Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuk are notorious for being some of the greatest business owners and CEOs that we can learn from today. In their March 14th session at SXSW Interactive 2015, they discussed their thoughts on running a business, work/life balance, and what to look for when hiring employees. Here’s a recap of their discussion, moderated by Jack’s wife, Suzy Welch.
How Can You Succeed as an Entrepreneur?
The first topic covered was succeeding in the business world as an entrepreneur. Vaynerchuk stated, “the internet is squeezing out the meritocracy. It gives everyone a chance,” meaning that it’s possible to become a business owner (thanks to the internet) because there are less constraints on what is considered a business.
Welch agreed, and added, “you aren’t an entrepreneur unless you have an idea. You gotta have something of value, something unique.”
On Hiring the Right People & Being a Great Boss
The conversion then moved into one of the next logical steps of growing a business: human resources and hiring the right people. Welch stated that CEOs “want smart, hungry, energizing, passionate people who want to follow you.” He also emphasized the importance of wanting to make your employees happy. He asked the crowd, “is your boss somebody who wants to see you succeed? Or are they trying to save their company 2 cents? If they are, get the hell away from them. You want a boss that wants to see you grow…If you’re a boss, love to take care of your people and make it fun.”
Don’t kick anybody when they are down. Kick out people when they are swelling instead of growing.
As a boss, Welch also recommended letting everyone who works for you know where they stand. You should meet with your employees 3-4x per year what they can improve and what you like that they are doing. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.
When it comes to being a good boss, Vaynerchuk simply said that self-awareness and no hypocrisy is super important. Welch agreed and stated that,
“There’s nothing worse when people are pompous assholes.”
Suzy Welch then asked Gary and Jack if millennials really ready to launch a business? Vaynerchuk stated that “they can be, if they are truly ready. Everyone thinks they are truly ready because of our startup culture. I’ve seen a lot more success with scrappier people than people who have been protected with Ivy League educations.”
On Work/Life Balance
Suzy then asked about work/life balance. Welch emphatically said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. It’s all about choices. You make your own choices and you don’t wait for some bureaucracy to tell you what’s equal or what you should do.” Vaynerchuk added, “work/life balance you have to be considerate of those close to you. You have to consider your variables [and what is most important to you].”
“Kids should do what they are best at. It’s doesn’t matter about what other people expect.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
On Becoming Successful in The Digital Age
The trio then went on to discuss how to become successful in the digital age, no matter what line of business you are in. Suzy asked what the most important things to look for when it comes to inner qualities, as well as people you choose to surround yourself with.
“There’s way too many people in this room who refuse to change their mind. I’m actually looking for the opposite.”
“It’s also important to deliver what you say. Credibility is key to you all of your life.”
The talk wrapped with more discussion on how to interact with people when it comes to business and your personal life. Welch encouraged the audience to “be yourself. Dance with the girl who brought you here. Stay authentic. Change as you learn about yourself; be flexible. But understand, you need to be yourself at the core.”
To end the conversation, Suzy Welch asked the CEOs what their “key takeaways” would be from the conversation today. They stated:
- Gary Vaynerchuk: “Self awareness and empathy. Start giving a f*$k about other people and they will put you in the right position.”
- Jack Welch: “Care a lot about what you’re doing. Have a passion for it. Be authentic.”
Photos taken by author.