Francois Mazoudier is the Chairman and Founder of TMRW. Here he talks about what investors are looking for in a business, how to build a great team and the best business advice he has ever been given.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever got and from whom?
The best piece of business advice is that despite what people say, an outstanding overnight success in technology takes 10 years. Consider that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about doing the right things early on and doing them in the right order instead of running around frantically and leaving a trail of debris. Scaling a business is hard, but losing a business because of mis-scaling is devastating. So every decision counts, and as the CEO, it’s all on you..
What is the one metric you always trust?
That’s a very difficult one, every business is different, so I’d say metric I could apply and trust across the board is profit, because you can only lie about profit for that long and that’s how the capitalist society values any business. Saying that Bill Gates eradicating malaria – think about it. No profit, but enormous value. So it’s not about size, it’s not about the number of users, clicks or impressions and other vanity metrics, it’s all about good basic principles for business. And sadly today it’s becoming more and more of a rarity to find companies that focus on that.
As an investor, what are you looking for?
So, number one is definitely the quality of the team, but that’s too generic, so to qualify I would be looking for a diverse team; I don’t want to see three programmers from the same university or sales guys from the same company or brains from the same MBA. You need to show diverse smarts, cultural backgrounds because any product must work on a worldwide basis from day one; so the mixture of farmers, hunters, introverts and extroverts etc is something I value.
Number two is focus. You can call it execution, which is usually the result of focus. You have too many things to do, not enough resources and never enough time, people or money.. So you have to make very hard choices and just do a few things very well and very quickly. And that’s typically a very hard thing to do, so it boils down to the team being competent and focused.
Number three is somebody that understands the true market value of what they are building. I see more and more feature companies (selling a feature, not a business) and copycats (“UBER for X”). I need to see strong tech applied to a large market that’s poorly served, not a product feature.
How do you work smarter, not harder?
Hire the best people you can find and afford. And continually chopping the list of to-dos, moving away what is urgent, from what is truly critical. You need to do that every day. ‘Cause there is always something new that will be screwing up your original weekly plan! Honestly, I am not sure that I’m the right person to ask that question, I’m still working all the hours I have, and then some, so I’m no great example. Yet!
How do you keep your team motivated – giving their best performance?
Motivation is the combination of several factors. The first one is having a purpose. You get paid roughly the same thing whether you go to that company or that company. And within the same job titles, you roughly own the same. So, what is it that drives people to jump and takes risks, and join smaller companies with a higher financial risk, less people, longer nights of work? I believe it’s purpose, liking something the company does. So, finding people who share the overall vision and long-term mission of building something pretty cool. Otherwise, they’re unlikely to do their best.
The second thing is the mix; you need a team that is varied (age, sex, race, backgrounds) and people who like each other’s presence, are open to challenges, share / own mistakes openly and fight for their cause. Strong feelings and passion is good for a team to bond.
Number three for motivation is to try and remove any fixed structure. No fixed schedule, meeting times, environment, times to work etc. Good people structure themselves in different ways, and as long as they produce the expected results, who am I to force the environment? Unless you hire the wrong people, people self motivate as a team once they have a clear mission/direction, the resources and support they need.
How do you see the future of work?
Fully integrated into everyday life – maybe too integrated, which is sad; your job should not define you, but it does for so many people who don’t have much else outside of work – focused around highly specific skills, or rather shortages of them, short-term project-based contracts, not lifetime employment. For example, I need an excellent online acquisition marketing guru, but I only need him/her for the first six months, after that, I can run most of the campaigns and budget controls he’s built using a cheaper, more generalist staff. I need an amazing copywriter but then the website doesn’t need him on the payroll. So we’ll buy more and more short-term skills and the rest will become automated and robotized wherever possible.