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Shazam CEO Rich Riley reveals 7 top leadership tips

Communicate effectively, be curious and reject complacency. Read Shazam CEO Rich Riley’s invaluable advice for tech entrepreneurs here.

Disruptive technology enables deceptively simple business ideas to be realised on a global scale. Shazam is one such app.

Ever heard a brief clip from a song or TV show and wanted to know more? The recognition app instantly identifies music, movies, advertisements and TV shows using short audio samples captured by smartphones and computers.

In addition, it offers uers one-tap access to video clips, song lyrics, related tracks and streaming services. As such, Shazam recently passed the 1 billion download mark and is used by 100 million people worldwide. Moreover, it even features in a US TV game show called Beat Shazam, hosted by Jamie Foxx.

Here, CEO Rich Riley reveals seven leadership secrets that entrepreneurs need to know to grow their startups into world-beating businesses.

1) Deliver something special

Impressing customers with high-quality products and services sounds obvious enough. However, Riley says that companies must exceed the ordinary to survive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

“Business is more competitive than ever, and to succeed, you have to focus on your customers and deliver magic, or someone else will,” he says. “It’s never been easier to start a company. Big companies are being disrupted and people’s expectations are high. Don’t just satisfy your customers; amaze them. And this approach transcends the product or service, extending to the entire organization.”


2) It’s all about teamwork

“Most entrepreneurs and leaders have been told this, and I think they genuinely believe it,” says Riley. “However, in my experience, no matter how much you thought it was about the team, it’s even more about the team.”

Riley also emphasises the importance of investment in human capital.

“Hiring the right people, creating a culture that attracts them and enables them to do their best work and having no tolerance for dysfunction are critical. Talent decisions are the most important decisions.”

3) Embrace imperfection

Get curious, not angry. That’s Riley’s refreshing approach to nurturing staff.

“No one expects you to be perfect, nor will they believe it if you try to make it look that way,” he told Entrepreneur. “Embrace imperfection, both your own and that of employees, because it can actually lead to breakthroughs. In general, be human and be the leader you would want your kids to work for — skip the snarky email, treat people with respect, assume positive intent and, when something bothers you, get curious, not angry.”

4) Over-communicate

Forgot business silos. According to Riley, communication on a human scale is everything – even in a modern tech company.

“Transparency is no longer optional, nor should it be — so over-communication is best,” he says. “It makes for a better environment altogether, prevents feelings of isolation or siloed business divisions and fosters camaraderie. For example, we now start each company wide ‘all-hands’ meeting playing guitars, plus we celebrate the new hires and babies, and morale is at an all-time high.”

5) Broaden your mind

“I learned this when I was with Yahoo!,” says Riley. “Shazam has an equally global audience, and everywhere I go, I gain a new perspective, a new way of applicable thinking. It helps immensely to see not just your team around the world… but also the way your product, whatever it may be, is being used and received. When you’re stuck in Silicon Valley or New York all the time, it’s all too easy to get caught up in numbers exclusively or in an echo-chamber.”

Shazam CEO Rich Riley

6) Listen to everyone around you

Wisdom that can help your business to grow can come from multiple sources. Consequently, listen to employees − young and old.

” Without getting too cliched, they [children] are obviously the future, and in tech, the future is always now,” states Riley. “But also, as a general rule, listen to anyone who serves up an opinion, inside or outside your company. Don’t ever be surprised if the most profound, actionable thoughts come from the fresh-out-of-college intern − or someone 60 years their senior. Bottom line: It should come as no surprise that the less personally invested someone is, and in some cases the more detached they are, the more valuable their opinions. Take heed.”

7) Never stop learning

Successful entrepreneurs reject complacency, and remain curious and open to new ideas.

“I’ve heard horror stories about CEOs or really successful entrepreneurs running a somewhat dictatorial ship, unwilling to let other voices in,” Riley says. “That might work for a while, but it’s ultimately bad for everyone involved, including the company. There is learning to be done 100% of the time, regardless of all you’ve seen, how much experience you have, your education, your wins. The most successful people in any industry are those who want to learn, who welcome the knowledge and openly admit that they’ll never know it all.”

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