Blake Irving has very clear plans for the future of GoDaddy, the $7.3 billion technology company that he runs as chief executive.
I interviewed the former Microsoft and Yahoo! executive about GoDaddy, the future of work, the state of small business, why his door is always open, his best business advice, why he wears t-shirts and shorts to the office, and what’s on his Spotify playlist.
Zack Friedman: You came out of semi-retirement to become chief executive of GoDaddy. Why?
Blake Irving: Before I joined GoDaddy almost five years ago, I was a long-time customer.
I knew GoDaddy was in a unique position in capturing ideas at their earliest point. I had personally registered domain names at GoDaddy for over 40 business ideas.
I believed that if GoDaddy made it incredibly easy for folks with ideas to take the next steps in turning those ideas into reality, we would be lowering the barriers to business formation and in some sense democratizing entrepreneurialism.
When I saw the unit economics of the business, the scale, as well as the incredible brand recognition and customer retention, I realized GoDaddy had the horsepower to grow that capability worldwide.
I asked myself, “What would this company look like if we flattened and globalized the platform, and made the software easier to use?” I imagined who I’d bring with me to take on this charge and got incredibly excited.
I hired just about everyone I envisioned, and we’ve localized in 56 markets and are now in 125 countries with an incredibly scalable platform that’s more than doubled our revenue.
It’s been totally worth coming out of semi-retirement.
Zack Friedman: Most people think of GoDaddy as a domains business. Why are they wrong?
Blake Irving: That’s easy to assume, since we’re bigger than our next 10 domain competitors combined.
However, we’re also the world’s largest paid WordPress host, we have an incredibly popular [Do It Yourself] site builder with a publishing rate that blows away the “premium” competition, and our fastest category of growth is in cloud services like email marketing and web security.
Pretty much anywhere in the world, if a person wants to turn an idea into something real, GoDaddy has become the best place to start, run and grow that initiative.
Zack Friedman: You often wear t-shirts and shorts to work. You keep a drum set in your office and have an open door policy. Tell us more about your management style and leadership philosophy.
Blake Irving: I think the best organizations are super flat, without big hierarchies between the most entry-level jobs and senior leadership. Everyone should be able to talk to anyone, regardless of their post about how to make things better or discuss what’s broken.
My philosophy for leading is get out in front, set the pace and live the culture you want everyone else to live.
I often say lead from the front — but do it in the mosh pit, not on the stage.
I also believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, at least once — assume good intentions on the part of your colleagues, and bring as many people into the fold as you can.
You can’t over-communicate. And above all, I think a good leader needs to be totally consistent, day in and day out.
Even if everything else is chaos, folks should know exactly what to expect in a measured way. If not, people are left guessing, and that’s never good for getting everyone aligned.
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