gave it away for free. He gave it away for free as a gift to entrepreneurs, because he had become a successful entrepreneur, and he felt like all entrepreneurs should have access to it. Money should not be the gating factor—the deciding factor—to buy it.
So, I did it because he did it. I did it because I had had a role model who had done it before, and had helped me unknowingly – I don’t actually know Seth Godin – I thought, “What a cool way to do it.” It’s all available online, on Medium, as you know, and you can provide a link to the table of contents. The Foreword is written by John Mackey, who’s an incredible entrepreneur. The founder and CEO of Whole Foods, and someone who’s been kind enough to mentor me for the past decade. The Afterword is written by Bob Campbell, who was actually my first boss outside of working for my parents. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I worked for them growing up. Someone who I always thought should either be the President of the U.S., or at bare minimum the governor of Texas, and is just an absolutely amazing leader. One of the most professional, ethical people I’ve ever met. He wrote the Afterword, which was a nice bookend to my career today because it’s literally how I started my career.
So, it’s all out there for free. The next step is to turn it into a print book. The only reason I’m going to turn it into a print book is because a lot of people have asked me to do so. They want to have a physical copy to be able to take with them. I actually think that the online book is a better product than the print book will be because the online book has lots of hyperlinks and videos and is much more of a Wikipedia-style resource than a print book will be. But I’m happy to turn it into a print book and do that for people if they would like it.
So, I’m proud that it’s out there, and I get a real high—a real helper’s high, that is—on people telling me how much they appreciate it, and someone like John Mackey actually reading it and then writing the Foreword and saying he wished he’d had it at the beginning of Whole Foods means a tremendous amount to me.
So, it’s a gift to hopefully help lots of entrepreneurs, not unlike I’ve tried to help them by investing in them and mentoring when they would like mentorship. When they would ask for help, I try to be a coach that really is a coach, not trying to run things for them. I’ve had bad mentors and good mentors. I learned from my bad mentors, so I try to be a good mentor or always couch things. I’m not running your company. This is just my opinion. Based on my experience, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of gray in life. There’s not much black or white. This is one man’s opinion, but it’s one I feel pretty strongly about, given my experiences. But, you know, I’m not going to judge you based on whatever you decide. I’m just here to help.
So, I always try to couch my advice in that way when I’m giving advice to an entrepreneur. As you know, being a CEO is hard work. Being a founder/CEO is very, very hard work. You need people that will believe in you and not be so judgmental when you talk with them.
So, that’s why I put The Entrepreneur’s Essentials out there.
My next question is how normative do you think the advice that you give is? Do you think it is your formula, or a kind of universal formula? I’m curious to what extent you tried to write a book which was about your journey, or were you trying to write a book that other people that apply, in general ways, to everybody else’s journey?
Well, it’s definitely a bit of both, but I do think the way we hire and the way we hired at Bazaarvoice and the way we hire at data.world can be applied to all companies. There are many right answers, but I have not heard of a better way yet to hire. I’ve talked with John Mackey, I’ve talked with many people that I respect, that have built best place to work-type of culture, high-performing cultures, and achieved great financial success.
One thing I write in the book is how to check references on board members and executives. One of the things I’m very transparent about in the book is that it took me learning from Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, to really figure out the best way to do that. I mean, when he spoke on that, we were both speaking at a conference: the First Round Capital CEO Summit. When he talked about the secret to checking references on board members and executive team members, I thought, “Oh my gosh. Why did I not know that?” You know? Why did I not know that? I made so many mistakes!”
So, the reason I wrote that is that, if you hire a board member that isn’t a great fit for you, or really has a bad background but you just didn’t know it because the headlines looked really good, or you hire an executive—they can do a lot more damage than a junior engineer can. But, the strange thing is, at almost all companies, the junior engineers’ references will be checked much more thoroughly than someone who comes in with a lot of panache and a lot of public fame. I mean, I’ve had some horrific board members in my past, and I can tell you that they get hired over and over again, and nobody calls me about them to check their reference. I’m just shocked. These people actually I know! I’m like, I can’t believe they didn’t give me a ring. How can they not give me a call? I’m not offended by it at all – not like I have some personal vendetta or something – but it’s just, like, it’s very common. The more panache an executive has in their background or a board member has, the less they will be vetted. Strangely enough, it’s true. Strange, but true.
So, I wrote that chapter because that can have a really big impact on your company, and Scott Cook ultimately gave the answer.
You know, part of the reason you put a book out there—and I’m sure you feel the same way to a large extent—is you actually want people to challenge you. I love on Medium when people comment on an aspect of the book and challenge something I said because I want to learn. I don’t feel like I have all the answers. I feel like I have some good answers to things that people struggle with a lot—that entrepreneurs struggle with a lot—and so I put it out there. But if someone has a better answer, I want to learn, because I want to apply that at data.world.
You know, I wrote a chapter of the book about how to form your company values. Here I am on my sixth business, and it’s the first one where I applied a technique that I learned about at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, and I think it’s the best technique to form your company values that I’ve ever come across. But it took me six companies to figure that out, and I didn’t figure it out in a vacuum. I figured it out because a CEO was speaking at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit and was kind enough to share an idea—that provocative idea. I thought, “Oh my gosh! That’s it! That’s so smart.” I tried it out at data.world. It was experimental, and it worked incredibly well, and that’s how we codified our values.
So, I’m on a journey like everybody else. I don’t feel like I have all the answers, but I do feel like I’ve got some good answers that have been beaten up through data, that have been A/B tested through multiple startups, and through startups that I’ve funded—that I’ve seen them apply things and seen how they’ve worked out. So, that’s all I wanted to share. I don’t feel like I have all the answers. I feel like I’ve got some good answers.
You know, humans have these cognitive biases that are well documented. They’re ways our reasoning is demonstrably false. Yeah. There’s a couple hundred of them. I think most of them, even though they are wrong for individuals, if you think about it they’re right for society. So, these cognitive biases actually confer a survival benefit to the group, I think. I wonder if entrepreneurship’s not like that, because most people are going to fail. Yet, most people who do it think, “Yeah. Most people fail, but I won’t.” So, collectively, they’re mostly wrong. So, I’m wondering: A, do you agree that entrepreneurs wouldn’t do it, by and large, if they really understood their chances of success, and B, who do you think should or shouldn’t be an entrepreneur?
So, the first part is, I actually wrote a chapter to address that. It’s called The Paralyzing Fear of Getting Started. You can kind of pair that with the chapter that’s on the fallacy of risk in entrepreneurship. So, a couple of things there. The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve met in my limited data set, but I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, are people that are very planful, that don’t metaphorically just jump off the cliff and build the wings on the way down. I think that’s bullshit. That kind of plot things out and think things through before they actually even start. But, I wanted to pair that with this paralyzing fear of getting started, because I wanted to share with the world, as part of my journey, that I was paralyzed with fear in the first couple of months of data.world. I wanted to share that because the people that know me, know what I’ve achieved as an entrepreneur. They wouldn’t believe that unless I shared it with them. Like, I could easily hide behind, in a way, my success, and not share things like that. You know, that could be something I only share with my wife or my closest friends.
I wanted to share it, because I wanted to say, “Look. I actually think this is the natural condition of most human beings that start businesses.” It really resonated with people. I mean, that really, really resonated with people. I think, in a way, the more you’ve achieved as an entrepreneur, the more you have to lose because there’s even…
Every time you start a business, you’re putting your ego out there. The more of public figure you are, the more you have to lose psychologically if your business fails. You know, everybody’s going to look at what Meg Whitman does next. Right now, you may know that she’s engaged in a streaming media venture that is going to face an enormous amount of competition when she launches. You know, from Netflix and Disney’s new streaming service, and on, and on, and on. But yet, she’s out there. She’s brave enough to do it. She’s brave enough to start it up from the beginning. But, she’s out there. Right? You’ve got to applaud that.
But I guarantee you that even Meg Whitman—I don’t know this for a fact, but I would be willing to bet money on it: that she has had some paralyzing moments of fear in starting that, because of how high-profile she was. She came into eBay and just turned it into an absolutely juggernaut, alongside a great team. So, you know, that’s the first part.
The second part, who shouldn’t be an entrepreneur, I am in no position to judge that. One thing that I learned at the Wharton School, when I was earning my MBA there. I was trying to get up my own gumption to be an entrepreneur. I attended every entrepreneurial presentation you could think of. I worked until three, four in the morning almost every single night on my businesses while I was in school to prove to myself that I could do it, and to try to find the big idea. That big idea ultimately turned into Coremetrics. That was a company that I launched when I was 26 and eventually sold for $300 million to IBM. That business, I wouldn’t have started, I don’t think if it wasn’t for all of the kind entrepreneurs who took time out of their schedule to fly into Philadelphia and speak to us about starting a business. I mean, it was many. It was many, many, many people that did that.
The one thing that I was trying to figure out when I saw them speak was, I was like, “What do they have in common?” Like, “What do they have in common?”
One looks like a school teacher. The other, you know, is Hispanic. This one is African American. This one is fat, this one is skinny, this one looks like a nerd, this one looks like a jock. Okay. So, what is it? They talk so differently. What do they have in common?
The only thing I could derive is that they were incredibly passionate and persistent. That’s the only thing that they had in common that I could figure out. One could be dumb—appear to be dumb—and one could appear to be very smart. Now, the dumb one might be a genius. I don’t know. But they talked in a way where I thought they were not very smart. But, they all were very successful and that was the only thing I was able to derive.
Whenever I’m looking to invest in an entrepreneur, I’m asking myself many questions. I have a chapter in the book on questions I’m asking myself. I’m asking myself many questions. That chapter in the book is called “The Five Key Ingredients to Build a Big Business.” But I’m asking myself, “Are they really passionate? Are they really persistent?” Because it takes so much willpower to build anything that, if they aren’t, then I’m probably…
I would say, if I know they aren’t, I’m definitely not going to invest. Right? So, that’s what separates them. It’s that person you meet who you’re like, “This person is on fire. They’re going to do something.”
I just invested in a business in Mexico City named Beek. The entrepreneur used to live here in Austin. Her name’s Pamela. She remembered me really well, because I had met with her at Capital Factory a few times.
She told me that I said this. I had forgotten that I said this, but she told me that I said this, and it sounds like something I would say. I had told her, “Pamela, I know you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur. I can tell. You’ve got the passion and you’ve got the persistence in spades. I just don’t know if it’s going to be this business.” I reconnected with her during the Austin City Limits Festival, and she had pivoted the business to something that was scaling incredibly well. She said, “I’m going to allow you to invest because I always made it a goal to have you invest. I don’t even have a round open right now.” And I invested because she had finally found the model and she had remembered the kindness that I had offered her, and the advice I had given her, and the blog post I had shared with her. That type of karma comes back to you, and now, you know, I’m in her company.
So, I would say a key ingredient must be passion and persistence, but the rest, you know. If they didn’t go to college, doesn’t matter to me. If they’re not technical, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s tech business with an asterisk. So, the asterisk on that would be that I’ll never back a company where there’s not someone in the company amongst founding, or the very early team—and I’m talking the first five people. There has to be someone there that has to effectively sell the solution. Someone there that can effectively service the solution. And someone there that can effectively build the solution. If I see an entrepreneur that is not technical, but has a technical idea, and they’re off-shoring everything to India to build V1, I just run away. Because that’s not someone that’s sharing equity with people that are going to run through walls when that thing crashes. So, there are certain rules that I have on that front.
So, what kind of reception have you had? Do you have any clue how many people have read it? And the book is kind of modular, or was written that way, so are people consuming just a chapter and there?
Yeah. Actually, I found out after the fact, I didn’t realize this at the time, but, you know, this is how Mark Cuban wrote his book. He started out as a blog and then packaged up the best of his blog into a book. I didn’t realize it. Then, I undoubtedly was influenced—although I can’t say consciously, because I didn’t remember this until after I wrote the book—but one of the most important books I read as a software as a service entrepreneur is Marc Benioff’s book Behind the Cloud, which is written as a series of plays. Almost like you’re calling plays as a coach. It’s just an absolutely brilliant book. So, it’s kind of set up in a way that you can jump in at any point in Marc’s book and say, “Okay. Well, I want to see how they handle customer success! Or I want to see how they handle marketing! Or I want to see how they took over trade shows!” And all the “crazy stuff” they did to compete with Siebel. You know, petitioning outside of trade shows, getting people to pay attention. The end of software and the rest of it. So, it was set up in a way that’s very much a modular way.
So, undoubtedly, I was at least unconsciously influenced by that, because an entire—I got the entire executive team at Bazaarvoice to read Behind the Cloud.
There are times where I’ll introduce a book to our company here, and say it’s required reading. Then we’ll have a discussion on it. I don’t feel comfortable doing that with my own book. I feel like it’s chock-full of insights about data.world, and I shared some of that on our Slack. I recently had a Lunch & Learn a few days ago, actually. I had a Lunch & Learn on my book and the process of writing the book and why I wrote it and some of the insights in it. I made that optional. So, not everybody in the company attended it.
So, I just don’t feel like if it’s something that I wrote that it should be required. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s humility.
So, how did you know when to stop writing it? Because, presumably, not every drop of your knowledge has been squeezed out of you. So, does that mean you’re writing another one?
So, the answer on writing another one is probably. I’ll probably handle it the same way. I’ll write on my blog for the next six years, and then package that up as I help more and more startups. Probably six years from now we’ll probably be at 140 startups, instead of 77.
So, that’s the answer to that. If I feel like it’ll have high utility to help entrepreneurs, I’ll do it.
The “how did I decide on where to stop” on this one. When I started the process of writing it in September of last year, I actually created an outline for myself that I felt like had some kind of logical order. You know, I talked about earlier that when you’re writing, you’re on a journey, and you don’t really know where that journey’s going. That is true, but I felt like, from a topical standpoint, I should at least have an outline for myself, where I knew that this is kind of how I was going to structure the book.
I ultimately structured it in a very simplistic way. It’s kind of a three-part. Part one is on founding. So, it’s chapters that I feel like are essential for someone considering founding a business, to consider. There’s one in there, for example, for middle-aged people that have never started a business or never worked for an entrepreneur, to consider, and center themselves with, because it’s going to be really hard. Most of those people will not be successful, because they pick up the phone and they work for P&G, and everybody’s going to salute them on the other end of the line. But the reality is and you’re the CEO of data.world and nobody has ever heard of it, that’s not true anymore, but that was true when we first started out. It’s hard. It’s hard to get anybody to care.
Like, I write about in the Introduction of my book that you have to go on this journey from irrelevancy—where nobody cares, except for you—to relevancy, or where your business becomes market-relevant, to the must-have. John Mackey really lays that out well in his Foreword, about how Whole Foods went on that journey to irrelevancy, to relevancy, to the must-have, as it transitioned from Safer Way, which almost nobody cared about, to Whole Foods Market, which became relevant to that eventually becoming a big movement and being bought by Amazon.
So, I have that section of chapters on founding. Then, the second section is on building. This is now, you’re already in it. There’s no going back. You know? Burn the bridges. You’ve started it. So, now you’re in it, and how do you build?
Then, the final section is on helping. I only have one chapter in that section, and I probably should have more, but I decided that it would just be one, and that’s one my lessons learned in angel investing. The reason I included that section is that, if you’re lucky enough to become a successful entrepreneur, then you may feel that you have a duty to give back to other entrepreneurs in a way that so many helped you before. Because, I’ve never seen, from my own experience, an entrepreneur become successful without lots of help and lots of people that believed in them. I’ve never seen one hero entrepreneur where it’s like, you know, somehow they become successful. They could even have “against all odds,” but there’s lots of people helping them along the way. So, I think that’s also a myth that needs to be busted.
So, anyways, that’s kind of the three-party layout. Yes, I did have in my mind that from the beginning. I did have it in my mind which blog posts would be incorporated. But then as I wrote the book, I found it…I waited until an idea comes to me, which typically happens through a series of lunch conversations with people we’ve invested in, or a VC meeting I’ve had where the lightbulb goes on where it led me to write a chapter that then becomes part of the book. Like, the Paralyzing Fear of Getting Started, that was not in my original outline. That was something where I was writing the book, and I thought, “I’m going to put out this blog post because most people probably have no clue that I also felt paralyzed, even though this is my sixth business. So, here’s how I worked through that. Here’s my practical advice for working through that paralysis.” Then, I’m like, “This has to be part of the book. It has to be in that chapter on founding.” I mean, that section on founding.
You mentioned that the entrepreneurs would come to Wharton and talk, and you would try to figure out what they had in common. And that got me thinking: There’s one kind of CEO that’s beloved by the people in the company, and they would walk through a wall for him or her. Then, there’s a CEO that’s a total jerk, and people are bound to that person by opportunism—which is also a powerful motivator. Right?
Right. It is. Yeah.
But nobody likes them.
Or is there, you think, an advantage to one of those? Is there a kindness advantage, being an entrepreneur?
I think that karma is a very real thing. You can look at karma as something that’s spiritual, or you can look at karma as the fact that we’re all just very social creatures, and we became successful human beings—homo sapiens—by the fact that we were natural collaborators. No matter how many wars we’ve had and everything else, and no matter how many horrific things have happened, the underlying motivation is one of collaboration. That doesn’t mean that you can’t also be competitive at times. Even when you are competitive, you are collaborating within a company to be competitive in a market.
So, I’m a deep believer in conscious capitalism. I served on the board of Conscious Capitalism. Data.world is a B Corporation, which is a for-profit corporation with a real strong public mission statement that is filed on record in the state of Delaware in our corporation documents, so that all of our shareholders know what we stand for and we publicly report on that.
I do agree that the Leviathan CEO can also be effective. Hobbes wrote about, the need for human beings to be controlled. It’s a very Hobbesian view to work for a jerk, where you’re just opportunistic. I don’t think that that is good for people’s psychological or physical well-being, nor do I think it’s good for the leaders. I feel like the leaders of that kind are the Al “Chainsaw” Dunlaps of the world. If you go in and just hatchet out everything and, you know, make a company much more profitable for a period of time. I mean, who talks about Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap these days? He was on the cover of Business Week and everything else in the ‘90s, I believe it was.
So, can they be successful? Yes. Is that the nature of humanity? No, in my opinion. But there are people who will take to counter that, and those people that will take the counter to that will undoubtedly be the Hobbesian-types of thinkers. They believe in the leviathan model. They look at someone like President Trump and the actions President Trump takes, and they’re like, “Yup. He’s a Leviathan leader, and that’s what we need.” I disagree. I am a leader that leads with love at my core. I’ve got that love because it was instilled in me from age seven by a mom who believed in me, against all societal forces trying to beat that out. So, it’s a big part of who I am.
I do think, if you look at the Fortune best places to work, from Raj Sisodia’s book, Firms of Endearment, which was something that he wrote either before or after he came out with Conscious Capitalism with John Mackey, but this is one of Raj’s books.
These companies dramatically outperform the stock market. Dramatically. They’re led by people who really care. You know? There’s no way you can have a great culture, be a Fortune best place to work, unless there are leaders there that really care about people—they really believe in the power of people. Firms of Endearment are about iconic leaders that really believe in the power of the people, and they’ve dramatically outperformed even the companies listed in that book Built to Last.
So, that’s a strong belief I have. It is based on some data. It’s not, you know…Being the CEO of data.world, I should have the canonical dataset on this on data.world. It actually may exist. I don’t know. I need to get on there and search really quickly. Someone else may have already uploaded it. I know people upload data sets on Fortune best place to work and things like that.
But, it’s a strong belief that I have that, in the short term, if you’re a Leviathan-like leader, you can leverage fear to generate short-term results. In the long-term, it always ends up making your life miserable and their life miserable. Nobody’s going to look back on their deathbed and think that was a beloved place. They’re going to think, “I made a ton of money. I provided for my family. I did what I had to do, as a dad or mom. But, boy, that sucked.” I just think that’s a waste of life. I have a very strong view on that.
That’s a perfect ending of the interview, and our time is up. But that’s a beautiful place to end it.