Think Like a Startup CEO

October 20, 2016

Greenhouse, a recruiting software as a service company, got its start back in 2012. The company sells licenses to other companies looking to use its product, which collects job seekers’ applications from employment websites and referrals into one dashboard.

Since its inception, the company has raised over $60 million in funding and is under watch for unicorn status. Today, the company’s customers also include Airbnb, Evernote, Pinterest, Twilion, Vimeo and Zenefits, to name a few.

We caught up with Greenhouse’s founder and CEO, Daniel Chait, to discuss how he sees the organization moving forward, the qualities he looks for in employees and what has surprised him about running a company. 

Built In: How would you define the employee culture at Greenhouse in three words?

Daniel Chait: Authentic, inclusive and ambitious.

Built In: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the office?

DC: I’m a big fan of the Getting Things Done system, so I start my day by collecting and processing my inbox, and reviewing my calendar for the day and week to make sure I’m ready for what’s coming.

Built In: What’s the last thing you do before you leave the office?

DC: Try to clear out my inbox! I don’t always get back to zero but I try hard to have everything as de-cluttered as possible when I leave. I have a four and a half-year-old at home, so once I get home I shut off my work brain for a few hours and be a dad, eat dinner, etc. Then I usually log back in around 9 or 10 p.m. for maybe an hour.

Built In: How do you see the company changing in one year?

DC: We’re definitely just growing out of the 'early startup' phase and maturing as a company. That means we’re strengthening in almost every way – building new capabilities, getting smarter about how we serve customers, and making big investments in infrastructure and security.

Built In: How do you see the company changing in five years?

DC: In 2012, when we entered the ATS market, it was a fragmented category full of companies locked in a 'race to the bottom,' delivering products that were cheaply built and not very ambitious or innovative. Greenhouse set out to change this into a vibrant industry where the products were in a 'race to the top,' competing to deliver ever more value to customers who wanted tools to help build and grow their human capital. This transformation is now largely complete. So the next five years for us are about winning that 'race to the top' by continuing to invest in R&D and build ever more powerful tools to help our customers build great teams.

Built In: How do you see yourself leading/creating that change?

DC: The relationship between talent and companies is undergoing unprecedented transformations. Talented people are becoming more informed, more mobile and more empowered than ever over their own careers. Companies are being relentlessly pressured to place human capital at the center of their strategy and execution. So, Greenhouse will need to continue driving new innovations, more powerful tools and greater reach, if we are going to remain at the forefront of helping companies create and navigate this new world of work.

Built In: As a CEO, what’s the most challenging part of your job?

DC: Choosing where to spend my time and learning how to communicate with so many different people.

Built In: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

DC: Finding the perfect fit between a person and the right job for them is one of the most rewarding experiences that ever happens in the world of work. Think of the joy of finding a great job, of making an amazing hire, or of building a great team. In my job I get to help do all of that every day. It’s a real privilege and makes me happy.

Built In: Who is your role model?

DC: Fred Kofman, author of “Conscious Business,” is someone that I admire greatly and try to learn from and emulate every day. His ideas about collaboration, humility, communication, leadership and more, are some of the most powerful tools I’ve come across to succeed in both business and life. And like me, he has a technical background but is now somewhat of an 'HR guy.'

Built In: What’s the best part about leading a company headquartered in New York City?

DC: My commute is a short walk across Union Square where I regularly pass through the farmer’s market surrounded by fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and more.

Built In: What was your first job?

DC: I got a job as a software developer, writing code at a small company that made products that solved an obscure problem too boring to get into here. My starting salary was $24,000. Within two years I started my first company and haven’t gotten a 'job' since.

Built In: How did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?

DC: I talked to many dozens of people across all sorts of businesses, and the same two themes emerged again and again. First, everyone agrees that people are the number one asset of any company. And second, that recruiting is mostly broken most everywhere.  So, it seemed like if we could address what was both the top pain point, and the most valuable thing, at every company, we could create a ton of value.

Built In: Where does the name Greenhouse come from?

DC: We wanted to contrast ourselves against an industry whose names fell into two patterns: they were either very bland takes on 'resume,' 'job,' 'hire,' etc.; or they were made from seemingly random syllables (like 'Taleo' or 'Kenexa'), which we felt lacked any meaning. Greenhouses are about growth and vitality, but the name left a bit to the imagination and was something we felt we could build a great brand around.

Built In: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

DC: I’m a lifelong canoeist and have spent more days than I can remember paddling the Boundary Waters along the Canada/Minnesota border.

Built In: What qualities do look for in potential employees?

DC: I love working with people who are independent, who can think critically and who are nice.

Built In: What do you consider the most significant accomplishment of your career?

DC: That’s hard for me to evaluate. I have the worst possible perspective on my own career, from inside my own head and without the benefit of other points of view.

Built In: What other tech company(s) do you most admire?

DC: Google, for the incredible work they’ve done advancing the state of the art in human capital practices and sharing so much of it with the world. Things like “Project Oxygen” or “Work Rules” have contributed so much.

Built In: What is something that has surprised you about running a company?

DC: Despite how staggeringly difficult the whole thing is, and how unlikely it is that any startup will even survive the cradle, that sometimes you can actually make a dent in a big problem. Like, for real, the world is different because of an idea you had. That blows my mind.

Built In: What personal habits have served you well in your career?

DC: Being nice to people and asking lots of questions. On the other hand, being super distractible, a relentless procrastinator and having a lousy memory have served me poorly.

Built In: How would your employees describe you in one word?

DC: Nobody tells the CEO what they really think of him, so I have no idea. Hopefully something nice.

by Built In NYC

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