I STEP INTO TRENCHES AND … FAIL
We were short-staffed a few weeks ago, so I temporarily stepped into our referral manager/lead taker role, and … failed 😊. I pre-approved people based on outdated guidelines; I was unable to enter all of the data in our Salesforce CRM; and I quickly got buried with all of the demands. But most importantly, I discovered how exceptionally difficult the role is, reminding me again of how important it is for managers to work in the trenches from time to time.
I thought of this recently when I listened to an excellent How I Built This podcast with Tony Xu, the founder and CEO of DoorDash. For those of you who don’t know, DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service that was founded in 2012 and is now worth close to $4 billion.
DoorDash’s founder, Tony Xu, is as interesting as DoorDash itself. When he was a young boy, he moved from China to middle America where he was one of the only Asians in his school. He learned English by watching TV and he took his name from the star of the 80s sitcom “Who’s the Boss,” Tony Danza.
When Mr. Xu moved to San Jose, CA from middle America as a freshman in high school he was delighted to find out that there were lots of other Asians in the world, but very disappointed to find out that his middle American education had left him two years behind his San Jose peers. Despite that handicap, however, he not only caught up with his peers, he ended up as his class valedictorian.
Mr. Xu came up with the DoorDash idea with several friends while he earning his MBA at Stanford. In order to learn the business, Mr. Xu and his friends all got menial jobs at firms that specialized in deliveries, like Domino’s and UPS.
MANAGERS IN TRENCHES
When they finally launched DoorDash, Mr. Xu and his fellow-founders were the only drivers the company had. And now that the company is well established and worth billions, Mr. Xu and his friends still occasionally make deliveries b/c they know how important continued experience in the trenches is.
I love that lesson and have blogged about it several times. I often tell a story about a friend of mine who graduated from a prestigious MBA program and got a job at Chevron, and they made him pump gas for three months before he started his office work b/c they wanted to make sure he fully understood the business he was in.
PROGRAMMING MINUTE DETAILS
The other interesting thing about DoorDash is the crazy attention to detail that they have to work into their logistics and coding. They work with several hundred thousand restaurants, and each one has specific logistics issues. The example Mr. Xu uses in the podcast is the Cheesecake Factory on the 9th floor of the Macy’s building in Union Square in San Francisco, where everything has to be mapped out including where to park, which elevator to ride, where to get drinks, and where to pick up food.
I found this inspiring, as we often get bogged down trying to systematize minutia at JVM to create efficiencies and prevent mistakes from recurring. The podcast reminded me that we are not alone and that the effort is worth it.
In any case, whether you are building out a team, a business or even one-person operation, I highly recommend this fascinating and inspiring podcast.
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