TRULY Experiences CEO On Bezos, Hacking Out Of The Jungle And What He’d Do With $500M

Michael Dean
TRULY Experiences CEO On Bezos, Hacking Out Of The Jungle And What He’d Do With $500M

TRULY Experiences operates the UK’s leading marketplace for unique, extraordinary experiences. We talk to TRULY CEO, Jack Huang, to learn how he’s grown his business, why they’re adopting a more data-driven approach to people management, and more.

Peakon: Hi Jack, congrats on winning UK Online Retail Awards. What would you say characterises TRULY as a place to work?

Jack Huang: We are collegial, but intense. We love hanging out with one another outside of work, but we will thrash it out in debates where we have altering points of view. We are humble, we improve constantly and we treat our customers like royalty.

We hire people who share our mission, which is to help people create happiness. We make tea and coffee for one another. And no one here is ever called an “employee”.

Which companies or leaders do you personally take inspiration from?

Jeff Bezos [Amazon founder and CEO], for his extraordinary drive, customer-first approach and differentiated insights.

My favourite quote from Bezos is probably paraphrased as: “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”

Startup CEOs are often characterised as either experts in the jungle (hacking their way to success), the dirt road (growing a business after some initial success), or the highway (full on execution). Where do you think you fit on that spectrum? What problems do you think you’ll face as you grow? How do you plan to handle them?

Likely somewhere between jungle and dirt road. We have a good understanding of our core base of customers and suppliers, but are still getting to know the next concentric circle out.  It’s a pretty big jungle out there.

As Ken Goldstein said, “People. Products. Profits. In that order”. Great people will build great products, which will lead to great profits. And great people aren’t always found, more often than not, they’re actually nurtured. So paying attention to the people inside our business is a big part of my job.

Tony Hsieh (the Zappos CEO) is using his success to build a community-led startup hub in a run down part of Las Vegas. If TRULY (or you) got $500M in funding tomorrow, what would you spend it on?

We’d invest even more in giving TRULY customers a better experience – better choice, better value and better convenience. We don’t think that’s a flywheel that will ever stop spinning. And the building of that flywheel will start with investing in people.

What have been the challenges in building your team so far? How did TRULY keep a pulse on employees before Peakon?

I think the first step was acknowledging that as we grew, there were team / organisational fissures beginning to form. It was harder and harder to march to the same beat. People’s views of the company were starting to differ, we needed to accommodate a wider range of personalities, needs, wants, etc..

At the start, we used a mix of Google Sheets, Wufoo forms and other haphazard methods of measuring team happiness and productivity. It was a bit of a pain. And quite honestly, I wasn’t actually sure what we should be measuring – what worked, what was relevant, etc.. Peakon helped us focus on the key variables that actually mattered.

What insights did the data and analysis from Peakon provide? How have you acted upon this?

Peakon helped us in two ways: First, clarifying and distilling down the key people variables that we needed to work on – or were doing well on – and second, quantifying those variables so that we can make improvements.

We subscribe to the maxim, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” So Peakon has become our people metrics dashboard. Since adopting Peakon, we have made improvements to employee growth, accomplishment and organisational fit.

The workplace has changed a lot in the last decade, especially for tech companies and startups, what changes have you noticed? What are your predictions for the next decade?

There’s a lot of research and analysis out there on the Millennial generation – already 40% of our workforce – and their values and attitudes towards work. So the changes that we’re witnessing now are continuances of that generational change, which will continue for another 20-30 years – when Millennials start to retire.

For instance, it’s no longer about putting on a dark suit and working for the biggest company out there; it’s about finding meaningful, fulfilling work that suits your personality and lifestyle.  It’s no longer about finding the biggest paycheck; it’s about finding a place where you can grow. The list goes on.

Companies that cling on to the old ways will find it harder and harder to keep their best people. They’ll continue to wonder why prospective recruits turned down their job offers to work somewhere else for 70% less money. They need to understand that it’s not just about money, it’s about creating an environment that cultivates intrinsic motivators like autonomy, growth, recognition and meaningful work.

If you’re looking for unique, amazing experiences for yourself, a loved one or a friend, check out TRULY Experiences.

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