I speak to Joe Haslam in this week's episode of the Bet On Yourself podcast, who has spent his entire career starting and building businesses and is now passing his wisdom on to the next generation of business leaders. Joe has seen several businesses scale from their infancy to having multi-million dollar balance sheets, and has an unrivalled insight into what it takes to overcome the inevitable imposter syndrome and create win-win situations for you and your bosses. Returning to his roots in academia, Joe is now leading the Owners' Scaleup Program at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, teaching students how to not only find, but to create success.
[Ann 00:00:00] Welcome to this week's episode of the Bet On Yourself podcast, where we speak to some of the world's most inspirational people who have all, at some point in their careers, taken a huge bet on themselves, transforming them both personally and professionally. Today I am joined by Joe Haslam, Executive Director of the Owners’ Scaleup Program at IE Business School in Madrid. where he teaches a whole host of different programs in both the Business School, and the School of Global and Public Affairs. He has plenty of stories to share having previously been the chairman and co-founder of global hotel booking app, Hot Hotels, as well as being a member of the founding team of Marrakech, which went on to raise more than $75 million in venture capital, scaling to more than 250 people. Joe is no stranger to reaching the top either, having climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains, including Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua. Where he found the time in such a busy career, I have no idea. He’s been interviewed and quoted all over the world, from Al Jazeera, to El País, to the Wall Street Journal, but now it’s my turn to speak with him and I am so excited to share Joe’s story with you today. If you love this episode as much as I think you will, then please do let me know in all the usual places such as a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or anywhere else you happen to be listening right now.
[Ann 00:01:20] Joe Haslam, thank you so much for being on the Bet On Yourself podcast today.
[Joe 00:01:25] It's fantastic to be here Ann.
[Ann 00:01:27] I am really excited to kind of get to know your work, your current focus, some of the challenges that you're facing and some of the things that are making you most excited. But before we get into all that good stuff, I wonder if you can just walk us through how you ended up in academics in the first place? What did the little Joe dream for himself way back in the day? What did you think you were going to do when you were a little boy?
[Joe 00:01:50] Oh, wow. I mean, I guess the first part is that I'm from a city in the west of Ireland. Although city is probably over-generous, but I mean, it's an interesting, interesting about people who grow up in small towns versus big cities... that small towns can sometimes give you tremendous advantages because if you're successful in a small town, you sort of feel you're successful. So I had... both my parents were academics, so in a way that's sort of where it came from. And now both my sisters are academics. One teaches in NYU in New York and the other in Canterbury. And it's a sort of it's almost a family business. So we did have that typical sort of sitting around the table. You know, one was expected to come to the dinner table with the newspapers read, you know, one was expected to have a viewpoint on what was going on in the world. And you know, that was sort of an interesting way to grow up. So I never doubted about my opinions not being valid or I never, you know, I developed a way to question people. But I did kind of go in a different direction in terms of starting companies because I went to a boarding school, I was sent off to a boarding school. So that's sort of an interesting... it creates a self-sufficiency in you and also you're obviously dealing with a lot of older guys, you know, who you sort of have to look after yourself and those kind of things. So I think that was sort of has been very useful in terms of getting on with people because you had to develop, you know, your parents were of no help to you. You had to be able to analyze situations and get on with people. And I think that that was sort of useful. So that led me towards entrepreneurship and then starting companies. I actually spent some time as a management consultant first, in London, which is - it's just a lot of Irish people would go to London. So then I started companies during the dot com era. I guess I was a dot com guy and we started a company called Marrakech and we raised 70 million euro - or it was actually, yeah it was, I'm just thinking it was dollars. Of course it was dollars... and we scaled to 250 people. And that got me interested in scale ups, which is really where I've been ever since. And I guess coming from an academic background, you know, I always looked for what prior theory existed, and I was really surprised that I mean, actually at the time, there's very little on startups. Startups were generally seen as smaller versions of larger companies. So I became very interested in this idea of fast growing companies and, you know, post product market fit and all of these things. And then when I - when the company was sold, I sort of looked around about what I was going to do. And then I thought, you know, we had covered so many business terms during the process of the company and that I didn't really know what they were. So I sort of went to school to find out what I had needed to know and in the previous years. And I think it was very obvious. I mean, professors told me very quickly like, you know, you should be teaching you, you know, you're not the guy who's, you know, excuse me, professor. You know, I was the guy who was, you know, reveled in being asked to present. I was the guy who was always interested in challenging, so very quickly afterwards, they asked me to to to remain. I think there's a sort of there's almost like a kind of a cooling off period, so you don't go directly from the classroom to teaching. But I've been in a, you know, business school ever since. I think also just entrepreneurship was a huge kind of focus for them. So they really wanted to get people who had actually started companies in the entrepreneurship department. And I think that was um that was that was a really cool feature. And I continue to do that now either as a co-founder or on boards And so I sort of like, you know, my my contract says I have to teach X number of hours and then the rest of the time, I'm sort of free to do other things.
[Ann 00:05:45] I think that's really fascinating of having to wear so many hats of being a practitioner, someone who is in the details right now, running companies and advising, but also leaning into the academics, the research, the anticipating what's coming next, what are the patterns we're seeing, especially now? I mean, you and I both experienced the original dot com. You know, the birth of the internet and then the bust. But but then so now we're kind of in this period of another major revolution happening where crypto and AI and meta and all these things are happening. These alternative realities are developing, and I don't think we quite know what's coming next. So it must be fascinating to be in the works right now of what's happening in business with an eye to the future. I think that's really fascinating of having to wear so many hats of being a practitioner, someone who is in the details right now, running companies and advising, but also leaning into the academics, the research, the anticipating what's coming next, what are the patterns we're seeing, especially now? I mean, you and I both experienced the original dot com. You know, the birth of the internet and then the bust. But but then so now we're kind of in this period of another major revolution happening where crypto and AI and meta and all these things are happening. These alternative realities are developing, and I don't think we quite know what's coming next. So it must be fascinating to be in the works right now of what's happening in business with an eye to the future. How does that shape? OK, so I have so many questions. I don't know where to start. But I think how does that shape the way that you approach your site? Because as you mentioned, you really focus on the scale up stage of growth. What about that interests you the most? Because actually, selfishly, I'm going to ask you for all your best practices, because that's where all my clients sit, actually. (Yeah.) So they come to me because they've been wildly successful as a startup. They have all the wonderful problems that come with scaling and growing. Everything starts to break and they panic being like, Is this how it's supposed to feel? Am I doing it right or wrong? And then they come to me and asking for a little bit of help to get through that bump, because that's where I joined both Amazon and Google was at that like hockey stick stage of their growth. So what about this stage fascinates you the most? And where do you start both with the companies that you're advising and founding and guiding? And then your students are also dreaming and experiencing this at the same time as their academics?
[Joe 00:07:29] OK, so there's about 3 questions in there, Oh at least, So I'll take them, I'll take them in sequence. The first thing is that the job of a professor is to help your students make good decisions. I mean, the knowledge is sort of out there, you know, I mean, I used to be a time with, you know , with podcasts like this one and others, you know, there's wonderful books that are being written. And I also think that the experiences that happened, there was a time when I mean, when I lived in Silicon Valley many years ago, you know, the way things were then were very different to the way they were in Europe. And I think that's sort of changing now. So I think there are, you know, growth hacking and things that that occur in the US that now also work in Europe. That wouldn't have been the case. You know, we have the single market and the euro and those kinds of things. Right. So that's the first thing. So my job is really about helping my students to make good decisions. And in many ways, the thing is to try and convince them to go against, you know, the prevailing wisdom. And I'll give you an example, you know, instead of like, I mean, literally, you know this will probably make you laugh, but like 50% of my class want a job and Amazon, you know, that's that's literally it could be as much as that high. And and you know, my job is to say like, no, no, the next Amazon, you know, might what I tell them is to join the company. At this stage, you joined us because that's where the best learning is at Amazon now is like a well-honed machine. And you know, you, you could be in a part of history that has literally no connection to the other parts and you've just given your specific task. And Google is very much like that now. You know, there's a big difference between joining as employee 100. I mean, Marissa joined it like she was... (24). Yeah, something like that. So that would have been, you know, that's a really interesting kind of a company. So I tell a lot of people and, you know, look for the next sort of once rather than than the existing ones.
[Ann 00:09:28] I think that's so smart because I I somebody told me recently, literally, Amazon has more than 1 million employees now globally. That blew me away. I joined when we were in a single building. We were and there's no way I would have had the experiences that I had if I had joined now. You know, it didn't matter how smart I was or all the, you know, all the ways that I was successful there wouldn't have mattered at a major mega corp that it is today.
[Joe 00:09:54] I was talking to the head of H.R.and then as she used to live in Madrid and she she was saying, You know, Chris and you know, this person and she said, Joe, we have 1,000,000 people, you know, sort of like, you know, the joke used to be like Indian state railways, I think, is the, you know, there were this sort of the joke about how many people work here, you know, are we Indian state railways? Everything they have, they have 1,000,000 people, but it's them, you know, so those thing and this is sort of relates to the whole idea of bet on yourself, right? Because, you know, in that kind of fast-moving environment, you know, what you do matters, you know? And when you are 150, you like what you did like really mattered. You know, it wasn't like a sort of... So if you join, you know, a performing machine and you know, it's kind of hard to go wrong, things are kind of set up well for you, and they're kind of our resources to help you. But you know, you were given sort of impossible tasks with very little resources and you're expected really to. There was no playbook for that before, so...
[Ann 00:10:56] No, but how do you see your students want? There's a reason that they're saying, I want to join Amazon. It's because they want to be part of something that matters. They want to be part of something that when they go home back to their hometowns for the holidays like we all just did. They want their friends and family be like, Wow, OK, that's exciting. But how do you help them identify? And I agree with the goal. How do you help them identify the next Amazon? What are you advising them to look for? I have my own answer to this. That are things that I look for to try and anticipate what my next big bet is going to be. But what are you seeing as a trend that you are encouraging your students to look at, especially as they're finishing maybe their business school experience and really wanting to make their big mark on the world?
[Joe 00:11:39] Sure. And there's sort of 3 things I say about this. The first thing is, I mean, the obvious places CB Insights is a very good. They do these kind of, you know, famous diagrams with like 250 fintech companies and CEOs. So I actually have a class that I use CB insights really extensively because, you know, students do want to be pointed in the direction. You know, there's no point in talking about fintech is wonderful. You have to talk about lemonade. You have to talk about the companies that are doing exciting things. So I use them a lot and there are other. The other thing you look at is who has just raised an amount of money? So, you know, VCs, you know, whenever an entrepreneur and I, you know, I had personal experience of this whenever the check arrives or against the bank transfer these days, you know, you sort of have to very quickly then start, you know, OK, let's develop the momentum because the investors are impatient people, by definition. So you want to start showing them, you know, they want to see action, you know, people hired, offices opened, you know, and those kinds of things . So those are always interested in in those are always interested in CVS, particularly, you know, people who arrive and tell the company what they need, you know, as opposed to. And this is really the part where they have difficulty because you're used to this hierarchical interview where you literally have to say I'm compliant and you know, I won't do anything, you know, I won't show up drunk every day or whatever, you know. And in fact, what they want is, I always tell people, the great line is, you know, one day I hope to start my own business and I want to come here and spend a number of years learning best practices so that one day I can do this for myself because you're you're sending like three messages there. first thing is that you're not afraid of responsibility, you know, which is, I mean, that's literally the number one biggest thing that is scale up entrepreneur is like, will this person like run from problems and hope they go away? Or will they? So you're transmitting, you know, that that's sort of a very important buy. So those are sort of the places so you like money just raised the CB insights. The other thing, of course, is that in a business school, we have a lot of alumni. So you know, that is an existing network. And I think that people are very poor at judging who will help them and who won't. Yeah. You know, I I'd be interested to hear your view on this because like I mean, I some times people see me connected to people on LinkedIn, like, for instance, Modena, the head of AWS joint, is like, Can you introduce me to move then like with the greatest of respect? You know, she has other things on her base, you know? So I think people are saying, you need to try and find like, you know, the local version or something.
[Ann 00:14:32] So I could not agree with you more like you. I receive requests like that multiple times a day minimum five times a day from people I don't know from Adam want with literally this morning Eric Schmidt's email address or Jeff Bezos is or his former wife, Mackenzie, because she's doing amazing things and investing in, like all these incredible, very important global initiatives. And like that is not where you start. So I think you're really right. I think I want to come back to you brought up so many good points. I don't know where to start. first is I think listeners should really think about there's there's kind of three categories I think about in terms of like asking for a favor.There's somebody who is your mentor who's already signed on board to kind of help you in the process. You, as a professor, play that role for them naturally in the classroom. I play that for some people, like for my clients or close contacts. For example, I have three friends who have recently also left Google and become consultants. So we are this part of people being like, Let's figure this out together. I love that. So we're kind of natural mentors for ourselves. Those are people who are who know, you know, your strengths and can, you know, guide you along the way. The second category I think of as a sponsor now, this is somebody who is just one or two steps ahead of you, and I think you just identified why this is so important. This isn't someone 20 or 50 years ahead of you. This is one or two steps. Ahead, and that sponsor is somebody who can open doors for you, that you can open for yourself because they just sat down at that table or they just got on that committee or they just got hired there. And the reason why it's important for it to be just a step or two ahead is because they remember how they got there. If you go to the top, if you go to like the CEO, they don't remember and they're not the right one to open that door for you. And then there's a third category, which you and I have talked about before, which is the avatar mentor. That's the Jeff Bezos is the Eric Schmidt's, the people who are standing on the stage. You want to be on 20 plus years from now. They're your avatar mentor because they don't need to know you exist. They can be this roadmap, this inspiration, this guide and you yourself, thanks to the internet, can reverse engineer how they got there. I have many avatar mentors who have been guiding me very actively for like ten plus years who don't know I exist, and Mae Brown is a great example of one. I love her writing style. I her process, her entry into the academics was nontraditional. Her journey has been such a struggle, she looks like an instant rock star. Instant success now, but the way she got there was incredible. And so I've tried to reverse engineer that and trying to replicate some of her successes. But I want to go back to so if I can flip my other question back on you, because a lot of our listeners are those leaders in this next up and coming like the next Amazons. If I can flip the script on, what should they be looking for when they're considering hiring people just coming out of programs like yours? What are the common denominators to identify that gritty, ambitious people? You touched on it briefly in your answer, like how? What are those indicators in the interview that I know this is a person who's going to lean into a challenge versus hoping it will go away? What are some of those things that they should be looking for?
[Joe 00:17:43] Yeah. Well, I mean, the first thing is like, I always think, you know, and this is the sort of, you know, if you read your books, they talk about things like competency based hiring and this kind of thing. And you know, that's why scale ups are different because, you know, you might join a company that has 150 people and it could have 1000 people like twelve months later, you know? So this is the sort of point that the company you join is not the company you're in and the number of times. And I think what's really important is to show you understand that. And you know, I have a number of faults, but one of my faults is that I sometimes assume everyone knows this, you know, and it's something that I often have when I'm teaching a new class to try and reset my brain to say that I have to tell these people all of the things I told the previous year class, because of course, it's a new class, so I assume they know what a scale up is. I assume they they know, don't just, you know, go for the Amazon, go to the next Amazon and that, you know, that's a sort of a really resetting journey. But it's really important to say to somebody, you know, that I'm joining the company and I understand that it will be a different kind of company in in twelve months and that excites me. And I understand that what you may need for me in six months will be different, and that also excites me. So are you also have to sort of transmis, you know that because too many people are, you know, they just like they don't get that. And I mean, it's a huge issue with our executive classes, for instance, because most of those are on a corporate ladder, you know, and they they like it's funny how they don't know what a scale up is, even though they're competing against these companies, you know? Wow. And it's only went after my class. You know, you get all these messages that yours is like easily the most useful class. And you know that I've taken, even though the other ones would have been like accounting and things like that. But they were like because I never really sort of understood, you know what it was like to be on the other side. You know what it was like that the person I'm talking to could actually be the person who takes the final decision, whereas in a large corporation, that's kind of never the case. But if you're working for like a 500 person Google, probably the person you're talking to, even if they're new, they're only six months in the company are taking the decision. You know, that's like. And you know, so to understand what you're getting into, I think is a hugely compelling way to sell yourself to us to to a startup entrepreneur.
[Ann 00:20:21] That is I've asked a lot of people this question, and no one has ever said that. I think that is a gold absolutely understanding what you're walking into. I mean, example, if I did not know that I walked into Amazon at this insane stage where they doubled in size. Also the year I joined Google, they doubled in size 100% growth that year. That's chaos. If you love that where as you just said you as a brand new person who has no idea what you're doing has like multimillion dollar like. Approval like authority within your job, that's scary for a lot of people. Yeah, and it was for me, for sure. But if you lean into that, if that excites you and you want to really raise your game for that, that's a that's a really compelling fit. If you can find each other, the scale up founder can find people who are excited and enthusiastic about that and our trust themselves enough to like, just ask the right questions, even if they don't know the right answers yet.
[Joe 00:21:21] The big thing and it's, you know, it's this idea of like, how many decisions are you OK with getting wrong? You know, and this is, you know, I often tell people about speeches I make, and I tell people that I am accepting the fact that I take risks on stage to make whatever jokes or to talk to tell a story, even though I don't know whether they will. People relate to it. And I have to accept that 20% of the speeches I make will not go well. You know, I have to accept that sometimes I'm not going to say I'm going to bomb completely, but you know, sometimes I won't make a really deep impact . But the price of that is that 80% of them go really well, and I accept that, you know, that I accept I have to be prepared to take risks. And I think it's true in the classroom as well. You know, we are, of course, evaluated as professors and all of those things. So I have to accept that sometimes I will mean the big thing where it comes down to perhaps is if you find a student in a class and not that you're picking on a student, but that you would have a series of follow up questions, you know, and some students are really uncomfortable with that. So students off their hand and they make a point, which is to say like, you know, I think that Facebook will become the next Yahoo or something like that. Okay? And you have to make a decision as a professor, you know what I say? Tell me more, because sometimes the person was like not comfortable about going into detail without having been asked to prepare. And those are. But then, you know, you have the benefit that if it goes well and he or she says something really interesting, they'll go well. I was tested and I succeeded, you know? So those are the kind of risks you have to take as a professor and you know, you have to accept that sometimes people will be won't like that, won't like the fact that you had a series of follow up questions, but that if they proceed, that will give them a new confidence. And ultimately, either you're confident you have to develop a confidence or other people are just going to steal credit for your work. I mean, which is, you know, the worst scenario.
[Ann 00:23:28] 100 percent. I love what you just said because someone just recently, just this morning, actually somebody asked me, how did you get that level of confidence in the rooms sitting next to some of the most powerful wealthiest people in the world? How on earth did you act with confidence in that environment? And it's what you just described, which is being willing, understanding your percentage of willingness to fail and learn in order because confidence always follows courage, not the other way around. You don't get courageous because you're like, Oh, I'm supreme, I'm going to do this perfectly. You have to be bold. Allow yourself to be on a stage failing 20% of the time. A lot of people don't have that. That doesn't sound like fun. And the truth is, it is not fun. Like, I failed so spectacularly in front of people whose opinions I really, really care about or in front of a large audience. But that's the price you pay, because that is OK. You can choose to be courageous and then the confidence follows.
[Joe 00:24:22] Yeah, and it goes like, it doesn't matter. Like, this is the other great thing about a scale up that there's always a new thing coming. Yes, you know, my my wife is in the next room, works for a large corporation, and they move at like the pace of a supertanker. You know, like she she might have eight months before she can like, fix, you know, I'm like, Oh, the presentation didn't go well. When's the next one? When she's like eight months, she'll be like, say, you know, we can have another baby in eight months. Yeah, but the point is that like in a scale up, it's almost like a sports. You know, there's another ball coming, you know, it's like soccer. You know, you made a mistake. You get up there. There's another world coming and that that means that you just don't have time to linger on your own, your failures. You don't have time. You say, OK. And you know, I should have, you know, allocated more resources to that or something like that. But there's another one coming. And then you get a success and then you know, you, you feel good and you keep going. So this is the thing about it suited to a certain kind of person who can kind of, you know, keep going. And. But the question always is like, how do you sell that to a person? How do you say that, you know, the sooner you develop this mentality that not 100% of things can be rice, you know , the sooner the kind of the exponential effect kicks in in terms of your career that more and more people say, Oh, you should talk to Iran about that. And she talked to Joe about that. And that's what you're in a company when you be seen as the person to speak to. That's when the opportunities present. Themselves, because, you know, you have like somebody who's doing an event enough size and they're like, Who are we going to get to talk? Who are we going to get to talk to the next guy to? And then suddenly you get executive face time and you get the compounding effect. So, you know, these are, you know, it's funny, like, these are the kind of things that sometimes this is why coaching helps because someone has to formally bring new to this process about you want to get noticed like this is we're going to have set this plan. You know, you're going to contact your and say, we're having enough space in, you know, wherever the Half Moon Bay or something and say, like, you know, I wonder, you know, could I do a presentation, you know, talk about what we're doing. And I mean, that's sometimes I've said that to people on coaching calls. And it's like as if I, you know, split the atom or something, I'd listen. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. He or she has an agenda to put together and probably 24 hours to do it. And you know, they want people who they don't have to spend 20 emails convincing, which is very much, you know, the usual thing. So this is the point about, you know, the phrase I've used is if you want to win the lottery, you have to buy tickets. And you know, this is the thing about like volunteering for to give presentations or things like that, you know, and I hear that people come back sometimes with like, Oh, I want be seen as being forward. And, you know, I just find that to be I'm like, you know, you know, that kind of mentality is, that's a century old. You know, you are helping the person, it's a win win. There is a person who wondering exactly like, I just don't want to get the same old people, you know, who I know will say yes, and they're like, there's someone contacts them from the other side of the world and you're like, This is great, because this makes me look like I have my face like under the company. And I know like all these kind of secret people. So that's a total win win.
[Ann 00:27:54] I have been nodding my head like a bobblehead like this whole time. This is if people only listen to three minutes of our conversation, this needs to be it. How do you self-identify as is a scale of the environment for me? Do I enjoy like doubling down that experience you described earlier in our conversation of as a professor asking ten more questions than they were ready to answer right now ? That is what being at a scale that feels like every day, the wildly successful That is what being at a scale that feels like every day, the wildly successful founders that I've worked for are insatiably curious and they ask like not just ten more questions than the average human, but like literally 1000. They are insatiably dialing down into the why. But how about this? But have we seen that if you don't enjoy that, maybe a scale up is not for you. But if you enjoy that or if you can learn to enjoy it, I had to learn to enjoy it.
[Joe 00:28:42] Yeah, it gets really fun and also just to reinforce the buzz that you got when you succeeded in a pressurized. Oh my goodness. You know, if you if he came at you, if Jeff or Eric came at you, it's like something and you managed to stay calm and give them the information you're buzzing for the rest of the day, then you know, you get this high...
[Ann 00:29:00] The best high like that is the best natural high of being like, I did not know I had that in myself and they drew it out of me. I would have never gone to those depths otherwise. And then I love I love this atom splitting revelation that you can create a win win by volunteering something that accelerates your individual growth goals and solves someone else's problem that they're trying to do. When your growth goal aligns with the manager and solves a problem for them while they're delivering the bottom line of the company. Win, win, win, you get a yes every time. I love that I wrote a whole book about how I did that. Sometimes you get awkward silence at first and they're like, No, like, you're an intern here. Like, I'm not putting you on a stage, but then they think of you differently.You've taught them to think of you and channel you differently. And then in the future, there's another opportunity that's better suited your skill set or or your expertize or your seniority, and you get that invitation when they wouldn't have thought of you differently. This is how you engineer serendipity. And I just am so grateful I was in environments primed for demanding that because that is not my nature. There's probably some people listening to that being like, This is my idea of hell volunteering for stuff where I'm not ready to do it perfectly yet. But thank goodness I was in scale ups that just demanded and pulled that out of me. But it's it's these opportunities are everywhere. So I love giving this...
[Joe 00:30:22] The most frustrating thing Ann is to see someone with wonderful potential so he doesn't believe in themselves, you know? I mean, it really is and are there are cases where I never I didn't have enough time to get through to someone we only had, say, 20 sessions together. And, you know, I kept on them and like, Why do you believe that other people are better than, like, what? What exactly where do you know and and you know, sometimes of course, you can convince people, but you know that the imposter syndrome is out there and it's incredibly prevalent, you know? And that is when a business school can help that, you know, you talked about what gives you competence and education sort of gives you confidence as well. Sometimes people ask about MBAs and things like that, and I say, you know, really, a lot of it is the soft skills because people always focus on the hard skills and learning how to value companies. So like, no, no, no, you understand this idea, that opportunity only meets you halfway. You know, like when you were kind enough to speak with our class, you know, like, I was sort of thinking, like, did you did you connect with her on LinkedIn? Did you send her a thank you message, you know. You know, I met some people did, but probably not everyone did, you know? So, you know, I as a professor brought have the opportunity halfway. But you know, the other people have to bring the opportunity the other half way. And some people are like, Oh, I don't know, you know what I need or in the future that, but I'm saying, look, it actually makes you feel good to send a thank you notes whenever I send a thank you note to people. You know, I feel good as well as they feel good. So it's, you know, so do more of that.
[Ann 00:31:58] I agree. And even now, at this stage in my career, I need to do more of that, seeking it out. And I think it's a lot of people are nervous about it because maybe they don't know how to make an ask. And you're right, like just sending a thank you note was always welcome. In fact, I just published my very first article in Harvard Business Review. There's people out there who I don't know who just sent me a note via LinkedIn being like, I read that and it mattered to me or that inspire or it gave me courage. That means the world to me. Why don't I do that more? I have this whole list of podcast episodes I listen to and thousands of books I've read. Wouldn't it means so much to each one of those people to hear what they've inspired in me? That's totally Adobe.
[Joe 00:32:39] Even people who are tremendously successful, you know, still value somebody saying thank you or it's quite incredible. You can be Jeff Bezos. And now he does somebody, says Jeff. You know, I, you know, thank you. Like, even like, it's amazing how you know, I mean, obviously, being successful changes you in some ways, but it doesn't change you in others and everyone's human totes there. You know, thank you for this. This was grace, you know? And so I mean, people who talk themselves into a kind of, you know, Oh, who am I? I don't know this person. She'll think I'm finding reasons not to do stuff like this. But if all you're saying is, I loved your article, thank you, you know, there's no reason in the world not to do that.
[Ann 00:33:25] That is the action item from this episode. For our listeners, this is your challenge today. Everyone listening to bet on yourself. Send a thank you to someone whose idea inspired you. Gave you courage, allowed you to have a new insight or just a moment of joy. I think sharing a moment of beauty of like this art piece or whatever it is that they put into the universe mattered to you. And that's a beautiful action. I'm going to take that personally. I'll report back once I've sent that. Thank you. So, Joe, since your expertize is so much in scaling, what part of scaling isn't talked about enough? Like, what questions should I be asking you right now is like, especially in these emerging technologies sphere that we're in. We were talking about before we started recording that. We're in this very interesting time in technology in particular, where so many things are changing. I think the jobs of the future don't yet exist. Like what we'll be doing ten years from now doesn't yet exist. And a lot of probably your students in particular like trying to prime themselves for the jobs of today when really we need to be looking towards this future of of opportunities and ways of using our talents don't yet exist. What should we we we be talking about and what's coming next or about scale ups in particular? That isn't part of the everyday conversation.
[Joe 00:34:39] Well, I think the first thing is it's something I sort of some of my students are always sick of hearing me saying, which is the simplicity scales, complexity kills. And you know, I mean, I spend a lot of time, you know, sometimes I think I would prefer in some classes to give the same session like 15 times in a row, just so that the message gets through. Yeah. And of course, students always like that like, Oh, I've heard this before. But that's the sort of like this idea of simplicity scales. And that's if you look at the great companies, you know, it was their simplicity, you know, which made it I mean, the Google Home page with Marissa, she defended the offline sorts of people were saying, like Monitise. Yeah, yeah, it's like and she's offended about the simplicity and actually hurt her background and terms of her mother was an art teacher and stuff like that. Very interesting story if you don't know it. But so that's the sort of the thing about knowing about is simplicity. And then, of course, the other thing is is domain expertize, which is like, are you one of the ten people in the world? And that is something that's changing a lot, you know, moving from like, I'm sort of known as the scale of professor. You know, like you must have an identity of some sort of description. You know, and I think that that is, you know, like rather than saying like, I work for McKinsey or I work for a Boston Consulting Group, I remember telling two, You know, and you know, sometimes you wonder whether you should say, like, you know, when someone someone wrote to me with the great news that they were got a job with Boston and they were very happy with that. And I sort of sent them, look, you know, from day one that, you know, you're going to have to get this right on day one, you know, and which is to say, like looking to become an expert in something. Yeah, but people don't want to Boston Consulting. They want someone who's an expert in retail or somebody who's an expert in Amazon aggregators or something like that. And like that is has to be your focus. So don't focus on, you know, the company you work for and be seeing focus on the expertize. And that is, you know, and maybe I'm like, just start with something and then maybe you might kind of get turned off that or something like that. But but just start with something and then go 100% that way, like I'm going to become an NFT expert or something. And then if that doesn't work out, then you go to something else. But you know, that's the the thing. And you find, I mean, I guess historically it wasn't that important because it was harder to find people, whereas now it's much easier to find people and get them up on Zoom and stuff like that. So you have to start looking for like, what is the thing like that people identify with you, you know, like, I mean , I say some people don't even remember my name, but they say, Oh, that scale of professor, you know that whatever that guy's name is, you know, like that. And that's fine, because of course, you can be found in very quickly. So that has to be the thing. Which is to say, like, what? What are you? What is your identity? And I think that's more important. And you know, then like the company you work for. So it's not that you work in Amazon, it's that you know about logistics. It's not that you work in, you know, Google, it's that you know, about whatever it is hosting or something like that. So I think you have to, you know, start to focus on that very quickly.
[Ann 00:37:52] Joe, best advice. This is the university lecture that I have heard implemented for got repeat, rinse, repeat, like literally just in the last month, I have had that moment of realization for like the fifth time in my career of an. What are you known for when someone says, you know, when someone's recommending me to somebody? How do they describe me? It doesn't. It was a big transition. You're so right. Don't let your identity be the company because definitely a huge part of my identity. I worked at Google for twelve years. It's really hard to disentangle yourself from the company after more than a decade. But what I need is to think of what is my zone of genius? The reason I got recruited that I haven't applied for a job since 2002 when I got hired by Jeff Bezos at Amazon all those years ago. The reason for that is because people recommended me for stuff because they could, in one sentence, say she is the best the world's expert in C-suite optimization. That's why I got recruited into Eric Schmidt's office. That's why my clients come to me now. They want ultimate gold star C-suite optimization. They're running really fast and they need everything to be efficient. And I realized in this year in 2022 that we've just started. I am now cutting out everything that doesn't align with that. I'm going to go for exactly serve those people who need that expertize. Nothing more. It was terrifying because there's a lot of revenue opportunities, but then you get so distracted. People don't know how to synthesize just that. I let that. Yeah.
[Joe 00:39:25] And by the way, I mean, every company has a C-suite. So, you know, it's not as if it's to some company. So it's like every company has a CEO and every company like this, you know, everyone wants their diary to be optimized. And stuff like that, so it is.
[Ann 00:39:41] I haven't niched too much. But at the time, it can feel weird because I, my nature is very people pleasing. I want to be everything to everyone. And that serves nobody. In the end, when you dilute your talents and your time and what you're contributing to this world in that way . You lose that element. So I think that's the greatest career advice, regardless of if you are just finishing school and coming into the workforce during this crazy time, or if you're looking to be recognized as a leader in your organization at a new level or if you've, you know, are running one of these wonderful scale ups really fast. That, I think is the element of when you can find your most efficient contributions, when you're doubling down on that.
[Joe 00:40:23] You know, it's funny. I know you're going to ask me about books, and I'm going to mention Bill Campbell, which is probably not a surprise to you. But but he does talk about that about, you know, if you all these plays in your head, you know, which is to say, you just confuse people, you know? So that's a sort of like, you know, that's the thing about like feedback is useful and things like that. But I sort of think that sometimes, you know, you can overdo people and you shouldn't do that.
[Ann 00:41:51] So true. You know, my plan was to be a professor. So this is my roundabout way of saying, you know, and you might get there. Yes, my dad would be so proud. But in the we just have ticked over. We have one minute left. And as you've anticipated, I have two favorite questions to end our conversation as well. I would love to continue this for like ten more hours because I've so much more I want to talk to you about. I wonder if we can end with the lightning round. I'm going to end with my two questions. one is what excites you about the future? What like, what do you see coming? What what gives you hope or enthusiasm? And the other is what should be reading, what should we be reading, listening to and attending this year?
[Joe 00:41:34] OK. Well, I'm incredibly excited about the future, and I'll tell you why, because, you know, and this is the thing I always ask my students in my first class, I say, like, who doesn't want to go back to their country? And you know, it's a real question. There are countries in the world. You know, I'm thinking of my friends in Turkey. I used to teach classes in Lebanon. You know, those are very difficult countries right now. And you know, I sort of like think about, you know, my own situation in Spain and it's relatively stable and things like that. So, you know, I often think that there's an awful lot about and there's an awful lot of people who are tired of conflict. Now, that might surprise me saying it, but I'm seeing, you know, I remember I don't want to pick on Brazilians, but I remember when I did an MBA 20 years ago, Brazil was the country of the future. You know, the Olympics, the World Cup and all that that the Brazilians were like, You know, you want to be us, whatever. And now their country is, you know, difficult with corona virus and stuff like that. And the overwhelming thing is that they just don't want conflict needlessly. You know, they just kind of so out, you know, the world has enough of like, what about me? What about me? What about me? And I'm seeing that a lot, and it does give me great hope because I guess that a lot of people in my class will go on to do great things. And I'm seeing that they're just kind of tired of conflict, you know, needless conflict and that I've seen much more people who are looking for things people have in common rather than. And some of that perhaps comes from the U.S. you will know better than I do, but people are just sort of like, you know, the U.S. has suddenly become this place where we're just too much conflict, too much getting on with each other. Yeah. And fundamentally, you know, they have still have a lot in common, you know, so so why not to focus on that? So I am positive that what I'm seeing is that I'm seeing people are they don't want not that they're afraid of conflict, but that they're they're beginning of every conversation. They don't feel a need to sort of make a comment about you or show how better they are or anything like that. Their their starting point is very much, you know what, let's do great things together. And, you know, I'm hugely positive about that and I'm starting to see that. So that's the sort of why am I am positive about the future? And then in terms of of reading and those kind of things, I mean, I wanted to mention trillion dollar coach and Bill Campbell because and I know this, this might seem to you like a hometown kind of decision or things like that. But you know, coaching is such a fundamentally important thing, you know, like I have, I remember my favorite story is a guy who his wife called me up and always got emotional thinking about this, which she's like, I don't know who you are. I don't know what you do, but thank you for giving me my husband back, you know? And I was like, My God, you know? And it was like, and I wasn't doing. I was probably do many of the same things you were doing, which is to say, OK, let's just kind of 15 questions in a row. Yeah, why do you how do you what do you do first thing in the morning? Because like, I think it was anything kind of. But but this guy, you know, the situation had become so difficult that he had to. He found the level of humility to ask for help. Hmm. And so that's the thing about the system when he wants the stories in that book, you know. And you know, I often say to people like Tiger Woods has least I need to change that. Well, maybe I'll say, like Olympic ideas have coaches. (Yes, yes.) I mean, it's even and not these have one they have like I think Rafa Nadal travels with like,yeah, you know, so this idea that you only have to get a coach when you go wrong, I mean, I coach isn't a doctor. You know, you go to doctor when you say, you know, you go to a coach who allows you, this person who you can just be totally honest with. You can absolutely on 2%, have this thing, have this person in your life for whom you can be totally honest with and that person understands what you're going through and you know, you know, different people in your life, family members, et cetera, fulfill different roles and they're there for you. But like I always say, like, you know, keep your wife is your wife or your husband does your husband, you know, don't don't drag them into situations where because they want to help, but just don't have the expertize, you know, they've just never been, you know, like, what do you, you know, they're just different people. So keep your wife is your wife, keep your friends as your friends and find a coach to fix your coach stuff, you know?And that person, you know, has is able to sort of like, you know, bring sort of structured questioning and things like that. But. So, you know, I haven't up to up to, you know, trillion dollar coach. I don't think I've found it. I struggle to find a book. I mean, there are a lot of books about coaching and stuff like that. And but, you know, it really kind of brought out some of that kind of positive mental energy as opposed to being structured. I'd never met Bill, you know, but it was a wonderful person. Yeah, but a lot of it was his energy. Hundred percent, I suppose, to this. That certainly that comes because we strongly in the book, you know, rather than this kind of two by two matrix kind of stuff, which is to say, you know, and sometimes you kind of need is, I believe in you. Everyone believes in you. You know, there's no reason you kind of do this now. Go out and show the world how good you are. (That's right.) And like, that's sort of, you know, I mean, in some ways, people say, Well, is it that simple? And it is, you know, sometimes there's so I thought that was I really got that from the book.
[Ann 00:47:11] I think that the perfect second action item for our listeners today is find someone who can fill that role for you, whether that's an avatar mentor where you're reading about Bill Campbell and trillion dollar coach. If that's a sponsor who's a level or two ahead of you or a mentor, maybe your direct line manager if they're worthy of that trust. But find that person who really understands and has the expertize to help you and lean into it and hear their feedback. I think one of the things I hear most from my consulting clients is enormous relief that I've heard their question before or that someone else at their stage of success also is, you know, having that moment of doubt or imposter syndrome too. They just need to hear that that's a normal part of what success feels like a little bit of, as Ben Horowitz says in his book, which I call all the time. His book is the hard thing about hard things. My favorite line is there's only two emotions for entrepreneurs terror and euphoria. I vacillate constantly between those two, sometimes within the hour. So it's become the worst thing.
[Joe 00:48:11] The worst thing Ann, of course, is that it's only about 10% euphoria and 90% terror I think that's the worst part of it, but the euphoria is so good that you make up for the other part of it.
[Ann 00:48:23] I have so many takeaways from our conversation, Joe. Thank you so much for your generosity of time, expertize, reminding us to be thankful to find that mentor a sponsor, avatar mentor and to really seek out your zone of genius. Know what you want to be known for and lean into that. Don't be afraid of niching down into that and really establishing yourself in that space. So thank you so much for so much.
[Joe 00:48:46] It's been a pleasure talking to you, and I look forward to speaking to my class in the coming session as well.
[Ann 00:48:52] It would be an honor.
[Joe 00:48:53] We had a fantastic session last time. That was fun. You know, it's they really learn from it. So we hope to. So thank you very much.
[Ann 00:49:02] Thank you very much. I look forward to many future collaborations. This is just the start.
About my guest

Joe Haslam

Joe Haslam is the Executive Director of the Owners Scaleup Program at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Joe was on the founding Team of Marrakech, a Dublin based e-procurement company that raised over $75m in Venture Capital and scaled to over 250 people. He is the co-founder and Chairman of Hot Hotels, the first company from Spain to be accelerated by the Techstars program in the USA.