Frank Slootman doesn’t start companies; he builds them. No CEO has a better track record for turning the ideas of others into jackpots. On this episode of The Knowledge Project, Slootman dives deep into the no-nonsense, results-based strategies that have made him a leading executive, including how to approach the first 90 days after taking over a company, doing less and doing better, the difference between a good sales organization and a great one, how to get the best out of people, positioning yourself for future success, and more.
Slootman is the Chairman and CEO at Snowflake, a cloud computing–based data company. Prior to taking over at Snowflake in April 2019, Slootman served as the Chairman and CEO of cloud computing company ServiceNow. He has also spent six years as the President and CEO of Data Domain Inc., a venture-backed storage company.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
Performance is something that we will give more time; behavior we won’t. And that’s because behavior is a choice, not a skill set.
We constantly have conversations around prioritization. We can’t do everything, so we have to choose. Not choosing is the worst thing you can do because now you’re compromising everything.
Larger companies … tend to become their own worst enemies. It’s not what the world does to them; it’s what they do to themselves.
Where does ambition come from? It is a lack of adjustment because if you were a perfectly balanced person, you wouldn’t have any ambition. You’re so happy with where things are, you barely have a reason to get up in the morning. But maladjusted people, they just have this disparity between where they are and what they want to do and what they want to prove.
I like people that have attitude, that have a chip on their shoulder, that have a burning need and desire to prove something.
The thing about sales is that great salespeople can’t sell a bad product, but lousy salespeople can sell a great product.
I’d rather hire more slowly but better instead of faster.
“Legacy” is not a word that I use, okay? I find … a lot of self-absorption around that stuff, like I need to live beyond the grave. I really don’t need to, and I don’t want to feel so important that that’s even a question.
00:00 – Intro
00:59 – How to operate within the first 90 days of being at a new company
07:17 – How to establish trust in a performance-based culture
09:57 – On family-based organizations
11:22 – How to narrow focus with an organization
17:22 – How to fight bureaucracy
21:30 – How to prevent performance stagnation
24:52 – How to reward employees (besides money)
26:30 – Difference between good sales organization and great sales organization
30:05 – The relationship between sales and product
34:10 – How to determine where problems lie in an organization
37:10 – How an organization can position itself for success in the future
40:45 – Slootman’s thoughts on AI
46:58 – How Slootman handles mistakes
50:20 – On the difficulty of interviews
55:05 – What is success for Slootman