Revenue Operations Chief Revenue Officer

Operationalizing for Scalability: Zoom CEO Eric Yuan

Headshot photograph of Andy Byrne, CEO of Clari

Andy Byrne
CEO, Clari



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Banner image with Zoom logo and headshot photograph of Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom
Banner image with Zoom logo and headshot photograph of Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom

Arguably few companies have played a more central role in the pandemic-related cultural shift than Zoom. So what better case study for successful, high-octane company growth?

In 2020, we faced the most critical event of our lifetimes, which changed the way we conduct business. Zoom’s technology not only enabled us to keep working, it helped us stay connected to our friends, families, and colleagues in a meaningful way.

Since December of 2019, Zoom’s daily meeting participants have increased by 2900%, to over 300 million users.

But even before COVID-19 rocked the business world, Zoom was thriving. In 2019, Zoom made a wildly successful public debut—on the first day, share prices rose 72%. The company stood out to investors as one of few organizations that was already profitable when it went public. 

A key part of their success is tied to their embrace of revenue operations, which enabled them to align their go-to-market teams to quickly and efficiently respond to drastic changes in the market while accurately forecasting revenue.

I spoke to Zoom’s Founder and CEO Eric Yuan about preparing to go public, and how his company managed such massive growth in 2020, during Generation Revenue, Clari’s virtual conference for the next generation of revenue leaders. 

Preparing for IPO by Driving Predictable Revenue

There are incredible learning curves that come with IPO readiness. And, as Yuan says, maintaining predictable sales is key. 

“Before I even talked about being a public company, our board said to make sure at least that we have three years of very accurate, predictable sales results,” he says. “Otherwise, don't even think about going public. You will get punished for that if you cannot have a very accurate forecast.” 

To drive predictability, every team member from the boardroom down to the sales reps needs to use the same systems and look at the same numbers.

“Numbers matter,” Yuan says. “I use the same app as our sales leader and sales managers, and we look at the same numbers. If a number isn’t good, I need to be able to look at what happened. For instance, I need a system to help me understand either the net retention rate is not good, or maybe the global expansion is off.”

Yuan is also a firm believer in looking at these numbers every day. “You've got to have a real-time system; you can look at any given moment, and you have to count through the numbers every day. That's very important. Otherwise, something already goes wrong, and the CIO or CEO or board do not know about it, then it's too late.”

Preparing for IPO By Operationalizing Leadership

Yuan and his leadership team also needed to make sure that the company as a whole was ready for the changes that going public would bring. He saw this as a need to prepare the company culture, and this preparation starts with its leaders. Yuan explains his three-step process for operationalizing leadership:

  1. Document a leadership philosophy. “For anything important, write it down as a business principle,” Yuan says. Writing down a leadership philosophy is the first step to being able to synchronize your team.
  2. Lead by example. “You cannot only talk about it and write it down and then behave totally differently,” Yuan continues. Leading by example demonstrates your commitment to these principles in action.
  3. Encourage transparent, honest feedback.  “If [a team member] did not do something well, just tell them. I always give feedback in a timely manner,” he notes. It’s important to guide teams to the understanding that to accomplish their goals together, they need to improve as a team. 

Scaling Quickly With a Culture of Empathy

As the business world went virtual almost overnight, Zoom essentially pivoted in real time and worked tirelessly to accommodate countless new users. You don’t just make a change like that without having a culture of empathy.

Creating a culture of empathy boils down to Zoom's core value, which is to care. 

“I care about our customers and the company team,” Yuan says. “I think that to be empathetic is extremely important, especially for the senior executive, because [when] you lead a team, you have to look at everything from the customer perspective and an employee’s perspective.”

Any time a leader makes a decision at Zoom, they’re asking themselves whether their choice will benefit their customers and employees and whether their decisions are sustainable. That’s leading with empathy. 

They look for this outward focus when hiring. “Always look at it from others’ perspective — that's really, really important for any manager or leader we hire at Zoom.”

At Generation Revenue, we brought together RevOps leaders like Yuan who are changing the future of business. Read more highlights from the conference, such as how an accountability-based organizational structure helped Sumo Logic successfully go public during the pandemic and how a tight feedback loop contributes to Okta’s 40% YoY growth.

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