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As part of a new series Comparably has in partnership with Entrepreneur, entitled “If I Knew Then: Leadership Lessons,” I have the privilege of hosting virtual fireside chats with high-profile CEOs of major brands, from Waze and Blue Apron to NerdWallet and the Dallas Mavericks. During our one-hour sit-downs, I ask these incredible leaders to share invaluable lessons that they learned on their path to success, as well as practical career advice they would give other entrepreneurs.
For the series’ fifth episode, I had the chance to catch up with the CEO of a company I have admired since it came onto the scene in a big way 16 years ago: Austin, Texas-based Indeed. It’s hard to believe that when Chris Hyams joined the company in 2010, there were only 130 people on the payroll. Now they have 10,000 employees in 30 cities and 16 countries around the world. As the No. 1 job search platform, more than 250 million people use Indeed each month to search for jobs, post resumes and research companies in over 60 countries and 28 languages. The site delivers three times more hires than any other job site. It’s an amazing story and pretty rare to meet people in life who are both thoughtfully humble and incredibly successful — but that is who Hyams is. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years and, frankly, learned even more during our conversation.
Prior to his appointment as CEO in April 2019, Hyams oversaw two different departments within Indeed. He joined the company in 2010 as VP of product and was responsible for technology strategy and innovation. Five years later, he became president and assumed additional responsibility for the company’s revenue growth and client success. Before Indeed, Hyams was founder of technology platform B-Side and VP of engineering at Trilogy Software.
The career he’s had is an ideal one for the business world: Overseeing different functions at multiple companies, then ultimately growing within an organization he believed in while it became a global success. Along the way, this leader learned a lot about himself and how to run a large company. Here are the top eight highlights from our conversation:
1. There’s no magical formula for success that works every time
A successful company is like a perfect storm. It’s having the right idea at the right time and getting to the right 10 people. Five- and 10-year success plans are subject to the whims of fate that are busy creating other successes elsewhere.
2. Much of what a leader comes to rely on is scar tissue
Humility remains of utmost importance. Understanding and embracing personal mistakes keeps you humble. The greatest soil for personal growth is made of the things that you mess up on badly but are willing to look at honestly.
3. You don’t have to be the best at everything
Hyams says it was in his nature to always strive to be the best at everything, however, he came to the conclusion in his 30s that it was impossible. Soon after, he realized that what he was excellent at is recognizing great ideas from other people and nurturing that talent.
4. Rather than “designing for failure,” be more open and experimental
Most of the time, people aren’t good at predicting the future. Only one-third of good ideas that a company runs with will find success. The other two options are “no impact at all” or “negative impact.” Try a lot of things, and as long as you stop doing the ones that aren’t working and put more investment into the kind of stuff that is, you’ll be onto something.
5. It’s important to have some anchors that won’t change, because everything else likely will
Find things about the company that are going to be true 10 years from now, 50 years for now, and – in Hyams’ words – “when robots are running the world.” For Indeed, that meant keeping its original mission of helping people get jobs top-of-mind in all decision-making.
6. Don’t regret the decisions you’ve already made
Hyams says he’s seen enough science fiction movies to know that if you have a time machine, it’s always dangerous to try to change the past. He wouldn’t want to rob himself of any of the things he experienced, because it was important to have learned those lessons earlier in his career than at the scale Indeed has reached now.
7. Don’t let fear of failure lead to rigidity
People get into trouble when they’re too rigid. Find a balance between conviction (which is good) and certainty (which is usually not so good). It can drive the people you love the most crazy. It’s important to remember that this is a long game you’re playing. Hyams says: “Successful entrepreneurs can be very tunnel-vision-focused, and [they have to remember that] these things take a long time. It’s not a marathon. It’s like multiple marathons.”
8. The two patron saints for entrepreneurs are Don Quixote and Mr. Spock
Successful entrepreneurs need to have a combination of both in their makeup. Nobody would do anything differently if people didn’t think they had a better way of doing something. That’s Don Quixote. But then at least once a week you need to get off the horse and be totally rational when looking at the hard facts and deciding, “Is this working or not?” That’s Mr. Spock.
For the rest of our talk, watch the full webinar. Hyams has some fascinating ideas about how the job market will work in the not-too-distant future, including a scenario where a candidate might go from noticing a job is open to talking to an HR rep from that company on the same day.