CloudFlare, founded in 2009 by Michelle Zatlyn, Matthew Prince, and Lee Holloway, keeps websites for Meetup.org, Metallica, and many others running quickly, safely, and securely. It's adding 5,000 new customers a day, and revenue this year is expected to hit $40 million. Inc. spoke with Zatlyn about how a ferocious focus on efficiency can drive growth.
As told to Noah Davis.
It's easy to get something to 85 or 90 percent but harder to get it to the finish. As a small business or startup, that kills you. You have to finish faster than large incumbents. Early on, we spent a lot of time focused on getting people rolling in the right direction and in sync so we could deliver.
At first, as a companywide exercise, we'd plan the next three weeks. Everyone's name went on the y-axis of a whiteboard with specific tasks, written on sticky notes, that they were to accomplish in week one, week two, and week three. On Friday at 5 p.m., we would stand up and say what we accomplished, what we didn't, and why. The whiteboard method worked until we had about 25 people. Now, we plan every three months. Three weeks is too short, and six months is too long.
At those companywide quarterly meetings, every team stands up and explains what they are going to deliver. It's very simple: What it is, who's working on it, and when it will be done. Everything goes in a big document. At the end of the quarter, the teams say if they got it done or what percentage of it got done, why the rest didn't get done, and what got added to the road map.
When we hire, we prioritize people who finish tasks. I ask about a project, product, or time when the potential hire had to start something and end it over a period of weeks or a couple of months. Some people can rattle off lots of examples and some people can't. It becomes clear who is biased toward action.
At any small business or startup, there are always more things to do than your team can manage. We have our teams state explicitly what they will not do the next quarter. It's just as important to have that information and not get distracted.