Market leaders across industries are choosing Slack: CEO Stewart Butterfield
During the COVID-19 pandemic, communication has been an essential tool for chief executive officers. Finding ways to keep in regular contact with employees, customers and other key stakeholders in a world ruled by social distancing has been vitally important to the success of organizations.
But what happens when corporate leaders themselves need someone to talk to?
In the software industry, some of the fastest growing companies have opted for weekly discussions amongst themselves.
That includes chief executives from leading organizations such as Shopify Inc., Slack Technologies Inc. and Zoom Video Communications Inc.
“At the outset of the pandemic in March, about 17 CEOs got together — all public company SaaS (Software as a Service) CEOs — and we have a weekly call to discuss the important issues of our time,” said SurveyMonkey Inc.’s Zander Lurie.
“It’s been a real learning opportunity and journey for me over the last eight months,” Lurie added.
The regular dialogues were sparked somewhat organically before the pandemic took hold.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said Jennifer Tejada, the CEO of PagerDuty Inc., had organized an executive dinner at her home in February.
“In early March, when all this stuff started happening, in the email thread that had been developed for this dinner…people started replying and saying, look, are you guys seeing all this news? Are you seriously thinking about closing down all your offices?”
Butterfield said over time, the conversations moved to Slack, where coordination often takes place for the next discussion.
“It’s me, and the CEOs of I think 17 or 18 other software companies. We have a weekly call on Zoom. And Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom, is often there.”
According to SurveyMonkey’s Zander Lurie, the executives talk about everything from work-from-home protocols to finding more ways to help employees.
“In some cases, for single parents with no childcare, it’s an almost impossible situation,” Butterfield added.
They also discuss racial justice initiatives and ways to ensure more diversity in the tech community.
“In many ways, we are more collaborators than we are competitors,” Lurie told BNN Bloomberg. “We’ve found it to be a great outlet for CEOs that are wrestling with the issues of our time.”
There are also conversations about the astonishing growth of their own industry.
Butterfield, for example, noted a discussion he had with Shopify’s Tobi Lütke last week.
“One of the topics was how more organizations are there to bring online? And the answer is a lot. Probably a lot more than we think,” Butterfield said.
That trend — the migration of businesses online —has been turbo-charged during the pandemic. And it’s been a boon for the stock prices of many of these software companies.
Shopify’s stock, for example, has soared 138 per cent this year, making it the most valuable company on the S&P/TSX Composite Index.
In the U.S., shares of Slack, SurveyMonkey and PagerDuty have all risen more than 50 per cent off their March lows.
And Zoom has been the best performing stock in the tech-heavy NASDAQ 100 index this year, boosting its market capitalization to more than US$130 billion.
The weekly software CEOs' calls, though, are a reminder that the stock market is different than the real world.
“No one really has the answers,” Slack’s Butterfield said. “So whether it’s to help customers or employees, being able to help each other is critical.”