Though he’s only held one other job since college, WhitePages founder and CEO Alex Algard thinks he’s found a pretty good fit in his growing company. “I like the feeling of making an impact and a positive difference in the world,” he says of his role running a site that boasts over 50 million monthly users who come to them for contact information. And it’s not hard to see how he translated this into his role running a company based on delivering “directory assistance to the masses for free”.
He has learned a lot along the way, from why getting rid of investors might just be the best thing you can do for your business to how being a great leader makes great products possible. Here are some of his top lessons that he shared with Nextcast.
“We’re in collective denial,” Algard jokes about his now 10+ year old business. “If you look at how we do business...we have much more in common with how startups do business and how startups interact team-wise.” What this means is that despite having a team of over 100 people, his number one priority is still innovation and creating amazing products for their customers above all else.
Part of the company’s focus has come from getting rid of their external investors. “We still have a rockstar board,” he explains, but he adds that external investors by their very nature have different priorities for your company than you do. Their first priority is to their partners; as a CEO, your first priority should be to customers. “Sometimes it can be a little bit distracting to have a whole bunch of different people to report to as far as investors and employees and customers too.” After buying out his investors, Algard says his board conversations now aren’t about investment decisions, but about how to run the business even more effectively. (4:30)
“Nothing’s better than working with great people,” Algard says. His team at WhitePages works hard to maintain an incredibly high bar for talent, though “it’s absolutely a war for talent out there.” However, he has found power in his network to bring him the best of the best. “I think a lot of our best recruits came from networking,” he explains. And when it comes to keeping great people around? “We can’t over-invest in keeping our employees happy and productive.” (15:30)
What would Algard tell his younger self, if he could? “I would advise myself to focus on...lifelong learning. Don’t optimize your career on your 1 or 2 year timeframe; optimize it on a 10 year timeframe.” He adds: “It’s much more about the learning, it’s much more about the people that you work with” than necessarily making the biggest paycheck. (17:15)
Be sure to stick around for the end of this video where Algard reminisces about the time when WhitePages was recruiting one of their first-ever full time engineers. It’s a hilariously cringe-worthy look back on the startup days of a now established and growing company. As the company launches WhitePages PRO, their growing B2B unit, and continue “building a contact graph that maps out how people and businesses in the world are connected based on contact information” there are certainly many more good days and good stories to come. (20:45)