Earning the title of Glassdoor's Top CEO for 2018, Zoom's Eric Yuan offers advice to young business professionals hoping to move up the corporate ladder.
In June, Glassdoor announced its top CEOs for 2018, giving the no. 1 title to Eric Yuan of Zoom Video Communications. With a 99% employee approval rating, Yuan certainly sets a high standard for other CEOs to follow. "Employees rave about the mission-driven culture that Yuan has fostered, as well as his transparent communication and focus on professional development, collaboration and employee well-being," according to the Glassdoor report.
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However, Yuan traveled a long road before becoming a top CEO. He was an entrepreneur from the start, gathering and selling copper materials as an elementary school student in China. In college, he fell in love with technology, and yearned to move somewhere that offered more opportunity for tech professionals.
Upon moving to the Silicon Valley in 1997, Yuan worked for WebEx, and then for Cisco after it acquired the company as their corporate vice president of engineering. After several years, Yuan decided to go out on his own. The main reason for this move was that he felt customer problems weren't being solved, he said. "I talked with every WebEx customer, and literally, I did not see a single happy customer," Yuan said.
With that realization, Zoom was born. Taking the lessons learned from his past jobs, he built a system from the ground up that solved many of the new problems customers were facing with old web conferencing products. Zoom now employs over 1,000 people and is one of the top business video conferencing companies.
Here are Yuan's five pieces of advice for becoming a successful CEO:
1. Follow your dream
It may sound simple, but following your dream is a key factor for CXO success, according to Yuan. "Whenever you have a good idea, just do it," Yuan said, "Even with all kinds of challenges, you will enjoy the journey, just do it. That's the no. 1 thing."
All successes begin with ideas, and Yuan recommends not hesitating or waiting. He said his one regret is putting off ideas, because you typically won't pursue those thoughts later on. Energy and drive decrease with time, so it's important to start new ventures while you are young and motivated.
Aspiring entrepreneurs should be aggressive in their ventures, Yuan said. Not all ideas will be successful, but they are worth testing out. "If, you pause the time it will still moving forward. So, you have no choice, but to every day enjoy the process. That's really important," said Yuan.
2. Get invested, literally
Raise money from venture capitalists to get your company on its feet. Investors aren't just about the money though. "Find those investors who would like to invest in you, not only your business," said Yuan. Investors are supporters, and having allies from the start will prove valuable in the long run—financially and personally.
3. Remain humble
When your company begins taking off, or if you begin rising in the ranks, stay humble.
"You've got to be humble and really try to sit down, understand, and learn. Otherwise, [if] you become arrogant, everything else will fall apart," said Yuan.
Arrogance is not productive, but listening is, Yuan said. He also highlighted the value of negative feedback, referring to criticism as "the best voice you can hear." Whether you are an entry level worker or a CXO, there is always the opportunity for growth and education. Yuan cautions not to lose yourself in the process, however. Retain your own working style while learning from the techniques of others.
4. Foster a positive company culture
One of the top 10 downfalls of a CEOs business success is ignoring company culture, reported TechRepublic's Alison DeNisco Rayome. The key to a sustainable company is a good company culture, Yuan said. He emphasized the importance of employee happiness, explaining that you have to make sure current employees are satisfied before adding more. Yuan aims to be an extremely present and active CEO, roaming the office daily to check on everyone.
"I want to let employee know that I'm here every time, every day, every minute in the office," said Yuan. He wants to know about any problems or dissatisfaction as soon as they arise, and prefers hearing grievances himself to learn from them.
Open communication is vital for a fluid, operative company. Instead of letting problems fester, CEOs should tackle them head on to ensure employee happiness, Yuan said. If employees are happy, then work gets done. "[It helps] build a sustainable culture," said Yuan.
5. Care about the customer
A successful business "ultimately boils down to customer experience," said Yuan. Customer dissatisfaction is what pushed him to start his own company in the first place, after all. The happiness of the customer is what drives a company. If a customer isn't happy, the business won't be either, and the business will not be sustainable.
Both employee and customer satisfaction are the fundamental components to a successful company, said Yuan, and CXOs can ensure that happiness by being aware and present. "The formula, I learned, is you think about how to make others happy. Then, you will be happy. That happiness [is] also sustainable," said Yuan.
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