The CEO of $48 billion Shopify says long hours aren't necessary for success: 'I'm home at 5:30pm every evening'
- Shopify founder CEO Tobi Lutke has a holiday message for you: you don't need to work 80 hours a week to be successful. He's living proof, he explained in a Twitter thread on Thursday.
- Shopify is expected to report $1.55 billion in revenue for 2019, according to analysts polled by Seeking Alpha, and its stock has soared over 200% in 2019 to $407 per share.
- All of it done with a reasonable workweek, Lutke says.
- "I've never worked through a night. The only times I worked more than 40 hours in a week was when I had the burning desire to do so. I need 8ish hours of sleep a night. Same with everybody else, whether we admit it or not.
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Tobi Lutke, the founder and CEO of $48 billion ecommerce cloud software company Shopify, has a message for you this holiday: you don't need to work 80 hours a week to be successful.
And he's living proof, he explained in a Twitter thread on Thursday, the day after the Christmas holiday - in response to a debate over work/life balance and the 40-hour work week sweeping the venture capital and startup community on Twitter. That debate, apparently sparked by Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, has many sharing their own perspectives.
"I realize everyone's twitter feed looks different. But I'll go ahead and subtweet two conversations that I see going by right now: a) How the heck did Shopify get so big this decade and b) You have to work 80 hours a week to be successful," he tweeted.
He says he and his cofounders have grown this company from a profitable bootstrap to its current multi-billion status without him ever sleeping under his desk.
"I've never worked through a night. The only times I worked more than 40 hours in a week was when I had the burning desire to do so. I need 8ish hours of sleep a night. Same with everybody else, whether we admit it or not," he tweeted.
Shopify has had a spectacular few years. Its revenues have doubled since 2017, solidly beating Wall Street estimates quarter after quarter, growing from $171.46 million in Q3 September, 2017, to $390.55 million in Q3 September 2019, its latest complete quarter. It's expected to finish the year at $1.55 billion in revenues.
And Wall Street has noticed. Shopify went public in 2015. In the past year, the stock has soared over 200% from around $134 to around $407 giving the company a $47.6 billion market cap.
But even at the scale of its current operations, he says he doesn't let his job overshadow the rest of his life.
"I'm home at 5:30pm every evening. I don't travel on the weekend. I play video games alone, with my friends, and increasingly with my kids. My job is incredible, but it's also just a job. Family and personal health rank higher in my priority list," he tweeted.
The Canada factor
He believes one reason Shopify grew without giving up work/life balance is because its based in Ottawa, Canada, far from Silicon Valley and its worship of workaholism. The tech industry is famous for CEOs who sleep at work, from Elon Musk sleeping on Tesla's factory floor to Jack Dorsey who runs Twitter and Square and has said he's worked up to 20 hours a day at times.
The myth of sleeplessness as a key factor to success has become so widespread that Arianna Huffington even wrote a book and launched a lifestyle blog called "Thrive" to convince workers they need sleep.
Lutke apparently agrees. His philosophy is, "For creative work, you can't cheat. My belief is that there are five creative hours in everyone's day. All I ask of people at Shopify is that four of those are channeled into the company," he wrote.
Instead of looking for 10x workers or rockstar engineers - or brilliant jerks - he hires for people who can make great teams.
"What's even better than people are teams," he wrote. "We don't burn out people. We give people space. We love real teams with real friendship forming."
And he notes, "None of that is even about product, or market fit, or timing. Its all about people. Treating everyone with dignity."
Research supports it
There's plenty of research that backs up Lutke's viewpoint. In 2014, Stanford professor John Pencave published a famous paper in which he described a productivity cliff when people work over 50 hours a week.
Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, also published a study that said that managers could not differentiate between those who logged a true 80 hours a week and those who faked it. "The research is clear: long hours backfire for people and for companies," wrote Sarah Green Carmichael for the Harvard Business Review.
Or, as Lutke put it: "We are not moist robots. We are people and people are awesome."
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