Last week, two high-profile CEOs stepped down. Both had markedly different styles and attitudes.
Steve Jobs has had a history of running a giant corporation like Apple with the nimbleness and innovation of a startup. Schmidt’s approach as the CEO of Google can be best summed up in his somewhat condescending 140-character burst on the day he left, “Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!”
Well, I can take or leave adult supervision. But I know this much. Every startup CEO would want a person with a Steve Jobs-like mindset on their team.
Sure, both Jobs and Schmidt are experienced leaders. But there’s a big difference between the two men, especially when viewed through the lens of a startup.
There’s good experience, and to state it bluntly, there’s bad experience. And when choosing their leadership team, every startup should learn to tell the difference between the two. It’s not easy. The former is incredibly difficult to find. The latter is as commonplace as the Times New Roman font that is used to list accomplishments on wordy resumes.
Good experience doesn’t dwell on past accomplishments. Instead it uses the knowledge gained from that experience to change the established order of things. Good experience is Roger Federer changing the entire approach to his game even after winning sixteen Grand Slams, so that he can keep up with the younger players. Good experience is Sachin Tendulkar cutting out the risky shots over point and instead resolving to play only in the V (look it up). Good experience is scrappy. When it gazes back on history, it moves quickly over Sonny Liston. Instead, it chooses to rest its eyes on Ali, and marvel at the ability to adapt quickly with a variety of new strategies – be it trash talking, adopting a rope a dope style or pulling off the superhuman feat to cause a most resonant rumble in the jungle.
When we started Pontiflex, our leadership team had decades of experience in banner and search advertising. But it didn’t matter. That’s not why they were selected to be part of our start-up. What was more compelling was that they saw the limitations of banner and search advertising when it came to helping online marketers achieve their goals, and how these limitations could be overcome by coming up with the next new thing.
Bad experience rests on its laurels. Bad experienced feels entitled – I am, so I deserve. Bad experience touts its expertise in the tried and tested way of doing things. And while there are many reasons to launch a start-up – doing things the way they have been done is definitely, absolutely, certainly not one of them.
As with any startup, we’ve had our share of rocky times especially in the beginning. During those times, people counseled me to hire people with impressive credentials on their resumes. But more often than not, I found myself passing them over.
The people that didn’t make the cut were content with their past, and thought that it could inform all their future achievements. Those that did make the cut were to put it in one word, restless.
It speaks volumes to Larry Page’s vision that his primary goal is to make Google like a startup—nimble and soulful. Much in the same vein, at Pontiflex, we want to hire people with enough courage to dream up new ideas and believe in their vision. And when the ideas become old, they should have the ability to change their path, without losing that belief, that resourcefulness.
So if you want to work at Pontiflex, you don’t need to be the CEO of Google, have attended an Ivy League school or invented the moonwalk (though that might help). We’re more interested in your ideas, and what you can do – not what you’ve done. We are always open to hearing what you have done. But we are more interested in what it really is that you plan to do. So if you want to spend all of the interview talking about how you have 20 years of experience in so-and-so, and how you started this and that, save it. We don’t care.
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