After announcing some big changes, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, tells Inc. how a startup should prepare for fast growth and big change.
Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, a platform for creating and publishing online surveys, recently announced two big changes for his company: the launch of a new subscription model service called SurveyMonkey Enterprise and the opening of an office in London. But for the Palo Alto-based company, which employed only two people in its first five years and grew to employ 280 in the last four, big transitions are nothing new. To get a closer look at leadership in this time of rapid change, Inc.com talked to Goldberg about how entrepreneurs can prepare and manage transitions at their startups. Below is an edited version of the conversation.
How have you handled the challenges that come with this transition?
The most important thing is figuring out the right kind of hiring for your growth. Who are the people you're going to want to hire not just tomorrow, but three or four years from now? You want to grow into people.
Kind of like when you're a kid and your clothes are too big but your mom tells you you're going to grow into them. You want to grow into your team and grow into people. You don't want to hire someone that's exactly the right fit for that moment in time because you'll outgrow them very quickly.
How have you practiced that kind of hiring at SurveyMonkey?
We hired people who understood how to work in a small company, small team, startup-like environment, but also understood that we were already a pretty big business, and were going to scale fairly quickly. They should have experience in both of those things.
I looked for patterns early on for people who knew how to operate on a very small team or by themselves, and didn't need a large staff to get stuff done. But I also looked for people who had managed large numbers of people so we wouldn't outgrow them.
How has the recent expansion changed your job and attitude about being a leader?
I've learned to do the things I'm best at and not try to do everything. Then I find people who are really good at things I'm not good at, and I let them do their job. So I play to people's strengths and not their weaknesses. And play to my strengths and not my weaknesses.
What type of qualities should startups develop in order to reach your level of growth and maintain stability?
The hardest thing in a startup is hiring a mix of people. You think, 'Well I need experience--that's always what I need.' And often you do need experience in a startup, but the best thing to do is hire a mix of people where some of them have experience and some of them are just really great athletes. And that mixture is the best because those athletes grow up in your team, in your organization. They really live and own the culture. It's just a huge home run.
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