How I Built Resilience With Brian Chesky of Airbnb

How I Built This


Hey everyone and welcome to how I built. This resilience edition on these episodes were talking with entrepreneurs and business leaders about how they're adapting to these difficult economic times and today show we're going to hear from Brian Chess the CEO and Co founder of Airbnb back in twenty sixteen, we spoke with Brian's Co founder Joe Gebbie at, and he told the amazing story of how they founded and built the company, and if you haven't heard it, be sure to check it out. Now, of course, we are in a very different time and a few months ago Brian wrote a letter to the entire staff. AIRBNB letting them know that twenty five percent of the company was going to be laid off. This has been by far for us. The most difficult thing that we've experienced since we started the company a dozen years ago and I think join us to talk about how starting airbnb basically this idea that like strange who live each other live with each other like that was the hardest thing we were ever GonNa do it was like pushing a rock hill and it turned out that trying to run a company that does travel preparing to go public in the middle of pandemic is about as hard. And then doing all via Zoom Ios, even more difficult. I think that what people want right now just more fundamentally is connection is like the thing that we've always wanted we want connection to each other and now you have to fight for it. You know you have to make a conscious effort for it get on the one hand I'm closer to some people I've ever been in my life probably closer to my life co-founders donate we talk all the time and when you're going through crazy periods of time, it has a way of bringing you closer together but also has a way of making your bubble a little bit smaller and that's probably what's happened for me. Yeah. You you wrote a letter to your employees that is posted publicly that letter is was remarkable. It was so transparent. You had to lay off a quarter of your employees in May and you could see how painful it was for you to write that letter it was extremely transparent. You described the process for how you had to make the hard decision But also you know that every employee would receive fourteen weeks of of pay plus Severinsen insurance for a year and they keep their laptops and there were resources to help the employees Kind of walk me through how you how you came to to write that letter and How you kind of dealt with that just emotionally. Yeah there is no playbook. To lay people off in that's the kind of thing that if there was a playbook, you should never use it because the thing that people want more than anything. They want humanity they want compassion and that means that you need to treat people like like people like individually not robotically you know when the crisis happened, we felt in mid March it was pretty serious. We spent twelve years building airbnb in the we lost eighty percent of business in eight weeks. You know we're one of the success stories right and then suddenly eight weeks there's. All sorts of concerns articles willer survive never thought. I'd read an article like that. And we made a lot of hard decisions. We I cut enormous cost. We cut over a billion dollars plan marketing spend. We quickly raised two billion dollars. It's not easy to raise two billion dollars. It's more difficult to raise two billion dollars from your travel company. It's a pandemic and you've lost eighty percent business eight weeks. The people get nervous thankfully we had some great investors step up but we had to do that deal that was like over the course of seventy two hours still like get the deal done it was the. Fastest deal thing from have ever done and they've ever done. So before that layup even happened, I wrote a couple principals and I said, we have a hunt handful of stakeholders we have to I. Make sure that we act quickly in with all stakeholders. Remind we're going to be remembered probably for how he handled this crisis Andy Grove this famous entrepreneur said bad comes destroyed by crisis good company survive crisis in great companies thrive or are defined by crisis I said, we're not going to be the kind of company will be destroyed by this. We're GONNA try to take each of our stack holders and when we got to the employees, we basically had exhausted options having raised two billion dollars. We came to the conclusion that we would have to lay off when we confronted to hard truth the hard truth number one was this that we did not know when trouble would return nobody did and the second thing we knew is that when travel would return, it would look fundamentally different than the travel before the pandemic and so our business would have to look different and we'd have. To change the shape of our business that we focused on, and so then we just realized that we had to approach this with a sense of humanity said we should be as generous as we possibly could be in not less generous than that. Why would you do that until we came up with a handful of things that we did to try to help people in this very difficult time We did a fourteen sevens puts a week pre or service we felt like well, this is a health crisis people need health insurance, and so we made sure that everyone had at least one year of health insurance even after ever getting laid off one of the things that I'm most proud of that our team came up with Joe in the team came to me and they said, you know what? We have a recruiting team maybe we dedicate a percentage of the recruiting team to outplacement for the people

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