Build for Long-Term Success
By Shripriya Mahesh, Partner at Omidyar Network
Andre Haddad’s first company was iBazar, a European auction marketplace that was acquired by eBay in 2001. He went on to hold multiple roles at eBay, including GM in Europe and Senior Vice President of Product, and later served as CEO of Shopping.com, an online comparison-shopping network that eBay acquired in 2005.
Currently, Andre is CEO of Turo, a peer-to-peer car rental marketplace that’s changing the economics of car ownership. Instead of leaving underutilized cars sitting in driveways and parking garages, Turo enables people to share their vehicles — and the associated costs — with others when they don’t need them.
Andre brings significant experience to his role at Turo, and as CEO, he’s worked to establish a highly transparent, data-driven company culture. Andre believes boards can (and should) add enormous value and that talented, passionate employees should be empowered, not micromanaged.
Here’s what we learned when we spoke with Andre.
Stay firm on your mission, but be very flexible on the tactics
“At Turo, we pivoted the product based on what we were learning. Pivoting is hard, because you’re so invested in what was there before you had to pivot. You’ve invested in teams, products, technologies and intellectual property that you’ll have to turn away from. It can be very, very challenging and emotional to do that.
I find an important success factor in helping us to make a decision around a pivot is that it is helpful to focus as much as possible on data and customers. For example, one of the first things I did when I joined Turo was to establish funnel metrics. We hadn’t had those metrics before, or really any analytical approach to the business, because we had been so busy building hardware and trying to convince people to list their cars. But once we stepped back and looked at the data, we realized we had a huge drop off at the top of the funnel. And after we talked to customers that abandoned, the changes we needed to make suddenly became a lot clearer. We weren’t going to abandon our mission, but the tactics had to change. In our case, we said the mission is great, the opportunity is huge, but the tactics weren’t great so we needed to change them. We helped the team realize we were just changing tactics, so what we were fundamentally trying to achieve hasn’t changed, and that made the pivot much easier.”
Making data widely available is critical to moving fast and executing with agility
“Data, both quantitative and qualitative, and customer feedback are huge differentiators at Turo. We’re invested heavily in tracking and analytical tools. This gave us a pulse on what our customers were saying. For example, five years ago we incorporated Net Promoter Score (NPS) tracking. Everyone in the company — not just marketing and customer support — can view our NPS scores in real time on a Slack channel. Everyone sees the feedback and everyone feels empowered to make a change based on the feedback. We invested in business analytics tools like Looker and Domo. We recognize the power of democratizing data and making it readily accessible. Everyone in the company has access to our past and current revenue numbers. It’s not just financials, it’s also about the customer metrics, how are we doing by geography, our traffic numbers, how are our apps doing, customer support SLAs, conversion metrics, supply and demand growth metrics.
This requires investments to get this infrastructure up and running since it doesn’t happen on its own. Making the data readily available was a great way to build the company’s culture. We call it truth seeking. The beauty of making data available to everyone in the company is that in doing so, everyone’s on the same page. There’s no way to misinterpret the data or come to different conclusions. Everyone is calibrated to the same objective data, and as a result, everyone clearly knows what’s working and what’s not. There’s less debate. You can be action-oriented and focused on executing to address the feedback and drive business results. We track the progress and continuously iterate.”
Establish a culture of regular communication and transparency
“Transparency is a huge part of our culture and I try to model transparency myself as best as I can. I think it’s the best way to get everybody on board and move past difficulties.
The rhythm of communication with the team is important. For instance, every quarter, I go through the board deck with the entire company focused on debriefing on the board meeting, and the entire presentation is available on Slack internally. It makes a huge difference — there’s no mystique about what happens in a board meeting, no speculation around what was discussed. We also have a semi-annual event where every Turo employee across the globe comes together for a whole week and we review the half of the year that just ended. We review our performance. We look at all the things we said we were going to do and whether or not we delivered them. We discuss what we learned, what worked well and what didn’t. We try to be honest & transparent around successes & failures. We try to demystify failures and allow failures be an acceptable way of how we operate the company. We also have community events where we invite a group of customers in to tell us about their experience using Turo. It’s very energizing for the team to hear directly from the customer.”
Put things in perspective, and you’ll better be able to handle bumps along the journey
“It’s important to have a steady hand on the ship, and sometimes, when you’re in the thick of things, some of the things that you go through can feel dramatically amplified. When you step back and take the long view, you realize it’s just a bump in the road and you can recover from it. It’s important to take that perspective. I’ve found that because I’m an experienced CEO, I can draw from past experiences to draw some parallels and do some storytelling with the team about challenges that I’ve encountered in the past and how we were able to overcome those challenges. That can be very inspiring to the team, creates confidence, and provides the perspective needed so they can positively move forward.”
Be a regular user of your product
“Particularly in the early stages, it’s very important to establish a culture where everyone on your team uses and loves your product. In the early days, our employees had the perspective of the renter’s experience, but not the owners experience because no one had cars to list in the marketplace. So we created a program where we subsidize up to $2,500 the purchase of a car for any employee as long as they then listed the car on Turo. As a result, we have a significant number of our employees that are now hosts on Turo. We also provide a monthly travel credit of $100 on Turo for each employee to encourage people to use the products as renters as well.
Knowing your product fosters a lot of conversations about what’s working and what’s not working. It makes the customer feedback a lot more meaningful, a lot more understandable because our employees have had the customer experience themselves. This creates a sense of total ownership. It’s not just for the Product Management, Design and Engineering teams to feel like they own the product, it’s very important for the entire company to own the product.
You only get part of the picture when you look at your product’s interface or code. And you’re certainly never going to fully understand your product just by sitting in your ivory tower and looking at the data without ever actually experiencing the product. Everyone at the company needs to be a power user of the product.”
Effectively leverage your board
“I’ve found that a lot of people don’t understand the importance of boards, and when raising capital are much more attracted by capital‑raise terms, valuations and brand names. The reality is if you’re raising money and somebody is going to join your board, you’re building a relationship with someone who is going to be an incredibly important part of your company’s journey. It’s really important to have on your board people that you can trust, people that you think can add value, and people that you believe are going to play well with the rest of the board. I’m lucky to have a highly functioning board with lots of different personalities and different styles.
Each board member has their area of focus and I try to leverage their different areas of expertise. We have on the board folks that are very growth marketing focused and we try to leverage their insights and their passion for business development and for partnerships. We’ve got folks on the board that are very focused on product and technology. We love to talk product roadmap, engineering roadmap, what we’re doing from a platform and technology standpoint with those board members. Some of our board members are very passionate about how the world of automotive is changing and how we can be an important driving force of that change, so they feel strongly that we need to build relationships with automotive players. We tend to lean on those board members to help drive some of those discussions.
I believe the board needs to serve the company and needs to serve the CEO, and not vice versa. They’ve got to earn their role on the board and I try to leverage them as much as possible in a very constructive way. I keep a list of things I’m trying to accomplish and challenges we’re currently facing, and then I have our board members sign up to help us tackle those items. This has made our board much more engaged, and it helps our board better understand the realities and challenges we’re facing.
I also make board members available to the Turo team. A few months ago, I learned that one of our board members was very passionate about a topic relevant to our product roadmap. So I said, ‘Fantastic. We’re about to start a project on that topic in the next few days. Can I connect you to the project lead so you can share your feedback before we begin?’ Obviously this really helps our project leads, but it also makes board members feel less like observers or critics and more like valued stakeholders.”