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“Great Execution Starts With Great Team Members.”

The CEO of oDesk, an online platform for managing remote freelancers, talks about leadership, talent acquisition, and out-executing the competition.
COLLABORATORS Gary Swart
oDesk CEO Gary Swart

BUILD MEMBER: Gary Swart

POSITION: CEO

BUSINESS: oDesk — An online platform for managing remote freelancers and contract workers based in Redwood City, California

EMPLOYEES: 89 in-house, as well as 230 full-time equivalent contractors

VITALS: Venture-capital backed, with $44 million raised from T. Rowe Price Associates, Benchmark Capital, Globespan Capital Partners, and Sigma Partners. Contractors earn more than $300 million on the platform annually. Since 2007, oDesk has experienced an annual growth rate of more than 100 percent.

CUSTOMERS YOU KNOW: Google, Wikipedia, HP, Travelocity, AOL

IF YOU COULD BE SMARTER ABOUT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING THINGS, WHICH WOULD IT BE:

  • Analytics and big data
  • Social media
  • Global business networks
  • Customer-driven innovation
  • Talent development
  • Building an adaptive organization

HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES TO A JUNIOR-HIGH CLASS?
We’re the world’s largest workplace, where the best companies hire the world’s best talent without geographic limits.

PASS IT ON:
I’m an advisor to a number of start-ups and try to lecture at a university at least once a month. I also participate in a program called Office Hours where I host entrepreneurs at oDesk for 15 minutes at a time for pitch guidance or feedback on their business plan.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?

  • International competitor
  • Fortune 1,000 competitor
  • Two kids and a dog in a garage
  • Other: execution

We’re sitting on a massive opportunity — the online work market is expected to reach $1 billion this year, and that’s only scratching the surface — so I worry about continuing to out-execute our competitors.

WHAT’S THE WEAKNESS YOU TRY HARDEST TO HIDE?
Wow, too many to count! I would have to say my tendency to want to gravitate toward the shiny object. It is so easy to get distracted by the new, exciting thing in front of me, so I work hard to focus, focus, focus, despite the tendency to want to be all things to all people.

HOW DO YOU CHILL?
I swim laps with the local Masters team four to five days a week, from 5:45 a.m. to 6:45 a.m.

LAST TWEET? WHO DO YOU FOLLOW?
I follow almost 1,000 people and struggle to filter the most important content from the noise. Got any tips?

WHEN YOU GET AWAY, WHERE IS ‘AWAY?’
I like the beach or heading into the local mountains on my road bike. If I have time to go away for a weekend, a trip to Carmel or Laguna Beach is more away, and if I have a week, Hawaii is even more “away.”

MOST RECENT IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR ORGANIZATION:
The biggest impact to our organization this year has been the strengthening of the team with three new executives, including a new VP of marketing, VP of engineering, and CFO. Great execution starts with great team members.

WHAT COMPANY DO YOU LOVE BEST AS A CONSUMER?
I am a fan of services that over-deliver, like Apple and Amazon. When something works as advertised or even exceeds expectations, that is love.

THE PLUS
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