“Managing work-life balance, to me is about finding shortcuts. I don’t watch TV, I sold my car for Uber, I almost always order sushi for lunch every day, I often wear a black t-shirt and jeans every day.” — Marc Lore
I am personally a big fan of Marc Lore (the founder of Jet.com), I admire his entrepreneurial skills, and I always learn a lot from his interviews. I was super excited to see Marc doing an AMA (ask-me-anything) on LinkedIn.
You can find the full conversation in the comments on LinkedIn, but since I know we are all crazy busy before the holidays, I prepared highlights of the AMA with the questions and answers I found most interesting.
What categories of retail will benefit from e-commerce the most in the long run?
“I’d say food, specifically fresh. Categories like fresh food will be automated so the customer won’t have to order their items, they’ll just ask the retailer to always keep them in stock and then will get the product delivered straight into the fridge.”
“Pursue them. Taking on a job at a startup is scary because it’s high-risk. It’s important to acknowledge this, be empathetic to the individual’s situation and spend a lot of time investing in making them feel comfortable. It’s not going to happen in 1-2 meetings so you may write them off as not interested and not a missionary (http://bit.ly/2EgQfsT), but it’s usually the opposite. For example, with one of my hires I had to have 5-6 meetings before they decided to come work with me and they turned out to be an extraordinary missionary.”
“Hiring and retaining the right people is my most important job. I have an unofficial checklist that I use when interviewing— I’m looking to see if they’re smart, passionate, optimistic, tenacious, adaptable and kind. I call this the SPOTAK test. (http://bit.ly/2K8r23J)”
Which of your traits has had the greatest impact on your success?
“If I had to pick one, kindness, but a close second is a willingness to take risks and not be afraid to fail.”
Marc on what he has learned about leadership that he wishes you would have known earlier in your career.
“To be a really effective leader you don’t need to be as good as, or better than, the people you manage. You can get a lot more done by hiring people who are better and smarter than you and still get the respect.”
Large organizations vs. startups.
“It’s important to acknowledge that they’re different, but can learn from one another. For example, large organizations can behave like a startup by taking more risks and moving faster. Risk taking is the heart of a startup. Large organizations typically are more risk averse but they have wider portfolios that can weather a failure more easily. And to move faster, large orgs can push down decision making so people outside of leadership have authority. I talk more about this in an article I wrote here. From large organizations, I think startups can learn more about governance. Being a startup does not exempt you from being held to the same ethical standards as a large company.”
When to pivot your company.
“Building a business comes with selling a vision and having a strategy to execute against. And every day you receive new signals about what is and isn’t working. It’s important to take an objective look at the data and use it, even if it means dramatically altering your strategy. Jet.com first started as a membership model. At the time we were receiving signals it wasn’t working, so we pivoted to a non-membership model. It was a really tough decision that we knew would get a lot of scrutiny from investors, press and employees because it dramatically altered our strategy. I’ll never know if it would have been better not to pivot, but in the end, I think it was a good decision.”
How do you scale culture?
“Creating and maintaining a strong culture comes down to your mission and core values. And to scale culture, you need to ensure that every person you hire is a true believer in both. We started Jet with a mission to empower customers to shop smarter to save money, which inspired our core values of trust, transparency and fairness. Our decisions, whether that be in hiring or merchandising, aligns with our mission and core values. And it’s no different at Walmart, which is why we decided to sell Jet to Walmart. We had more things in common than not. I’m still so inspired by the way Sam Walton’s mission and core values have stayed central to the company through the years. It’s a true testament to what it means to scale culture. ”
Effective strategies for new direct to consumer brands.
“The first-mover brand in a category with high NPS and a real soul is hard to replicate. I think customers can separate the real brands from those copycat ones. I don’t think true brands are replicable so I do think you can create a real moat without other advantages. However, I do think you always need to be looking to improve the value prop. If vertical integration can help you lower prices for customers then I think that needs to be a priority. Lower costs are great but a competitor (especially a big one) can quickly nullify that advantage by just absorbing a higher loss and matching on price. The best moat is one that cant be crossed by simply charging a lower price.”
Marc’s biggest mistake/regret.
“Related to business, it was hiring a senior executive who was perfect in every way but wasn’t a good culture fit. I learned that finding someone who has the right values and traits is much more important than what’s on a resume.”
Data vs. intuition in decision making.
“Focusing exclusively on data to make decisions can get you into trouble. Data is effective in helping make short-term decisions, but much harder when making the right long-term decisions. For example, when recommending products on the home page of our Website, everyday essential items will almost always have a higher conversion rate than more discretionary purchases like apparel. This could lead one to the wrong conclusion that everyday items are a better use of that real estate when in reality you are not getting any incremental sales (the everyday essentials are just items that are frequently bought and would be purchased regardless of whether or not they were on the home page). On the flip side a low converting high margin apparel product could be adding much more incremental profit to the business despite the lower conversion rate. This is one example where intuition needs to be balanced with data in your decision making.”
Read or learn by doing?
“I don’t like to read because I prefer to learn by talking and learning from other people and then spending time reflecting and thinking on those conversations. A book is a single persons POV for several pages. It runs the risk of reinforcing something so many times that it creates these blinders. I’d rather get 100’s of snippets from many people and formulate something new, because I can ask questions and evolve my thinking in real time.”