Venture Capitalist at Theory

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3 minute read / Feb 3, 2022 /

Intensity Oozes from these Pages

I remember the first time I spoke with Frank Slootman. Beforehand, I read his book Tape Sucks, watched some of his videos on YouTube, and read his blog posts. After few minutes, I couldn’t deny his unique passion for growth and scale.

I called him on a Sunday in the summer. Frank told me most companies don’t focus enough; that there’s only one priority for him: growth. He said if he were to join a startup’s board he would push the business very hard - very, very hard. The company and the board needed to sign up for exactly that.

Each sentence he uttered felt like a bullet and I was dancing. On the other end of the phone, he was relaxing aboard a yacht that had won a major race.

Frank’s new book Amp It Up evoked the same feeling as our conversation. The book is part personal history, part management philosophy, all intensity.

In a section called “Hire Drivers, Not Passengers and Get the Wrong People Off the Bus,” which talks about employees either taking ownership of projects with ambition and energy (drivers) or passengers who are largely dead weight because they don’t mind being carried along by momentum, he writes:

“Whenever I bring up this notion of drivers vs passengers at an all-hands meeting, I can see it makes some people uncomfortable…At one such meeting, an engineer raised his hand during the Q&A session and asked innocently: ‘How do I know if I’m a passenger or a driver?’ My flippant answer was that he’d better figure it out before I did.”

In another section, Slootman writes. “Leaders set the pace. People sometimes ask to get back to me in a week, and I ask, why not tomorrow or the next day?”

The book champions the idea of accelerating execution pace. In fact, it argues great execution is rarer than great strategy.

Instead of telling people what I think of a proposal, a product, a feature, whatever, I ask them instead what they think. Were they thrilled with it? Absolutely love it? Most of the time I would hear “It’s okay,” or “It’s not bad.”

Those three examples capture some of the forceful drive in Amp It Up. But the book is more than another take on leadership in the style of Navy Seals lieutenant commander and instructor Jocko Willink.

Embedded in the book are contrarian perspectives on the role of customer success within a team; the proper way to incentivize a sales team with usage-based billing; and how management meetings skip a critical step in decision-making.

Amp It Up oozes intensity, a belligerent desire to win, and absolute ambition. No more credible person could deliver such a message than a CEO who has led three of the most iconic companies to massive success in the last 20 years.

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