Tinder's Sean Rad: Be Real, Be Vulnerable and Confide in Your Co-Workers
Never mix business with pleasure, the old cautionary adage goes. Most would say that’s wise advice. Not Sean Rad. The controversial Tinder co-founder and CEO is all for blurring professional and personal lines.
Casually hanging out on and off the clock with colleagues and co-workers -- and even becoming close friends them -- can strengthen your team and make for more satisfying work, he told Entrepreneur at a recent Virgin Atlantic event in Los Angeles.
Ahead of Tinder’s acquisition of Humin, we caught up with the once-again head of the viral dating app, the Match Group-owned company that now strikes a mind-boggling 26 million matches per day. The 29-year-old multi-millionaire shared his advice for entrepreneurs, and, well, it got a touch sentimental.
As he joked, “We had a moment, we got deep.” Now we’re sharing his advice with you:
Be more than co-workers. Be friends.
In Rad’s world, friends do let friends become friends with their co-workers. Kicking back together outside of the office is highly encouraged at Tinder, and it happens often.
“When you have a group of individuals who believe in the same thing, they share a bond and they’re friends,” he says. “That leads to hanging out outside of work and confiding in each other because you’re going through something that nobody else can truly understand or empathize with. You’re already bonded together by a common mission, and being friends leads to a more enjoyable time at work.”
We’re career-casual enough to swipe right on that advice, well, to a point. How about you?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Perhaps Rad’s been reading up Brené Brown’s popular theories on the power of vulnerability. Whatever the case, he’s big on letting his guard down and being vulnerable, especially at the helm.
“I think the greatest leaders in history were the most vulnerable,” he says. “You can’t connect with anyone unless you let them see you at your best -- and at your worst. Confide in your co-workers. Be be real. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability leads to trust and that’s so important in any company. If you don’t have trust, it slows you down at every turn.”
Trust us, we know.
Be more than a buzzword.
Rad views the word “entrepreneur” as more than just a trendy four-syllable title. He sees it as a way of life -- and suggests that you do, too. “An entrepreneur is so much more than a buzzword,” he says.
“It’s someone who has a vision of how something can be better and then aligns resources and people against that vision to make it a reality," Rad says. "You don’t wake up and say, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur.' You wake up and say ‘I want to solve a problem.’”
Lead like you’ll be copied.
Rad loosely compares being a CEO to being a parent or a teacher. Children do as you do, not as you say. Likewise, when you’re the boss, “your employees will do as you do,” so do your best to do right -- not that he always has, he admits.
“I’ve been extremely transparent -- sometimes too transparent at work” he says, “and there are costs to that, but I think it’s built a level of trust, empathy and understanding amongst my team.”
He continues: “In the end, I think company culture is how the leaders of the company act and make decisions, and less so about catchy phrases that you put on the wall.”
Hmm, maybe just display your company logo in the office, like Tinder did?
Work like a millennial.
Focusing on the wider impact your job has -- not just on the job itself -- can imbue you with a satisfying sense of purpose. Millennials “just get that” he says, and, according to him, their collective drive to advance purpose-driven work packs the potential to better society as a whole.
“The next generation of the workforce, especially millennials, want to know, ‘What is the impact that my work is going to have on the world and the society around me?’ They’re very conscious of their actions and what happens as a result of them. It’s in their DNA,” he says.
Grow fast, but don’t grow apart.
Rad knows more than your average app co-founder about exponential growth. Tinder only launched in 2012. Since then, the super-visual dating tool has gone viral the world over. Tinder, now available in 196 countries, has made more than 10 billion matches to date. Users now clock approximately 1.6 billion swipes per day, according to the company. [Tinder, however, declined to provide its latest daily active users tally, though Fast Company estimated in a January 2016 report that it had 9.6 million, the same number a Match Group SEC filing stated Tinder had for the month of September 2015.]
To keep your company culture intact while riding the expansion fasttrack, Rad suggests starting with clearly identifying your brand identity. “The first step is to know who you are as a company,” he says. “That’s the foundation of any culture -- having a concrete sense of mission and purpose. If you do that well, everything else becomes better.”
Free your people.
Rad isn’t a fan of forcing “a particular structure” on his employees. The idea is that people will do their best work when they “feel free to do what they love,” he says.
“We put an emphasis on reaching our goals and having a great work ethic, but we don’t put an emphasis on being behind your computer and putting in visible work," he says. "It’s not about the visible work. It’s about the results and being held accountable to those results. But it also gives people a level of freedom to enjoy and have fun with their work peers in the process and not have to be beholden to structure.”
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.