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2 minute read / Mar 20, 2023 /

How to Build Your Startup like Google & Stripe

In late 2021, Office Hours welcomed Claire Hughes-Johnson, former Stripe COO & VP at Google. During that session, she alluded to a book sharing her expertise in building exceptional teams at two of the most successful startups.

That book, Scaling People : Tactics for Management & Company Building. is a book a management team could take to an offsite to develop or re-imagine the entire operating system of a business.

The book starts with a company’s founding documents, expands to the operating cadence, and culminates in the business’ operating system.

The founding documents include the mission which includes the founding story (the why), the long-term goals using McKinsey’s three horizons (the what), and the operating principles of the business (the how).

Rather than calling them values, operational principles ties the company’s beliefs of how work should be done at the business in a more tangible way than values.

Move with urgency and focus Our users entrust us with their money, their businesses, and their livelihoods. Millions of businesses around the world—individuals, startups, and large enterprises—are open for business only if we are. When we mess up, miss a deadline, or slow down, it matters. We take that responsibility seriously.

The operating cadence describes how & how often the management team reviews progress & communicates with the team. The section on accountability mechanisms illustrates how meeting agendas coalesce :

[E]ach Sunday night ahead of our standing Monday meeting, the Stripe leadership team shares snippets of key information from the past week, priorities for the upcoming week, and progress on action items. Much of the Monday meeting agenda is derived from those snippets.

Another segment emphasizes the importance of Stripe’s written internal communication. To paraphrase from an internal document written by Eeke de Milliano :

Writing is an equalizer; it provides everyone the same information. Writing leads to higher-quality thought because it forces attention to detail. Writing is efficient because it eliminates repeating oneself.

The operating system consists of the workflows to achieve the goals according to the cadence: recruiting, performance management, & compensation. Claire interlaces the book with questions to identify a good recruiter & her favorite techniques for evaluating how well a candidate learns.

Woven throughout the book are observations about management like : Great managers say the thing you think you cannot say & leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can absorb each of which provoke reflection.

Claire’s philosophy is about clarity. She provides lucid mental models to align teams to achieve great things.

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