Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky reveals how to build the best company culture

The CEO of Airbnb is very clear: building a great, passionate and committed team is the best way to build a successful company.

“I’m sure I won’t amount to anything”

Brian Chesky

Brian Chesky’s high school yearbook message couldn’t have been more wrong. However, eight years later, he could be forgiven for taking his own word for it when he couldn’t pay the rent on his San Francisco apartment as an unemployed designer. Times were tough and he and his roommate Joe Gebbia were desperately thinking of ways to make some money. When a design conference led to local hotels being fully booked, they saw an opportunity to let people stay for the weekend for a small fee.

Their cheap and cheerful accommodation, with air mattresses and Pop-Tarts, worked great. Such a simple idea could work and Brian knew it. A few months later, another friend joined them and was created. 12 years later, Airbnb is worth $31 billion with Brian steering the ship as CEO. The guy he said would be worthless revolutionized the global hotel industry.

Although he naturally became the leader of the company, he values ​​Airbnb’s culture above all else:

“Why is culture so important for a company? Here’s a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurs. And if we have a company with an entrepreneurial spirit, we will be able to take our next leap.”

Brian Chesky

Airbnb is not a story about how an aspiring entrepreneur raised funding and hired a thousand people in a year and then disappeared. Brian was much more meticulous than that. He believes they were one of the only companies in Silicon Valley that listed their values ​​before hiring someone.

For Brian, it doesn’t matter how good your product is when you start if you don’t build your company with the right people.

It took 6 months to hire Airbnb’s first employee and hundreds of interviews. Imagine the amount of short-term income they sacrificed by looking at resumes instead of gaining clients. It paid off spectacularly.

The first employee was so important because he was someone joining “Airfam.” They were going to be part of the company’s DNA and the example to follow for everyone. For each applicant, Brian asked himself “…Would I like to work with 100 or 1000 of these guys?”

This doesn’t mean Airbnb wanted a company full of clones, he recognizes the importance of having diverse people from different backgrounds with different ideas. However, they should all share the same underlying drive and value system. As he says, “culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion.”

“There is no good or bad culture, it is a strong or weak culture. And a good culture for someone else may not be a good culture for you. «.

Brian Chesky

The mere mention of culture can catch the attention of employees around the world. This is because many companies define values ​​that are too vague or generic. Honesty and integrity “don’t count” as they should be the foundation for all businesses anyway. If your values ​​can be copied and pasted into any organization, then you are doing them wrong.

Airbnb’s CEO suggests some principles that map precisely to the type of people you want in your company. It’s not about the traits that make someone world class in their field, but what makes them fit regardless of their abilities. Take a couple of examples of Airbnb values:

Defend our mission: Airbnb’s mission is to make people feel like they belong anywhere. Brian often asked interviewees if they would continue working with him if they knew they would die in ten years. If they said yes, then he knew they shared the same beliefs.

Being “cereal” entrepreneurs: This is a throwback to Airbnb’s struggles. When they only had 2 reservations a month, they also started selling election-themed cereals, which for some time was the majority of their income. They want to encourage outlandish ideas, not a regimented strategy like other companies.

Founders put their heart and soul into their company, but this sense of ownership can sometimes backfire. The need to control everything can unconsciously prevent them from hiring the best people for the job. They may not want to be challenged due to personal pride.

Brian takes the opposite approach:

“I think that’s the first thing, building a team that is so talented that it makes you a little uncomfortable being with them, because you know you’re going to have to improve your game to be with them.”

To create a strong culture, you need people who will not only improve your employees, but also force you to improve. Help stop the idea of ​​self-importance dominating the conditions for the strongest possible culture.

We often hear founders call their companies their baby, and unfortunately, some act like overbearing parents. In reality, many people influence a child’s development, from teachers to friends to after-school sports coaches. It is what helps prepare the child for life without depending on his mother or her father. Think of startup culture like a child’s character.

The CEO of Airbnb and his co-founders have always thought about their company and mission in the long term to build something that lasts. If Airbnb exists in 100 years, then the culture will be the same regardless of what the world looks like and what they are selling.

“Problems come and go. But culture is forever.”

Brian Chesky.