High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil


The definition of a moat is the ability to charge more.

Higher prices equals faster growth.

You basically want to have autonomous teams, where each team is guaranteed to have a great product person and a great architect. And that’s the model.

The very best executives tend to be a combination of a router (i.e. they send items on to other people for execution and end meetings with few to no action items for themselves), a strategist, and a problem solver (i.e. someone who can identify when the team is off track and dive in to help). 

A CEO’s energy levels dictate those of the team. You should find time to take vacations and truly be offline—otherwise you will lose energy, burn out, and potentially give up. This means once a year you should take a real one- to two-week vacation, and every quarter you should take a three day weekend. If you are working every day, I strongly suggest that you start enforcing a personal no-work day at least once a week. 

If you have a significant other, make sure at least one night a week is held for date night—and really do something together that night. Similarly, schedule exercise in the morning at least three times a week One way to enforce this is to hire a personal trainer. 

The key to me is having two documents. The first—at Stripe, we’re calling them charters—particulars the long-term view of why this team or this product or this company exists, what its overarching strategy is, and what success would look like over even a three- to five-year period. And then the second is a shorter-term plan: “Okay, in the near term, then, what are we trying to get done?” That can look like a results-based management model or an OKR—objectives and key results—model. But it’s some way that a team can say, “This is where we’re going long term. And on a quarterly basis, this is where we’re focusing. We’re hoping to move X and Y metrics.”

You need to codify a set of principles and behaviors and then cohere to them, culturally. And those founding documents shouldn’t change very often. We refresh those operating principles every year, but they don’t change that meaningfully. I don’t think founding documents should change frequently. 

What are things that only the founder/CEO can do and which are existential to the company? What must they spend time on? One of those is often recruiting additional leaders. Others would be, in most companies, articulating the product vision and setting cultural standards. 

The reason you’re hiring a new CEO is because there are new skill sets that are critically important. But if someone doesn’t have the founder’s mindset, they’ll be fundamentally, at best, in asset management. They’ll make sure that things keep running, keep going on a trajectory. But the ability to change the curve means taking a risk that a founder would take. That requires moral authority, but it also requires mental willingness—including risking hearing that, “You really screwed up, you’re doing this really badly.” You have to be willing to go through that in order to make it happen. 

That’s the kind of thing that you look at when you’re building a board. What’s really adding to the company and adding to the CEO? It’s not just management of the assets, it’s also helping the amplification. And helping the amplification is helping the CEO, and the exec team, play the game the right way. 

The way my company is structured is that everyone can be removed, including me. Then it is actually a very consistent moral argument that I can make, which is saying, “Hey guys, you can remove me as wells if I’m out of line.” Nobody is safe, and that forces everybody to behave. 

For each role you should write a job description that explains what the role will do, and what experience and background you are looking for. You can also list the things you are not looking for, or consider less important. This description should be circulated to people interviewing for the role with a short note explaining what the hiring manager is looking for and prioritizing. If your team subsequently raises questions about who to hire for the role, you can refer back to the original job description to correct any bad assumptions. 

For each candidate for a given role, ask the same or similar interview questions. This will allow you to calibrate candidates across identical questions. 

The trick to being effective at this is that you have to get really good at saying no and just doing things. There are a lot of things that are urgent but not important. The hard part of being a good CEO is that you have to be willing to let some things fall apart. You don’t have enough time to do everything well. And in practice, what that means is that there are some urgent things that you just don’t do. Getting comfortable with that takes a long time. It’s hard. 

You want to over-communicate with boards for sure. 

You’ll get far more leverage on your time if you hire people and work with them close than try to do everything yourself. 

Will you teach me how to be a CEO. 

As a founder you need to give yourself permission to make hiring mistakes as long as you are willing to quickly correct them. 

Find the five best people in Silicon Valley that do that role, and just have coffee with them. And just chat. 

One key criteria for any executive is their ability to attract and become a magnet for talent. So when you’re doing reference checks, you really want to understand: Does this person have a pool of amazing people that will want to join a company? Can they immediately upgrade the entire talent of the organization because they’re so talented that other smart people really want to work with them? 

With executives, there’s no reason ever for hiring someone without thorough reference checks. 

Ultimately, the way I grade people is pretty subtle. You can usually look around an office, especially if it’s an open office, and see who’s coming to people’s decks. The people who are thriving—at any level, junior to senior—tend to have people approaching their desk all the time. Because it basically means that someone is going out of their way because they believe that this person can be helpful. And so insofar as people start going to this executive frequently, even people beyond the organization that the person is managing start approaching them and working with them and meeting with them, those are really positive signals. 

A really great executive is about six to twelve months ahead of the curve. They’re already planning for and acting on things that are going to be important six to twelve months in the future. 

The way to retain people who are performing and who you really want to retain is to hire someone that they can learn from. 

The most important job of a CEO is just to make sure that the company succeeds. 

Deal people to read every word of every contract, including all the legal language. 

Some deals should not get done. Great deal people will take a step back and decide whether to walk away, and they won’t try to force a deal to happen if it shouldn’t. Some of the best “deals” are the ones that don’t happen. 

It is a good idea to read a journalist’s previous stories before speaking with them. If they have a long history of writing thoughtless attack pieces, you should decide how much you want to engage or talk with them. 

The best way to find a great PR person is to ask other PR people, agencies, and journalists who they respect the most and who does the best work, and then go after those people. Sometimes, you can also hire a great partner-level person out of a PR agency. 

I think that an agency that questions and pushes back instead of just delivering what you’ve asked them for should be weighted higher, even if the ideas don’t align.