Treat your customers as you would want to be treated.
This twist on the Golden Rule was one of the key takeaways from a discussion about business disruption at enterprise software giant Salesforce’s (CRM) annual conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Pattie Sellers, the executive director of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summits, moderated the session that included several CEOs of startups like mattress company Casper, online gym reservation company ClassPass, and construction app business PlanGrid. Each one of the CEOs explained how they created their businesses based on the assumption that traditional companies in their respective industries weren’t satisfying their personal needs.
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For Philip Krim, the CEO of Casper, the mattress industry “didn’t know their customers” and were too focused on selling mattresses and moving on to the next sale rather than creating relationships with customers to ensure they were happy. Krim said that the mattress industry provided “a terrible customer experience because the industry wanted to drive you into a retail store.” He argued that people don’t “have to lay on a mattress to know if it’s right for you” and that customers can be just as satisfied by buying them online.
ClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia said her vision of the company came from a desire to take ballet classes, but was “miserably frustrated” with signing up for online classes. This frustration led her to build her company that lets people buy passes for multiple gyms and not be locked in to only one gym with year-long contracts.
“I had to fix that,” said Kadakia. “I needed to build a product that got people back to working out.”
Still, Kadakia may be preparing to leave her company. When Sellers asked about rumors that she may be stepping down as CEO, Kadakia deflected the question by saying, “I will always do what’s best for the company.”
For PlanGrid CEO Tracy Young, an important moment in her career was when Apple CEO Steve Jobs debuted the iPad tablet computer. She believed that construction workers would love a mobile device that could store and display their building blueprints instead of having to haul heavy documents everywhere they went.
However, as much as these companies seem disruptive to their respective industries, Young said that there were still some things that entrepreneurs shouldn’t try to reinvent. One of those untouchables is traditional business management with job titles and organizational structure.
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Young said she experimented with flat management structures where workers had no job titles, which seemed fine when her startup had only 10 employees. However, as the company grew, she said the experimental management style became unworkable, and, if she could go back in time, she would tell herself to avoid the hassle of trying it.
“Do not waste your time trying to be creative on that part,” Young said.