A Marathon Not a Sprint: Lew on Dan Benjamin’s ‘Quit’

Yesterday it was our luck to have founder of 5by5 Studios and podcaster extraordinaire Dan Benjamin recording in the brand new studio at our San Francisco office. Aside from running 5by5 (which now features 19 podcasts) he also hosts ‘Quit‘, a call-in show helping people manage job transitions and kickstart fulfilling careers.

In this latest episode of ‘Quit’, Dan helped us test our podcasting setup by interviewing our CEO, Lew Cirne. Dan mined Lew’s experience to get his advice for those looking to build innovative companies, or those who simply want to turn their passion into their livelihood. What followed was an insightful hour of discussion on how Lew built New Relic’s unique culture while keeping himself a sharp and engaged leader.

Have a listen right here, or catch some highlights from the interview below:

Lew and Dan

On how his dream for New Relic evolved…

New Relic was born out of my teach-myself-rails project. I thought, ‘Maybe I could create a nice little company where our aspiration is to have five employees and maybe one day have 5 million in subscriptions. So, you know, we could just check email from Fiji.’ That never materialized… We decided to build something more meaningful.

On not getting ahead of yourself…

I usually have view out into one to two years max… Don’t worry about where you’re going to go after that. It’s kind of like iterative development, except your cycle is a year or so.

On rolling your sleeves up…

I’m scratching my own itch: very passionate about building software that delights our customers and giving them tools to help them understand how their software runs. I’ve been spending all day in the product working on new stuff that New Relic is building.

On not being inundated by meetings…

If I’m not thoughtful about it, I’m going to get dragged into many many many decisions and meetings. If I’m in less meetings, I can spend more time thinking about building great software. Most tech companies struggle with keeping that innovative focus and along the way can forget how to build new things.

On delegating…

You must be able to give up control of things you feel attached to. How else are you going to bring in great people? You want people to be empowered, so you have to be able to let go. There has to be trust, and you’ve got to hire awesome people. That’s part of scaling.

On getting around the capital quandary…

Early-stage startup entrepreneurship is really about breaking Catch 22’s. There are circular dependencies where one link in the chain is almost always capital… Inevitably you’ll have these problems, and you need to find innovative ways to solve them. That’s how you get your company going.

On physical offices…

I think there’s something special about being in a room with people that bring out the best in you and help you come up with amazing ideas and solutions. We just want to hire awesome people you want to spend time with. If that’s the case, lets make it so the culture of the company is one where people just want to spend time together.

On hiring awesome people…

Our other litmus test is: Would you be comfortable hopping in a car and driving from San Francisco to LA with this person, or would you be gouging your eyes out>

On work/life balance at New Relic…

At most high-growth, San Francisco companies, it’s work all the time, and it will all be worth it in the end. I refute that. Run a marathon, not a sprint. I want to be the person who cooks dinner for my family, and that shouldn’t be something special for [only] the CEO.

On how he stays motivated and passionate…

I want to do this for the rest of my life. I love the feeling about shipping this software and getting great positive feedback from our customers about how it makes their lives better… I also try to set aside time where I go away to a remote, beautiful place to just code. I try to do that 6 times a year, for a full week, undisturbed.

More podcasting to come!

A big, giant thank you to Dan for blessing our studio space and paying us a much appreciated visit. Those of you who are interested in hearing more podcasts recorded at New Relic, or who want to know how we put our setup together, should be sure to watch our blog for updates!

Thea is New Relic's Online Community and Developer Relations Manager View posts by .

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