HomeAway's new President John Kim wants to give travelers exactly what they are looking for and believes science -- not sales -- is the way to do it.
The vacation rental company just built a user experience (UX) lab to help solve complex problems and beat competitors. It also made a significant investment in user-oriented engineering talent, consumer research, and scientific apparatus.
So why is a travel booking website so focused on science? Kim explains his approach in his own words, and it's one you can learn from:
Turn every business activity into a scientific hypothesis
My goal is to transform HomeAway into a house of science by applying the scientific method to everything we do. We communicate a shared thesis statement about where HomeAway is going and help teams think through problems and make investments that lead to potential breakthroughs.
Give consumers exactly what they want -- and fast
Consumers want selection. With over 2 million places to stay, we have one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. The big issue is helping the consumer find exactly what they are looking for. We are focused on personalization and discovery as well as how we enable people from 193 countries to have a consistent, simple experience where they can pay in the currency they want with the payments types they typically use.
Prepare for the unexpected
Ken Moelis recently said that every CEO in the world is asking themselves one question: Am I prepared for the rise in technology? Every company is now a tech company. To lead a tech company, leaders must have the experience and skill set to create and defend against disruption.
Exponential improvements in processing power and storage, massive improvements in global infrastructure, infinite waves of data, along with wildly unpredictable consumer trends change our business climate. Business leaders need to build organizations with the ability to turn on a dime based on new data, opportunities or challenges.
Seek and retain top talent
A president or CEO can't do it alone, a tech company needs talented designers, engineers, and scientists. The U.S. will be short one million tech workers by 2020. The ability for leaders to recruit and retain top talent will be paramount.
Gain insight from employees
The best way to know a company's strengths and weaknesses are by talking to as many people as possible and digging into what they know, what they are good at and what they believe. These conversations were also an incredible opportunity to express our values and explain what it means to be a house of science.
As a leader, I place significant value on feedback and identifying opportunities for personal growth. Meeting hundreds of employees gave me the chance to build connections and reduce the feedback cycle.
Never compromise on top priorities.
I manage my time and priorities by setting objectives and key results (OKRs), and identifying one or two things on which I refuse to compromise. From there it becomes an exercise of prioritization and trade-offs.
I review my OKRs and priorities weekly and structure each day to efficiently accomplish what I've outlined. Despite this rigor, I arrive early each day to devote an hour to reading and allow myself to be led by my curiosity.
Never let ego get in the way of job performance.
There is no job that is too big or too small - you should approach everything with the attitude that you can make it ten times better, cheaper or faster than what people expected. Ego is a career killer.
Learn something new every day.
Especially by taking advantage of the knowledge of those around you. For example, in meetings, I make it clear if I'm assuming the role of a student, a coach, or a decision maker. I strive to be the decision maker as little as possible. We hire amazingly talented people. They are empowered to make the right decisions. My job is to make sure they are practicing great science.
Focus on technology.
People expect their leaders to have the appropriate tech expertise, critical thinking skills, curiosity and willingness to experiment to help teams win. Job title will mean far less in the future.