Counterintuitive Wisdom from Airbnb CEO: Slow down is actually wise
Recently I listened to the interview of Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO & Cofounder, on “On with Kara Swisher” podcast. I expected to hear the seemingly common topics these days — the hardship of running businesses in the recession and criticisms tech company faces these days — but this interview shared great wisdom that I didn’t expect from him. Among various topics they covered, the following insights feel very resonating with me.
- Problems with “Too Much Money”
Brian Chesky talks about the common notion that is widespread in the startup world, which is “The more money, the better.” He suggested people think of money like food. If you don’t eat enough, it’s not healthy but it’s also unhealthy if you overeat. If the company has too much capital, they don’t make hard choices because they become too cautious and conscious of investors. They pursue things too long when they shouldn’t. Plus, they have lack of constraints and lack of discipline. Therefore, the current slowdown in economy is an opportunity to reset the culture. He goes beyond the management to the change of people’s behaviors too. Taking the example of Airbnb when he started in 2008, he says he doubts that the Airbnb idea — letting strangers sleep at one’s home — would have worked unless people felt the need to make some extra money in the poor economic situation with financial crisis. Usually when the society is disrupted with this kind of crisis, we see a change in behavior and that could create a good condition for new ideas to get nurtured.
2. Slowdown is actually sometimes necessary
Airbnb laid off about 25% of workforce in early 2020 and postponed the much expected IPO. Brian Chesky shares how painful this was and it taught him and the teams at Airbnb to be more measured in hiring and running businesses, too, even when the business for Airbnb turned around and doing better than expected during the pandemic. Whereas many businesses such as Amazon overhired workforce during pandemic, sometimes 40% increase in some cases, he decided to not hire more than 10% of the existing workforce so that they could achieve what they need to achieve while not running the risk of forced downsize. Slowdown is sometimes actually necessary for companies to learn how to run in moderation with…