Be human. Despite the pressures that come with being CEO, I make it a point to bring myself to the job. Years ago, I used to stop people on the street when I saw them driving car2go vehicles so I could personally thank them for using the service.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul DeLong, president and CEO of car2go N.A., LLC, the North American arm of the world’s largest and fastest-growing flexible carsharing service. DeLong is responsible for ensuring that car2go’s one million-plus North American members enjoy 24-hour access to convenient, affordable mobility through flexible one-way carsharing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’m currently North American president and CEO of car2go. Previously, I served as Chief Marketing Officer at the company, where I helped launched and grow the car2go brand from a pilot program in Austin, Texas to a preferred mobility provider throughout the U.S. and Canada. With a great team around me, we created and launched a compelling brand awareness push that helped establish one-way carsharing as an easy, affordable urban mobility solution that integrates well with other urban transit options including bus, rail and bikeshare.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve got two stories: one funny, and one interesting.
First, the funny story. When we first launched car2go in Austin, Texas back in 2009, I was expecting everybody and their mom and dad would sign up for our service. Everybody in Austin was going to sign up. I woke up the day after we launched our registration site expecting to see 5,000 new registrations. When I said I was expecting to sign up everybody and their mom, though, I wasn’t expecting that only my parents would sign up! That is exactly what happened: a gut-wrenching 11 people signed up, and all of them were my own family — in Ohio, no less! But since then, over one million people across North America have signed up, so I am well past that moment of panic.
Now for the interesting story. The scene is Vancouver, and it is the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. We happened to have our car2go Vancouver launch scheduled the morning after the Vancouver Canucks lost. To say people were upset would be an understatement. A riot occurred, and a big portion of the fleet was affected with a few upset fans.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
By allowing everybody to give input and have a voice. My experience is that the larger the group, the less people feel comfortable speaking out. So those that do speak out have the courage and gusto to really get my ear and attention.
What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?
We use a variety of tools and project management best practices to ensure communications flow well across teams, geographies and time zones. Despite the fact that we are spread out geographically, and have a multinational workforce, it helps that we are all bought-in on the mission: to improve quality of life in cities. That common understanding of the end goal helps to ensure good decision-making occurs across the organization.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Treat your employees with honesty and respect. Let them also see your true self, by being authentic and not some nose-turned-up wannabe.
Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers.” What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?
Today’s business environment can be very challenging. I have had to make a lot of tough decisions as CEO and also accept decisions by others to leave this great company that I have seen grow and thrive over the years. Somebody special told me this: “Choose happiness. My biggest priority is to first make sure that our people are HAPPY. If your team is unhappy with what they do, no matter what I may do to try and fix it, it will ultimately remain broken. Some quick fixes may create temporary happiness, but trust me, you will be having the same conversation in another six months. Making sure people can SMILE, be happy, and know that their voice is heard is key in retaining awesome team members!”
Based on your personal experience, what are the “3 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
- Be open and accessible. Our North American team gathers for bi-weekly, livestreamed meetings that I always join, regardless if I’m abroad. I lead the meetings and always ensure enough time at the end for Q&A, meaning every person in the company has direct access to me and can bring up any questions or concerns.
- Keep things casual. When I became CEO, I cut the former dress code of suits and ties to transition the office into a laidback place best suited to our culture and workforce. The casual environment has helped make employees feel that they have access to me and the management team. It has also motivated them as the team has grown to support over a million members in North America.
-Be Human. Despite the pressures that come with being CEO, I make it a point to bring myself to the job. Years ago, I used to stop people on the street when I saw them driving car2go vehicles so I could personally thank them for using the service.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Act like our children because our children see everyone equally. There are no barriers with kids. What you see is what you get, and they are honest. We need to be more like them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Tell me I can’t do it, because I will!” This phrase has guided me in everything that I have done. It is my North Star. It motivates me like nothing else and reminds me to never, ever give up! You can accomplish anything. Just look at the 11 people from Ohio that signed up with car2go on that first day — now, our membership is over one million in North America and 3.3 million worldwide, making us the clear world leader in our industry.