John Doerr on why HR matters for small businesses and entrepreneurs

John Doerr on why HR matters for small businesses and entrepreneurs

Setty: I’m excited to be here talking today to John Doerr, chair of Kleiner Perkins, one of the most famous and successful venture capital companies out there. John has been a part of Google
ever since its founding and has been a board member
all these years. We are gonna talk to him today
about people. Welcome, John.
Doerr: Thank you. Setty: Good to talk to you
today. When an organization
is fairly small, we often hear from folks that,
you know, I need to work on my product, I need to work on
my business idea, I need to work on other things,
and the people stuff, that can come later. Doerr: Yeah, no, it can’t, because how are you gonna
get that done? Well, the way you get it done
is with people. So I like to advise founders that the most important thing
they can do in building their business
is to recruit. And there’s no better recruiter
for an organization than the founder, the CEO,
or the leadership. To put a point on it, I say you
should get up in the morning, from the very start of the day, and recruit until you can make
no further progress. Ideas are easy; it’s execution
that’s everything. And it takes a team of people
to execute. Setty: So for some
of these entrepreneurs and small businesses, how would you have them think
about the recruiting part? Doerr: I believe that you should
put most of your resources into recruiting
really outstanding people. What comes to mind is
the founder Mike McCue. When he was building Flipboard,
his first hire was someone to head
his people operations. And his head of people
operations helped him find his technical co-founder,
so don’t defer. Fill that position early. The next, then, is,
as early as possible, try to get clear
on what the culture is… Setty: Yeah.
Doerr: Of your organization, because, as we know, there’s a very strong and clear
culture at Google, I think. Google’s culture
is probably as valuable as the URL. Culture will allow your team, your people,
your self to make the right decisions
more often and faster. Setty: So there’s
this perception that perhaps People Ops is all about
the systems that we use, the technology, the processes. How do you, again, think
about that issue? Doerr: Oh, People Ops is not
an applicant tracking system. People Ops ought to be at
the very fiber of the being of a team. When I sense that’s the case, then I’m more inspired,
more willing to take risks as an investor, to say,
“That’s a team that’s gonna– “it’s gonna get its stuff done. I want to back them.” Setty: So as you follow
the evolution of organizations like Amazon or Google, what are some of the big pivot
points that you have seen that have helped
these organizations scale? Doerr: Hmm, the most important
decisions they’ve made are who are the key leaders
in their team? For example, Larry and Sergey’s
decision to hire Omid Kordestani strongly
affected the culture of Google, as did the decision
to recruit Wayne Rosing. They helped define the culture
of the company and they themselves
then led efforts to recruit hundreds of people
who define the culture. One of the most
frequent errors is people hire their friends to
work for themselves and they all come
from the same company and so there’s no diversity
and it’s a monoculture. Diverse groups make
better decisions. Setty: So this is about
the people issues at any organization. How would you think
about measuring how well that is going? Doerr: Measures matter
enormously. There’s a whole range
of choices you can make depending on where you
believe your people are. What are your goals with respect
to diversity? I strongly believe,
if you don’t begin in building an organization with
measures of how diverse you want your engineering team
or your overall team to be, it’s very hard to catch up
with that. Do you want to measure
your success in hiring? Do you want to measure their
performance against the goals? Do you want to measure their
satisfaction with the culture? To have a people operation
that’s not metrics driven is probably to have
a sloppy people operation, an ineffective people operation, a people operation
where we’re not clear on what really matters. The People Ops– leadership, function,
and agenda– holds the soul of
an organization in its hands. Cherishing that culture,
investing in it, celebrating it
is what allows organizations, teams, and individuals
to do amazing things. Setty: Thank you, John,
for sharing your wisdom, for helping guide Google
all these years, and for personally being
such a champion of our people and our culture.
Thank you very much. Doerr: Thank you.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

1 Comment

  1. A calm and insightful rendition on the value of HR to businesses of all sizes and location on the business cycle. People, their versatile and varied mix of competencies essentially operationalize a company's edge and capability to be profitable. Businesses at all levels need to be well equipped with such capabilities at all stages of the business life cycle if their ultimate goal is to have meaningful success…

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