Eventbrite’s boss on lead­ing with em­pa­thy and get­ting the best from staff

The Australian - The Deal - - News - In­ter­view by: Lisa Allen

Ju­lia Hartz is co-founder and pres­i­dent of bil­lion-dol­lar-plus on­line ticket seller Eventbrite. Since it launched in 2006 it has gen­er­ated more than $US3 bil­lion in gross ticket sales to events, fes­ti­vals, par­ties and work­shops around the world and for five years run­ning has been voted the best place to work in the San Fran­cisco Bay area. Hartz says em­pa­thy can be a use­ful lead­er­ship tool when try­ing to re­tain her 500-plus staff in Sil­i­con Val­ley’s over­heated em­ploy­ment zone.

What is your fam­ily back­ground?

I came from a work­ing-class fam­ily and grew up in Santa Cruz, south of San Fran­cisco. My mother is a re­tired editor and my father was in retail, as gen­eral man­ager of some big chain retail stores. I have a great work ethic from both of them. My up­bring­ing was quite nor­mal. I have worked since I was 13 years old. I have never not worked. My first job was as a barista.

Is work-life bal­ance im­por­tant given busi­ness runs 24/7, es­pe­cially in tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies such as yours?

Ab­so­lutely, work-life bal­ance is im­por­tant for ev­ery­body at the com­pany. I strive to help peo­ple fig­ure it out – whether they have a fam­ily or not. Peo­ple who don’t have chil­dren need time for them­selves. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in­ter­ested in the longevity of our team whether that be car­ing about their well­ness or what­ever. I take that se­ri­ously.

How do you get the best out of your staff?

It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand who’s best for the role. I think about the prob­lem we’re try­ing to solve and the skills we need. I look at the pro­files of peo­ple. It’s for­mu­laic. I find if you re­ally put peo­ple’s in­ter­ests first and build trust with the peo­ple in your com­pany there’s re­ally no limit to where they will go. The time and ef­fort I have put into build­ing those foun­da­tions builds on it­self. That starts to be a cat­a­lyst for growth.

What’s the re­ten­tion rate of your staff?

I think we are about av­er­age on re­ten­tion. It’s a very spe­cial time in Sil­i­con Val­ley. In San Fran­cisco we are see­ing a lot of [staff] move­ment. It re­ally is an ag­gres­sive mar­ket. Seventy-five per cent of our com­pany are mil­len­ni­als who are look­ing to grow rapidly and look­ing at op­tions. They are not dug into the one com­pany. You’re no longer look­ing at 20 years with one com­pany. You’re look­ing at five years with a com­pany. We give our peo­ple great chal­lenges and make it an en­vi­ron­ment where they want to come to work. It’s also im­por­tant to con­nect the dots, con­nect their work to the suc­cess of the com­pany, or greater vi­sion, or how they can di­rectly im­pact those. We also make sure we pro­vide in­ter­nal op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth, build­ing paths that al­low peo­ple to as­cend when they’re ready.

What is your lead­er­ship style?

I lead with em­pa­thy. I used to think that was a weak­ness but not any more. Now I think it’s a great strength and I am def­i­nitely con­nected to peo­ple at Eventbrite. I care and I also try to be as clear and con­sis­tent with peo­ple as I can. I have a pretty good mem­ory as well. That’s pretty im­por­tant too.

What makes a good leader?

A strong in­ten­tion to lead makes a good leader. I spent a few years think­ing I was not good or old enough to be a leader but when I even­tu­ally took the reins I re­alised I needed to have a strong in­ten­tion to lead. You can’t fall back­wards into lead­er­ship. You have to go in head-first. I think great lead­ers are pas­sion­ate and they be­lieve in what they’re do­ing. The more op­ti­mistic the leader the bet­ter it is for the team. It has to be rooted in re­al­ity and I re­ally think strong lead­ers have an in­ten­tion and be­lief in what their team will achieve.

What was your first real job?

I chose TV pro­duc­tion as my fo­cus area, and found a ca­reer in se­ries pro­duc­tion with MTV. I was al­most a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist rep­re­sent­ing the ca­ble TV net­work. I saw all the scripts then I bought the rights to some of them. I was for­tu­nate to work in MTV right out of col­lege.

What skills can non-tech­ni­cal staff bring

to a tech­ni­cal com­pany?

When we started Eventbrite I wasn’t sure where I would ap­ply my skills. My skills in me­dia in­cluded lis­ten­ing to peo­ple, build­ing an au­then­tic con­nec­tion with peo­ple and de­vel­op­ing a brand or a voice. I also built and ran our cus­tomer ser­vice func­tion for the first few years, as well as over­see­ing our mar­ket­ing ef­forts. I re­alised in my own per­sonal jour­ney that I love to learn by do­ing. For that rea­son I did not love school – be­cause I re­ally love

to get my hands dirty.

What do you love about

your job?

I love the fact that in my mind this is a once-in-al­ife­time op­por­tu­nity to build a long-term sus­tain­able busi­ness. Over the past 10 years I had no idea what was in front. But an idea be­comes vi­able and it turns into a com­pany. I also think that I love the blank-page qual­ity of cre­at­ing a com­pany ev­ery day – we’re writ­ing our own book.

“If you put peo­ple’s in­ter­est first and build trust with the peo­ple in your com­pany, there is re­ally no limit to where they will go.”

Eventbrite’s Ju­lia Hartz on staff de­vel­op­ment

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