The Final Answer of What Made Slack Successful


Slack is one of the fastest growing startups ever. It blew up within its short 2 years of existence, which is amazing considering that it is a SaaS startup. So, it hasn’t been a surprise that people have been analyzing what made it so successful.

First, there was the Slack’s $2.8 Billion Dollar Secret Sauce article by Andrew Wilkinson of Metalab – the design agency that helped Slack founder, Steward Butterfield turn his code into Slack’s fun product. Obviously, this one concludes that the design is what makes the startup successful.

Then, there was the Slack’s Design is Not Secret Sauce article by a competing designer, Matt Bond. He concludes that it is a mix of design, product, timing, team and marketing – basically, they got lucky.

Even better, the Slack founder posted about his own experience, concluding that their team focused on education, feedback, customer happiness and metric analysis in order to drive success. However, I have my own views and they really come down to three reasons:

  1. Social Pressure

If you don’t follow Slack all the time, then other people will reference or know stuff on Slack that you don’t know about. Within companies, where it is very important to inform yourself about what’s going on – you need to stay on top of things for your position and future ambitions. There is an intense social pressure to follow Slack and post to Slack 24/7.

  1. Addiction

You have to follow Slack at all times, resulting in unconscious stress because you might miss something. Slack is basically as important as an email.

  1. Single Source of Information

Because of my first two reasons, more information is going into Slack and your team is heavily invested in it. Now, there is no way to escape it – Slack is a part of your company and its culture.

This is why their business model is brilliant. It is based on historical messages – the limit is 10,000 messages and then you have to start paying.

The means that if you don’t check Slack enough, which would put you in social isolation, there is no way to see a conversation ever again and save you from that isolation. Remember, the more people in your company, the faster you reach that 10k message limit.

For example, if each person in your company is posting like 100 messages a day, and your team is made up of 100 people in total, you already need to start paying to avoid social isolation. Before you know it, half the people are missing conversations, find themselves socially isolated, and you start paying licenses because your internal communication and company culture just fails.

Brilliant. Well done, Slack.

How to Motivate Your Team

Success is built on motivation. Think about it, our best relationships are not with people who supply the best product, the most knowledgeable or even whom we have known for the longest. We actually have the strongest connections with people that share the same motivation and focus as us.

We have all hired “perfect” candidates, only to see that they aren’t as driven to work hard as the rest of your team. Sometimes you spend a long time looking for the right service provider and then are let down when the deal is closed. We even invest hours to help our loved ones, but are let down because they are reluctant to take action.


So why does this mismatch occur? I think that the problem is that humans love to conform. When someone asks us a question, we give them the answer that we want to hear. What we need to change is our ability to screen others more accurately by getting deeper – to find out what really motivates them.

Get the full picture – because sometimes we only see people the way that we want to see them out of our own desperation. We focus on what we want out of the relationship and concentrate our conversations in a limited area. However, humans are complex and there are multiple factors that play a part. Motivation can stem from families, financial situation, desire to fulfill a dream or just to prove someone wrong. We are all different and that is why you need to take the time to explore the possible areas of motivation for each person.

Actions speak louder than words – so when you ask people what motivates them, they might not have an answer. You are asking the wrong question. Ask them what their best memory is – an achievement, happy moment, inspirational time? This is a good starting point to see what exactly is most important to that person.

Get them to relax – adrenaline can get our hopes up to make a good impression, regardless of whether it meets our own essential needs. Truth comes out when their guard is put down and you can have a more transparent conversation. You don’t want to talk to their “game face,” you want to talk to them. Get there by making it recognizable that you’re putting down your guard as well.

Try this with each of your team members so you go into 2016 stronger than ever.

LinkedIn’s New Feature

LinkedIn has nearly 400 million users all around the world, networking for everything from advice to new careers. They are well known for using algorithms to suggest these potential business connections and jobs based off of the information in your profile. However, now LinkedIn is using more data analytics for a new platform – job listings.

Now you can see more data about the company, who works there and how your application compares to previous applicants. You can even see who in your own network is connected to people in the company and connect to those in between. When is this rolling out? The new look will be available to about 10% of LinkedIn’s English audience today to people in the U.S., Canada, India, the UK and Australia. LinkedIn will be expanding this feature into other international regions early next year.

LinkedIn had recently made a huge improvement to their recruitment products so these revamped job listing are the perfect compliment for anyone that is looking to hire – great use of their wide database. I would imagine that they were thinking that creating a better job-hunting experience could pay off to more use in the future caused this development. There are dozens of places to look for jobs online so they seem to have a clear understanding that they need to go above and beyond basic capabilities in order to stand out.


Obviously, certain features will only be available in their Premium package. This includes more insights about the company and wider hiring policies such as the company’s growth rate, average tenure, top schools and companies it hires from, etc. The only thing that I’m not sure about is if employees have the chance to opt in to be listed in job postings or if LinkedIn or maybe even the employer will manage it. Either way, it sounds like the Premium package gives you access to really good information to help determine if you are a good fit before even having to go about the hassle of applying.

I think that it is smart of LinkedIn to use its strength in big data to build out a stronger platform. These features will only increase the usage of its services, resulting in an increase of revenue. Who knows, maybe next year the “Who’s viewed your profile” and “Who’s viewed your posts” will be revamped as well!

The Unlimited Vacation Policy – Should We Try It?

Netflix has let their employees take off as many vacation days as they’ve wanted for the past decade. That means that they have the freedom to decide when to show up for work, when to take off and how much time it will take them to get the job done. Since instituting this policy, Netflix has grown its market cap to over $51 billion.


Employees do have to keep their managers in the loop and are expected to perform at a very high level. Instead of micromanaging how people get their jobs done, the leadership focuses on what really matters, the results. They found that when they give people greater autonomy, they create a more responsible culture that results in more focused and productive employees.

Let’s take a look back at history. When people used to stand on the assembly line from 9 to 5, paying for their time made sense. However, with advances in technology, people work when work needs to be done – wherever they are. “After hours” doesn’t really exist anymore.

Today, we operate in a participation economy where people are measured by what they produce. For some reason, we are still clinging to the vestiges of the industrial economy when it comes to time off. This is a huge demotivator and Netflix wasn’t actually the first company to realize this – it happened in Brazil.

Semco has been offering unlimited vacation days for more than thirty years. It happened after a health scare to Ricardo Semler when he was just 21 and the son of the company’s founder. He realized that his current schedule was slowly killing him and that it could do the same to his employees. He got rid of schedules, sick days and vacation days. What happened? His employees thrived – becoming more productive and fiercely loyal. The company thrived too, climbing from a $4 million company to over $1 billion.

Even these unlimited vacation policies have been successful, less than 1 percent of U.S. companies have implemented them. Besides the workaholic culture, American companies aren’t legally required to give any paid time off at all, even though it is mandated in many other countries with up to 28 paid days off per year.

Employers may be afraid that their employees will take advantage. However, time after time the opposite seems to be true – some people end up taking no vacation at all because they develop such a strong sense of ownership and accountability.

What kind of vacation policy does your company have? What would you prefer?

Everyone is Too Busy

Being busy is the new humblebrag. It starts at work, but it also extends to family and personal activities. People that categorize themselves as busy think that doing so makes themdownload (1) in-demand or praiseworthy. They need to re-evaluate.

There is pressure at work, home, school, events, volunteer opportunities, friends, family – it all drives us a bit crazy. As you read that sentence and saw something in your own life for each of them, you probably thought, “How am I going to fit all of this in?” That is the sign that you are too busy.

At different times in our lives, there are different priorities. Some stay and some go. However, from time to time, it is very important to evaluate your schedule to prevent you from becoming too busy.


Over-committing is the quickest way to get yourself off-course from achieving what you care most about right now. Don’t put anything else on your to-do list. Take a step back from everything – you need to gain clarity. Do what you absolutely must for a week and cut everything else out.


After you have slowed down and caught your breath, you are ready to evaluate your current state. Time management is a zero-sum game. The only way that you can fix a broken schedule is by making sense of where you currently stand. Write a list of where and how you are spending your time. Then, write down everything that is on your mind, your schedule and weighing you down.


Now it is time for a fresh start. What is the most important task for each day to get closer to your goals? What do you value most? In essence, ask “why” you do each thing instead of “what.” Using the list that you just made above, circle or underline five items that are the most important and the five activities that contributed the least to your objectives.


Once you know what matters most, you can get going again with less weigh on your shoulders. Start each day with confidence involving what you will accomplish and why. Remove events that don’t align with your high-level goals. Only add obligations that have a clear connection to what is most important.

There is no need to humblebrag about how busy you are. Find the joy in each day and appreciate your life.

4 Steps to Lead Effectively

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell


The fact of life is that we all have to lead at some point. Some are pushed into authority position whether they like it or not, some are required to lead as their daily duties and some are looking to lead to promote ideals and guide others to values that they feel strongly about. There are so many ways that we need to be leaders and it doesn’t have to be scary, I’ll tell you how to lead a team without becoming the manager that everybody hates.

  1. Set an Example

Think about when someone asks you for directions. You can write step-by-step directions, draw a map, or even provide details such as landmarks. Or you could simply say, “Follow me.”

Value statements and culture decks are not effective, especially not the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ sentiment. These respect and integrity lines don’t mean anything if you turn around and curse a member of your team out.

The point is, show people what you believe in and they will naturally follow.

  1. Be Humble

Think about two scenarios. In the first, a boss makes a mistake and refuses to admit it, blaming someone else. In the second, a boss recognizes the mistake and admits it, learns from it, done. Which boss would you rather work for? Exactly, the second because owning up to mistakes inspires respect. No body is perfect so don’t be afraid to ask your team for help. This will humanize you to your team and create an environment that everybody feels that they can learn from each other.

  1. Praise Sincerely

Authenticity is key – DO NOT just go through motions to check people off of a list. Be specific when telling someone how and why you found their actions to be so beneficial. The overall goal is to instinctively recognize and appreciate efforts of others and to communicate that appreciation consistently. I believe that praise and recognition can be inspiring, so don’t skip this one.

  1. Learn to Listen

No one has ever learned anything while speaking. So, listen to your employees and stay in touch with the reality of your company. You will begin to become aware of new problems much quicker and understand how your people are dealing with them.

Remember, what is important to you is important to them. Your voice carries more weight because it is based on reality.

Being a ‘leader’ is just a title. We all lead, so focus on leading effectively by paying attention to these simple steps. I promise you that you will have results that you are proud of.



Interns – Our Disruptive Innovators

“Compared to other generations, millennials tend to be more collaborative, are accustomed to working in teams & have a passion for pressure.”
 Joanie ConnellFlying Without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life

I rememdownload (3)ber when I was younger how my dad would carry conversations with those younger than him. He always had a great deal of life in him and could easily embrace and relate to anyone. The way that he connected to college students, new graduates and those that have been out in the workforce for a few years made an impression on me – I wanted to be able to connect with them like that at his age too.

The time of the year that I look forward to most is the summer – when I get to work with interns; many of which are millennials and of the iGeneration. Some white-collar folks see internships just as obligations or society; others only give interns very specific business operational projects that have already been started for them. However, I don’t think that either is beneficial to them and they really aren’t the most beneficial for me either. What I like to get out of interns is their freshness of their minds.

Throughout life, we are encouraged to strive towards key objectives that maximize outcome and minimize waste. However, we get comfortable and learn to make decisions that ensure safety, but still progression within these valley walls. We get used to it and are left to circle in this local thought process without the idea to push outside or further.

This is why millenials are so special – they don’t feel the gravity of the same constraints that we fall accustomed to. Their minds can help to lead companies to exceptionally innovative practical solutions, a certain entrepreneurial quality. So, I try to work with them to frame the business challenge enough so they understand and then get out of their way. The end result will always be surprising, from an angle that never occurred to you before.


The best word to describe each new generation of the work force is “disruptive innovative” that was coined by Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen. The diagram to the right demonstrates this concept. The blue line is companies with people that are experienced with status quo and work with constraints. They are the kings of sustaining innovation. The green line is companies that enter into the market without experience like the blue chips, but still manage to disrupt the market like interns in big organizations. Think about the electric utility industry. For each cash cow that goes back centuries, there are new green lines like Nest, Tendril, oPower and many more that are not traditional in any way.

Take interns seriously because in my opinion, they are a business opportunity. They have sculpted a new global view that I or you may not have dreamed of yet. Be thankful for their work they do for you and never take them for granted. A special thank you to all of the interns that I have worked with at

Digital Technology and a Healthy Global Economy

Boston University School of Management - IT

A substantial contribution to the overall growth of the global economy could come from the increased use of digital technologies. The greatest impact would be realized by emerging markets, but the growth would have a reach across many countries, with a $1.36 trillion output to be realized by 2020.

According to a recent study conducted by Accenture and Oxford Economics, digital is defined through an array of strategies, which include the volume of transactions conducted online, the use of cloud or other technologies to streamline processes, the pervasiveness of technology skills in a company, or an economy’s acceptance of new digitally driven business models. Organizations who transition to fully digital platforms, essentially decide to implement “digital at the heart of their strategy and enterprise to transform every part of their operations, including R&D, supply chains, and the use of cloud, analytics and CRM technologies.”

While digital technology is extremely vital to the growth that could be realized in the next three to five years, it shouldn’t be seen as the only opportunity for growth. This is evident in the estimated numbers, as the growth realized in dollars is less than two percent of the global gross world product. This doesn’t diminish the amount of growth, it merely means there is an enormous amount of room for other driving factors. Innovation is extremely vital. It’s in the DNA of any effort towards growth. But with it comes the demand of education, new skills and training. This is oftentimes the contrast to growth, regardless of the platform. Simply put, it’s out with the old and in with the new and unfortunately this type of change isn’t easily implemented nor embraced.

Source: Accenture

Source: Accenture

Digital technology is a part of our everyday lives. When you break it down between personal and business, it’s easy to see how much of an impact it already makes and how this impact draws a clear line to what the future could hold. It’s a part of what we read and how we choose to access this information. It’s in where and how we shop and the processes in place to pay for those purchases. For businesses, it’s in the collaboration opportunities and knowledge sharing. It’s in market penetration, trend analysis, process improvements and overall cost savings. There is truly no end to how digital technology could continue to improve the economy.

The growth behind the digital technologies movement isn’t merely about automating processes. Of course this method would have impact on productivity, as well as overall performance and efficiency. But with the evolution of digital and the undeniable role it plays across various facets of business, organizations will essentially have to transform their overall operations. They will have to embrace digital in every aspect of their business, in order to remain a viable competitor within their key markets. This is why it’s important to note, when it comes to theorizing the impact of digital technology on global economy, that the perspective centers around one keyword – could.

In Today’s Economy, What is Corporate America Doing With All This Cash?

According to a FactSet analysis of S&P 500 companies, the collective total of cash reserves in corporate vaults for US nonfinancial companies reached a historic high $1.4 trillion during the fourth quarter. This total is nearly double its value from 2006, which was an estimated $820 billion. Quite naturally when you hear these figures, it would seem fair in asking what these companies are doing with so much cash in reserves.

Many would think it makes sense that these companies should give the economy a boost, right? Go on an economical spending spree so to speak. But not so fast. While it may seem like the most logical answer would be to take the funds and attempt to distribute them as far as they might reach, it’s not that simple. Corporate America faces a few dilemmas with these large cash totals. While of course they would like to kickstart job creation and invest in major projects for the future, the courage to spend isn’t there, but more importantly neither is the ability.

Source: Moody's

Source: Moody’s

One reality is that the cash reserves isn’t all money amassed from profits earned by the corporations. Quite a bit is money that has been borrowed. Alongside the $1.4 trillion in reserves, is a whopping $4.8 trillion in debt. Over the course of approximately six months, companies increased their cash reserves by more than $30 billion. However, during the 12 months that followed this increase in reserves, these same companies increased their debt by more than $201 billion. According to an interview with Richard Lane, senior vice president at Moody’s, “… companies increased their debt by a factor of six relative to cash growth.” Another important reality is where these reserves are located and the impact of movement. An estimated 60 percent of the cash reserves is located outside of the US and bringing it back over would mean being subject to as much as a 35 percent tax. This action alone would decrease their total reserves by nearly one-third.

The bigger picture is what the American corporations need to do with their cash reserves, but essentially aren’t going to be able to do. At least not to the extent they would prefer. They would like to increase their spending, create new jobs, invest in research and massive infrastructure updates. These are the actions that would spur growth and generate earnings, increasing their odds of reaching financial goals and most importantly keeping both their shareholders and stakeholders happy. Unfortunately, what’s most likely to occur is the cash reserves will be applied to the debt owed and odds are high that more money will be needed to pay towards the debts, leaving the American economy to foot the remaining bill.

From Entrepreneur to Business Owner – Surviving the Transition

Entrepreneurs are masters of economic art. They are most often resourceful and able to turn ideas into successful products or services. Business owners are more of a capitalist mentality. They are calculating when it comes to risk, focusing on the real objective rather than the creative idea. To transition, from one to the other, you must be able to do both. To put it simply, a successful business owner must approach the development of their business and their strategies with an entrepreneurial mindset. Otherwise they might not see their idea come to fruition.

Having a diverse set of skills could be considered textbook when it comes to being a well-rounded business person. However, it becomes vital to overall success during the growth and transition. Not only must you have the desire to take things to the next level, you must have the attitude and the discipline. There is a point in every business journey, where things start to become a bit grey, in terms of direction and decision-making. This is usually where you start to see the separation of the businesses that might be successful in the end and those that end up failing. This is where the risky entrepreneurial side has to trump the stable, small business side.  In order to experience a continuation of growth, you must continuously take on certain amounts of risk. When there is an unwillingness to do so, there is an almost certain guarantee that you have stifled your business’s opportunity for success.

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

Some experts say that you must choose to be one or the other, answering the question: “are you a business owner or an entrepreneur?” Others will say it is the individual who inevitably decide that one path defines them better than the other. Their passion for new ideas, versus their desire to nurture just one and be a part of its growth and day-to-day, could be their answer. But then there are those who have taken an idea, built a plan, made the investment and sacrifice, took the risks and in the end, had the most rewarding experience of surviving the transition from entrepreneurial idea to successful business owner. These are the people who were able to submit to and endure the mindset change that is required to go from creating the idea to building the business and then ultimately maintaining it successfully.

There are a number of entrepreneurs who have survived. They have seen their innovative idea successfully evolve into a self-sustaining business. These business owners completed the journey from entrepreneur and are either happy to stay where they are or eager to pass the baton and start down the path to their next big idea.