To celebrate 10 years of SaaStr, we’re revisiting some classic podcast episodes. Up today: a 2016 interview with Harry Stebbings and Flexport Founder and CEO, Ryan Petersen. In October 2016, Flexport was a single-product company with a valuation of 300 million. Today, it’s a multi-product platform valued at 8 billion.

In the future-minded tech world, it’s often about what’s next. However, there are also timeless words of wisdom that remain evergreen for every SaaS leader. 

In 2016, Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen sat down to share his thoughts about running a successful tech company on the SaaStr podcast. And that success has only compounded –– in 2022, Flexport raised $935 million in Series E funding, raising its valuation to $8 billion. And as a technology platform for global logistics, Flexport has taken on a pivotal role in helping move goods around the world over the last few years of the pandemic, as supply chains have been disrupted.

In this classic podcast session, Petersen described his ongoing journey as a founder and CEO and imparted enduring pieces of advice to inspire SaaS leaders.

The Value of NPS

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is one of many metrics SaaS leaders watch. Unfortunately, alongside so many other data points, it’s easy for NPS to get lost. Petersen advocates prioritizing NPS to guide the business and drive value. He says, “We are going to grow as fast as we can without letting NPS suffer. That’s the constraint on our growth.”

Petersen isn’t suggesting that NPS holds a business back. Far from it: It’s actually what pushes higher retention, boosts better customer experience, and results in higher revenue. Keeping customers happy keeps money in the business. And NPS goes beyond customers, too. Petersen also suggests continually gauging satisfaction among employees, suppliers, partners, and any other relevant stakeholders to your business. 

So, what happens if the scores are low or if some customers are unhappy? Petersen suggests looking at less-than-stellar feedback as an opportunity: “Your detractors –– the customers who don’t like you and tell you that –– those are the ones where we grow share-of-wallet the fastest. They start to spend more with us when we proactively address it.”

Bottoms Up Decision-Making and the Philosophy of Letting Go

In the early stages of a startup, founders have to put in lots of hustle and make critical company decisions. But in order to successfully grow your company, CEOs and founders need to learn to let go and trust their teams. As Petersen says, “I delegate like crazy…empowering other people and being comfortable letting go. [Not letting go] is a mistake that a lot of founders can make.”

Instead, Petersen advocates for bottoms-up decision-making: “I firmly believe that decision-making powers should be pushed to the edge of the organization.” To explain his position, he describes instances when he’s had less-than-stellar customer service experiences. Typically, in those situations, the reps he spoke with could not help him because the decision-making hierarchy went above them.

Empowering your teams to make important decisions demonstrates that you trust them and that they offer value. This trust creates a more positive work environment, attracts quality talent, and reduces churn.

Key Takeaways

  • Pay attention to NPS and go beyond customers. Include employees, partners, suppliers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Turn negative feedback into a win by taking proactive action to correct problems quickly.
  • Empower every employee to be a decision-maker.

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