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10 Things You Didn't Know about Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah

One of the best entrepreneurs of our time is Niraj Shah. Currently, he is the CEO and co-founder (alongside Steve Conine) of Wayfair, the world’s largest online retailer of houseware, furniture, and other home improvement goods in the United States. The company made $4.3 billion dollars of revenue in 2017. Before Wayfair, he co-founded Spinners – an integrated technology and design service company. He sold it to iXL in 1998, and moved on to become a member of the board of directors there. Plus, he was the Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm. By 2002, he had joined up with Steve Conine to start CSN Stores, which later became Wayfair.

In each of Shah’s business ventures, he has found success. Wayfair is one of the fastest-growing companies in the home goods sector, and already has surpassed other similar retailers. They work with a large network of suppliers and distributors to make each customer experience the best it can be. If you want to learn more about the CEO of this company, please read on to find out about Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Niraj Shah.

He Was in Fortune’s 40 under 40

In the 2013 “40 under 40” list from Fortune magazine, Niraj Shah was listed 32nd. The magazine cited his rapidly-rising share prices, and the billion-dollar business that he built from scratch. They also praised his domain-consolidation strategy and subsequent rebranding and redirecting to the Wayfair website. It was quite an effective strategy, and is responsible for much of the organization’s success.

He Became a Billionaire in 2017

Wayfair’s shares increased to the point that he and co-founder Steve Conine walked away with $2.74 billion dollars in combined net worth. This means that each is worth approximately $1.37 billion – making him one of the 540 billionaires in the US. For perspective, this is literally one in a million people.

His Wife is an Entrepreneur Too

Jill Shah founded Jill’s List in 2010. She designed the website to provide a place for unbiased, accurate reviews of alternative medicine practitioners. She ran the site for five years, before selling it in 2015. She ended up making the sale from her Boston office on April 15th – the same day as the Boston Marathon Bombing. On a brighter note, she now runs the Boston office of the company that purchased Jill’s List from her (Mindbody).

He Hires for Traits

Niraj Shah has a hiring method that is not widely used in the corporate world. Rather than relying on a person’s resume or experience, he looks at their skills and who they are as a person. He places far more precedence on intelligence, hard work, being a team-player, and being able to handle a quantitative method of thinking. The idea behind this is to hire people who are creative enough to come up with new ways to handle company problems.

He Won Entrepreneur of the Year

In 2010, the Wayfair CEO had not yet restructured his company. However, the Ernst & Young services firm (one of the “Big Four” in accounting) presented him with the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year award for his work at CSN Stores. They must have seen some potential, because less than a decade later he has become a billionaire.

He Values Honesty

According to Wayfair co-founder Steve Conine, one of Shah’s best traits is his honesty. He is honest about practically everything, and has a drive to increase his own maturity and better himself in general. Conine states that Shah’s honesty, bluntness, and ability to read a situation is what brought Wayfair to the success it has seen today.

He Hates to Fire People

In a 2013 interview, Shah admitted that he used to be terrible at firing people. He doesn’t like to do it, and he used to put it off or avoid it entirely. However, he soon discovered that this hurts everyone – the company, other employees, the underperformer – so he worked on hardening his heart a bit. Now, he still doesn’t have fun firing anyone but recognizes that it can be essential to the company’s performance. Sometimes, the fired employee even goes on to better themselves or find a job they love.

He Has Three Methods to Retain Valuable Employees

Niraj Shah wants to keep his skilled workers. Therefore, he developed three specific methods to retain his best employees. First, he recognizes the importance of challenging an employee. A skilled worker is valuable wherever they work, so it is in the best interest of the company to help them learn – whether that is developing new skills or staying up to date with a changing industry.

Second, work should be fun. Shah’s company accomplishes this through a relaxed company culture that has outings and other activities to take some of the stress of day-to-day work off of their shoulders. Plus, Wayfair will pay for these activities, eliminating related financial stress entirely.

The third method is to reward and recognize efforts. He stresses the importance of monetary rewards, but also mentions his “Recognition Wall”. This is a place on the internal website in which high-performing employees have official company recognition.

He’s a Philanthropist

Shah has made several donations to charities. For example, he sent a sizeable donation to the Hub and Spoke project in Boston. The Hub and Spoke is a food program for high schools. The “Hub” school, East Boston High School, is where all of the food is prepared. This food is then sent out to the three “Spoke” schools – helping low-income students afford their daily meals.

He Was Named CEO of the Year

At the 20th Annual Mass Technology Leadership Awards Gala, held at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center, Niraj Shah took home the honor of CEO of the Year. He was recognized alongside names like Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and Melissa James (Black Tech Boston founder and advocate for diversity). And, with Shah’s business record, it was a well-deserved award.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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