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Growth Strategies / Apps

6 Leadership Secrets That Led to a Billion Downloads

Shazam CEO Rich Riley breaks down how to grow a company without losing its soul.
6 Leadership Secrets That Led to a Billion Downloads
Image credit: Shazam
- Entrepreneur Staff
Editorial Director
5 min read

If 1 billion downloads means that your app is a good idea, then Shazam is a good idea. A great one, even. The music and media recognition app recently hit that milestone and this summer found its way onto network TV with a game show called Beat Shazam, hosted by Jamie Foxx.

Entrepreneur caught up with Shazam CEO Rich Riley to get his insights into growing a business into a global empire while maintaining the company's focus, culture and even an appreciation for magic.

Related: 20 Productivity Apps You Didn't Know You Needed

1. Put the customer first and deliver magic.

"Business is more competitive than ever, and to succeed, you have to focus on your customers and deliver magic, or someone else will. It’s never been easier to start a company. Big companies are being disrupted and people’s expectations are high. Don’t just satisfy your customers; amaze them. And this approach transcends the product or service, extending to the entire organization. In fact, our values statement at Shazam is, 'Deliver Magic Together.'"

2. Remember: It's all about the team.

"Most entrepreneurs and leaders have been told this, and I think they genuinely believe it. However, in my experience, no matter how much you thought it was about the team, it’s even more about the team. Hiring the right people, creating a culture that attracts them and enables them to do their best work and having no tolerance for dysfunction are critical. Talent decisions are the most important decisions."

Related: 10 Must-Have Apps for Running a Business

3. Be human.

"No one expects you to be perfect, nor will they believe it if you try to make it look that way. Embrace imperfection, both your own and that of employees, because it can actually lead to breakthroughs. In general, be human and be the leader you would want your kids to work for -- skip the snarky email, treat people with respect, assume positive intent and, when something bothers you, get curious, not angry."

4. Over-communicate and over-communicate some more.

"Transparency is no longer optional, nor should it be -- so over-communication is best. It makes for a better environment altogether, prevents feelings of isolation or siloed business divisions and fosters camaraderie. For example, we now start each company wide ‘all-hands’ meeting playing guitars, plus we celebrate the new hires and babies, and morale is at an all-time high. We joke about being a 'Shazamily' in our company, but that’s how it feels!"

4. Travel the world to change the way you do business.

"I learned this when I was with Yahoo! Shazam has an equally global audience, and everywhere I go, I gain a new perspective, a new way of applicable thinking. It helps immensely to see not just your team around the world -- we’ve got hundreds spread out over eight countries, and they come from all over the world, which is equally important -- but also the way your product, whatever it may be, is being used and received. When you’re stuck in Silicon Valley or New York all the time, it’s all too easy to get caught up in numbers exclusively or in an echo-chamber, but seeing people and their reactions and their perspectives is unquantifiable."

Related: 6 Apps That Help You Stick to Your Goals

5. Listen to everyone around you.

"I have four young children of varying ages, and some of the best -- and of course most honest -- insights I’ve gotten have been from them and their friends. I’m not necessarily saying their feedback or discussions will shape company-wide strategy or anything to that effect, but I will say this: Don’t discount it! Without getting too cliched, they are obviously the future, and in tech, the future is always now. But also, as a general rule, listen to anyone who serves up an opinion, inside or outside your company. Don’t ever be surprised if the most profound, actionable thoughts come from the fresh-out-of-college intern -- or someone 60 years their senior. Bottom line: It should come as no surprise that the less personally invested someone is, and in some cases the more detached they are, the more valuable their opinions. Take heed."

6. Never stop learning.

"Every CEO says this, the way salespeople abide by ‘Always be closing,’ right? There’s a reason for that: Complacency is something that can afflict anyone, and it’s dangerous no matter who you are. I’ve heard horror stories about CEOs or really successful entrepreneurs running a somewhat dictatorial ship, unwilling to let other voices in. That might work for a while, but it’s ultimately bad for everyone involved, including the company. There is learning to be done 100 percent of the time, regardless of all you’ve seen, how much experience you have, your education, your wins. The most successful people in any industry are those who want to learn, who welcome the knowledge and openly admit that they’ll never know it all."

 

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