CEO Friday: An Appropriate Amount of Panic

David Barrett —  May 6, 2011 — Leave a comment

Our Finovate launch on Wednesday is going to be a Big Deal. Not a make-or-break sort of thing — we’re already going steadily in the right direction. But if we play our cards right, this’ll get us there a lot faster. The challenge is: how do you rally the troops if the enemy *isn’t* at the gate? How do you emphasize the importance of striking while the iron is hot when there *isn’t* a shortage of fuel in the forge?

I’m sure better managers have better ways. But I’d summarize my way as creating the “appropriate” amount of panic. Not by inventing nonexistent problems, and not by overstating the severity of those problems that do exist. But just by raising the bar. Things that might have been acceptable then, just aren’t acceptable now.

Expensify, like most startups, had a scrappy start. We went for years without an office. We never scrimped on security, but we cut corners everywhere else. We tolerated a lot — on the surface, and under the hood. I have surprisingly few regrets looking back, but not a day has gone by where I wouldn’t have welcomed a few more hours to polish things up better than we were able.

But it’s time to put that behind us. Going forward, we need to commit to a higher standard, and that standard has two parts:

  • Get the basics down cold.  On this front, I think we’re really close.  We’re the clear leader of expense reporting for the sub-100-employee market, and we’re making strong inroads to the 100-1000-employee market. (Over 1000, unfortunately, will need to wait.) We’ve crossed a quarter million users, and are about to announce another major milestone soon. We’ve got a strong brand, a (largely) happy userbase, and a revenue stream that is growing quick. All in all, while it’s nowhere near flawless, we’ve got the basics down cold.  But we’ve only got the basics down cold.  It’s time to…
  • Go beyond the basics.  Expensify is the startup underdog entering an established market with very, very big players. We can’t copy our way to the top: we need to change the rules of the game, and Wednesday we’ll reveal the first of many surprises toward that end.

We’re not going to waver from our goal of “expense reports that don’t suck.”  And most of our time will still be spent just tightening up and polishing the basics across the board — all those invisible improvements that quietly slip in day after day

But we’ve also got some radical ideas teed up, and the next one hits on Wednesday at Finovate. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for the announcement, because if you hate creating expense reports as much as we do, I think you’ll really like what we’ve got in store.

David Barrett


Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

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