Featured Business Leader: Reed Hastings

Featured Business Leader: Reed Hastings

As the current CEO of online media streaming giant Netflix, Reed Hastings certainly has achieved a lot in his 54 years of life. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Hastings attended school in Cambridge, followed by Bowdin College where he majored in mathematics. After his time in college, he joined the Peace Corps for sometime, where he built on his risk-taking attitude. Post Peace Corps, he enrolled at Stanford University and received his Master of Computer Science in 1988. Upon graduation, Hastings went to work for Adaptive Technology but it was only a matter of years before he pursued his first business venture – Pure Software.

Unexpectedly, Pure Software grew at a rapid rate, and due to Hastings’ lack of managerial experience, it became quite a challenge for him. Hastings asked the board to replace him as CEO, however they rejected his request. Looking back on the experience, Hastings actually credits this refusal as what helped him to become a better businessman. The organisation continued to grow with a merge with Atria Software to become Pure Atria, however after increased bureaucracy Hastings decided to resign from the company.

In 1997, Hastings and a man by the name of Marc Randolph co-founded Netflix. At that time, Netflix offered http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_Hastings  “flat rate film rental-by-mail to customers in the United States” but has since expanded to online offerings. When he founded the company, Hastings commented that he had no idea whether customers would use the service, however as time would tell, Netflix has gone on to be one of the most successful media streaming organisations in the world. 

What is most interesting about the career of Reed Hastings, is the work place culture fostered at Netflix. After his experiences with Pure Software, Hastings was mindful of growth rates. His goal became to build a company that would grow, but without losing the entrepreneurial spirit along the journey. As the company grew, it began to get noticed for its innovative management practices and working conditions. For example, Netflix is known to pay salaries that are much higher than the customary, so that they can attract the best talent. They also allow staff to choose how much of their compensation they would like in cash or stock. Commenting on the work culture, Hastings said “Responsible people thrive on and are worthy of freedom. They are self-motivating, pick up the trash lying on the floor, and behave like an owner. Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it.”

All in all, it is clear that Reed Hastings has had a rather remarkable career. As well as being Netflix’s CEO, he also serves on the board for Facebook, and has previously done so for Microsoft. His career choices show us that no matter what your idea is, its important to pursue it if you believe in it. He also demonstrates the importance of learning from your mistakes and journey along the way, in order to make smarter business decisions in the future. I am interested what you think though – what do you admire about the career of Reed Hastings? Share your views below, and please let me know if you have any suggestions of business leaders you would like to see profiled.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to complete this article: Famous Entrepreneurs and Wikipedia. Image sourced from Gigaom.

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