by Stella Fayman on December 8, 2011
This is a guest post from Ethan Austin. Ethan is the co-founder of GiveForward, a website that offers people personal fundraising pages to raise money for their friends and loved ones’ out-of-pocket medical expenses. You can connect with him on Twitter @ethanaustin or on his blog Startups and Burritos.
Successful people don’t do it for the money. They do it because they are relentlessly dedicated about solving a problem and care beyond what is humanly possible. Meet Chuck Templeton. Chuck is one of these people.
Chuck is the founder of OpenTable NASDAQ (OPEN) When OpenTable went public in 2009 Chuck probably could have retired and drank cocktails on a beach somewhere. But that’s not what he decided to do. You see, Chuck is extremely passionate about the environment. All the clothes he buys are recycled from used clothing stores because he doesn’t want to consume more raw materials. He rides his bike almost everywhere and in the rare instance that he goes shopping for something new, he tries to only shop in his neighborhood so he both supports the local economy and doesn’t have to drive a car, wasting time and fossil fuels. He has a garden, raises chickens in the back yard, is working on making his home zero net energy (consuming as much energy as it produces), harvests the rain water off of his roof and has a mini dwarf fruit orchard at his Chicago home. Some call it saving the planet. But the way Chuck looks at it, the planet will be here for billions of years more; it’s the human race he is working to save.
Chuck doesn’t just talk a big game. He lives by his stated values and leads with his actions.
In 2011 Chuck decided to take his passion for the survival of the human race and started a new website called OhSoWe. OhSoWe is an effort to bring neighbors together to share stuff like tools, party supplies, camping gear and clothing to dramatically reduce the amount of crap we’re buying as consumers without the need to give up access to those things.
Last spring Chuck sent me an email to sign up for the private beta. I like Chuck and I support the idea, so I signed up to be a beta tester. Like all first iterations, OhSoWe was a little wonky. I found a bug and I sent the feedback to their customer service department. They tried to fix it but I continued to have problems, and I ended up sending several emails back and forth with the nice customer service rep over the course of a week. The last email I got surprised me. It said something along the lines of:
Thanks for your input…really appreciate it. Your feedback helped us figure out the problem and we have now solved the issue.
I didn’t realize it when I was emailing back and forth with the customer service rep, but it turns out Chuck was the guy answering all the customer service emails the whole time. Now, I’m guessing Chuck could have hired someone to handle customer service emails for $15 an hour, but Chuck did it himself because he CARES. He’s so passionate about what he’s doing, that he wants to get his hands dirty and learn as much as possible about his customer, and answer their emails at all hours of the day.
Similarly, when AirBnB was first starting, their CEO, Brian Chesky, stayed on customers’ couches for a year in order to meet them and better understand their needs. And when we first launched GiveForward, we would write a personal email to every single user that joined the site in order to engage with them and learn more about how we could improve the site. We mainly did this because we were bootstrapping and didn’t have any other options.
But when we were doing this, we were in our mid-twenties. We had tons of energy and everything in the world to prove. What I find so inspiring about Chuck is that he has absolutely nothing left to prove, yet he still hustles as if he were a 22 year-old kid running his first company. This is what makes Chuck successful. He simply out-CARES the competition.
If you want a good role model for how to run your company, follow Chuck’s lead: Stand for something; lead with your actions; and hustle like you’re 22 with everything to prove.
Oh, and if you really want to be like Chuck this holiday season, skip the gifts and instead start a borrowing group with your neighbors or co-workers. That or send them some organic chickens.