10 Business Tips to Learn from Marissa Mayer Former Yahoo CEO

The Editorial Team
  • Marissa made it to the Forbes list of America’s Self-Made Women in 2019 and the list of Power Women in 2016.
10 Business Tips to Learn from Marissa Mayer Former Yahoo CEO
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What you want, when you want it. As opposed to everything you could ever want, even when you don’t. Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is one of the most influential business leaders in America who is a self-made multi-millionaire. She was the first female engineer at Google, where she rose through the ranks and worked on some of the key products like Gmail and Google Maps. 

The highlight of Marissa’s career was when she became the CEO of Yahoo in 2012, which was a challenging time for the company. After leaving the company in 2018, she cofounded Lumi Labs- a startup that builds mobile applications using Artificial Intelligence. 

Very few people achieve so much success, especially at such a young age. Marissa made it to the Forbes list of America’s Self-Made Women in 2019 and the list of Power Women in 2016. There are many things aspiring business leaders can learn from her journey. 

Business Tip #1: Business Success Is Not Inevitable 

When people see the massive success of companies like Google, they talk about how it was inevitable. The excuses for success people give are that the company had the right product, or it timed the product launch perfectly, or the environment was good for growth.  

What these people don’t realize is that nothing is set in stone, even with the best product. What creates success is good old-fashioned hard work.  

Ask Marissa and she will tell you the work culture at Google when it was still a small company with less than 50 employees. The company had nap rooms to help those who were staying back late into the night because it was safer to sleep in office rather than walk up to the car at 3 a.m. 

Business Tip #2: Taking Weekends Off Won’t Work 

Marissa’s husband Zachary Bogue, who is a venture capitalist, works in co-working office in San Francisco. It is not difficult to tell which of the companies there will succeed.  

Most startups fail in the first 5 years. All Marissa has to do is to go to the co-working office on a Saturday afternoon and she will know which of the companies have a higher chance of success.  

Working hard on the weekdays and taking time off to enjoy the weekend may not work if you want to succeed. A startup is like a baby. You have to work relentlessly until it grows large enough to function on its own. Until then you have to constantly think about how to make improvements in the business and build a strong company. 

Business Tip #3: Growing Means Studying 

In order to grow a company, you need knowledge. This can be technical expertise of the product, insights about the customers, market information, or competition analysis.  

When Marissa was CEO of Yahoo, she used to spend a lot of time studying things like tax law and the Chinese e-commerce industry. Small business owners should also spend time learning about different subjects. Industry or trade magazines, webinars, and news will be a good starting point to become an expert in your field. 

Business Tip #4: Employees Need Coaching to Deliver 

Employees will not know the result business leaders want from them unless this is communicated in a way that they understand. Marissa’s early experience was, as she jokingly put it, watching people being yelled at by the boss. She and her peers would get yelled at until they transformed into the ideal team and started delivering results that management expected. 

As a leader, Marissa understood the need of the management to see the change in the employees. She decided to bring about the change by bringing in management coaches to give the employees the training they needed. 

Business Tip #5: Business Goals Have to Be Clear and Consistent 

Employees are eager to work hard and add value to the company. But they won’t be able to do that if they are not clear about the direction and values of the company. 

A business owner should be clear about what she wants from her team. There is no room for any kind of ambiguity. Once your message is clear, you have to deliver it to everyone repeatedly and the message has to consistent. 

Business Tip #6: There Is No Such Thing as Perfect Timing 

If you are the head of a big business, you have the luxury of time and resources. You can create the perfect plan and time the market to launch the perfect product or service. Startups don’t have that luxury. 

In a startup you will not know when the time is right for a product launch. Google solved this problem by creating a “philosophy of launching early and often.” You will fail often, but you will learn from your mistakes and grow. 

Business Tip #7: Simple Strategy to Hire the Right People 

A small business owner will not have the resources to pay top dollars to hire the best talent in the industry. If a high caliber person joins a startup it is because she believes in the product or in the prospects of growth of that company. 

When Google was growing from an employee count of 100 to 1000, Marissa explored a simple compensation strategy that has evidently worked. In order to make sure that a recruit is joining for the right reasons, she would “meet, not beat” salary expectations.  

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Employee compensation should be fair, but you have to ensure that you are not attracting people who are solely attracted by the compensation. 

Business Tip #8: If You Aren’t Passionate About Your Work the Team Won’t Be Either 

If a business owner is passionate about her products that passion will trickle down to her team. If the entrepreneur doesn’t care about the value, her company is bringing to the market she should not expect her employees to care either. 

When Marissa was in Yahoo, her job was to spread the mission of the company, which was to make the world’s habits “inspiring and entertaining.” When the employees believe in the mission, they will find a way to contribute. 

Business Tip #9: Give Direction and Remove Hurdles 

The way to grow a business is to give directions to employees and then remove all the hurdles they are facing. Help them do their job and get out of the way. 

Marissa has a M.S. in Computer Science, but she doesn’t spend her day meddling with the software engineer’s job. Her work is to tell everyone where she wants to take the company and then remove all the distractions that can the team’s time away from reaching that goal. 

Business Tip #10: Take Employees into Confidence 

One of the most talked about decisions of Marissa when she was in Yahoo was her asking the employees to stop working remotely and return to office. The decision was met with an immediate backlash. Although some people agreed with the decision, the overwhelming sentiment was negative. 

A business leader has to take the employees into confidence before making a major decision that affects them. Is it possible to have discussions with separate employee groups to take their opinion first? Can the decision be implemented in phases like asking employees to come in once a week for a progress update? Is it possible to incentivize the employees to take action rather than imposing an order on them? 

Balance Business with Life 

Running a small business is like working in three jobs. Still, if you can squeeze in some family time and alone time, it will help immensely to keep your mental balance. 

Marissa takes the time to enjoy family time when she can. She introduced her 7-year-old to “Star Wars” by having a watch party with the family, and she enjoys cooking too. 

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