5 tech CEOs share the habits that helped them change the world

by Taylor Majewski
April 14, 2016

When you meet someone who is running a company — especially a profitable company — you’re bound to find a person routed in consistency and drive. The routines that make a successful CEO vary by person, but their uncanny ability to “do it all” is fueled by certain habits that shape strong leaders into innovative companies.

If you’re looking to channel the productivity and efficiency CEOs emit in the same 24 hours that you use, we’ve got you covered. We caught up with five of New York tech’s most successful CEOs to find out the daily habits that have made them successful. Here’s what we found.

John Foley, co-founder and CEO at 

John Foley started his career as an engineer in 1990 for Mars Inc. In 1997, John helped build CitySearch.com, went on to become CEO of Evite.com, the co-founder and CEO of Pronto.com, and then the President of Barnesandnoble.com. In 2012, Foley founded Peloton to bring spin classes to your home. The company has raised $119.4 million in funding and is giving SoulCycle a serious run for its money.

Built In: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

John Foley: I go right to the sink (no matter where I am) and I drink 30 big sips of water from my hand (under the faucet) sometimes before I even fully open my eyes. There is no better way to start the day than to make sure you're super hydrated. This is tried and true.

BI: What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

JF: That's easy; kiss the kids on the forehead.   

BI: What do you have for breakfast?

JF: I don't eat breakfast. 5 cups of coffee easily gets me through until a 1:00 lunch.

BI: During work hours, what part of your routine do you never sacrifice?

JF: To be honest, nothing is sacrificed during my work days. One of the fun things about being an entrepreneur is that every day is different.  I enjoy that and embrace it.  

BI: Slack or Gchat? 

JF: For better or worse, I'm on the older side of entrepreneurs and tech company CEOs. As such, I'm somewhat old school in my communication platforms: email, text and in-person conversations. Our CTO has made sure that Slack is a big part of the Tech and Product Teams though.

 

David Klein, co-founder and CEO at 

David Klein is the CEO and co-founder of CommonBond, a marketplace lending platform that lowers the cost of student loans. Klein met his cofounders in 2011 as MBA students at Wharton, where they set out to tackle one of the most frustrating areas of consumer finance: the student lending industry. David worked in consumer finance at American Express, where he led a team that managed a $250 million annual portfolio. Prior to American Express, he worked at McKinsey & Company. CommonBond now has $625 million in funding to date and is a leading resource in the student lending industry.

Built In: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

David Klein: When I'm good, I spend some time each morning writing out what I aim to accomplish that day. When I'm bad, I find myself on my phone checking email and the like.

BI: What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

DK: When I'm good, I read. When I'm bad, I'm on my phone.

BI: What do you have for breakfast?

DK: When I'm good, I have kale juice. When I'm bad, I don't eat breakfast.

BI: During work hours, what part of your routine do you never sacrifice?

DK: There's no "never" in my day. My day-to-day is always different, but the one thing that's constant is making time to address the priorities I need to address, and making sure our team is equipped to succeed.

BI: Slack or Gchat? 

DK: Email and real-life chat



Robert Reffkin, founder and CEO at 

In 1999, Reffkin earned his B.A. in economics, philosophy and history from Columbia in just over two years. He then earned his MBA from Columbia Business School while simultaneously working at McKinsey and then at Lazard. After a few stints at The White House and Goldman Sachs, Reffkin launched Urban Compass in 2012 with a mission to create a tech-driven real estate firm. The company, now rebranded as Compass, now has an $800 million valuation.

Built In: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

Robert Reffkin: Wake my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter up and get her out of bed. With a two-month-old as well, mornings can be a little hectic, so we’ve created a routine. First thing in the morning, I get up with my older daughter and then on my way into the office drop her off at school. It’s great to have some time alone with her everyday! We usually "play cards" on the way to school. I deal the cards and she asks for a red two with hearts. Until she gets that she isn't quite happy. Once she gets that she says, "A red 2, my favorite," and then the game is over.

BI: What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

RR: Regardless of whether I am sitting next to her or thousands of miles away, I always like to end my day telling my wife that I love her. ​Since Compass has expanded nationally my continuing to do this while in different time zones is increasingly difficult but also increasingly important. ​My wife and family really keep me grounded​ and are a constant​ reminder​ of what’s important.

BI: What do you have for breakfast?

RR: My two year old wakes up early, and sometimes I am up late finishing my day, so coffee has become one of my most basic food groups. Beyond that, breakfast is sometimes an afterthought. I’d go for eggs and a breakfast smoothie every morning if I could, but that typically only happens when I have breakfast meetings. Otherwise, breakfast is probably cereal or yogurt.

BI: During work hours, what part of your routine do you never sacrifice?

RR: I am going to have to say coffee again! I am ​fortunate that we have about six different kinds of coffee/espresso​ machines​ at the office so it's easy for me to find my second (or third!) cup​ throughout the day.

BI: Slack or Gchat?

RR: Gchat or gmail — our whole company runs on the google platform. I rarely sit at my desk during the day so the fact that gchat and gmail work seamlessly between desktop and mobile is key and allows me to easily communicate with everyone — internally and externally. Although, some members of our creative and engineering teams prefer Slack so I technically use both.

 

Payal Kadakia, Founder and CEO at 

Payal Kadakia began her career working as a consultant at Bain & Company. She then went on to work at Warner Music Group and later created Sa Dance Company. One day, she spent over an hour searching for an open ballet class online and decided to create a search engine for fitness classes. This realization eventually transformed into Classivity, which was then rebranded as ClassPass. Now, the company is wildly popular, and has New Yorkers traversing the city to work out using its monthly subscription service.

Built In: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

Payal Kadakia: Check email and review my calendar.  I also love to run in the mornings.  

BI: What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

PK: Talk to my fiancé.

BI: What do you have for breakfast?

PK: That varies, but I always start my day with green tea.  

BI: During work hours, what part of your routine do you never sacrifice?

PK: Going to class! I make it a point to schedule time to be active.  

BI: Slack or Gchat? 

PK: Both!

 

Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of 

Reshma Saujani has fostered a national movement of teaching girls how to code since founding Girls Who Code in 2012. The power of Girls Who Code, whose ultimate mission is to close the gender gap in technology, is in its numbers. Currently, GWC has 10,000 alumni, with 90 percent of alumnae having declared or are planning to declare a major or minor in computer science. Among GWC graduates, 92 percent of them have taught another girl how to code. With a solid educational foundation and a growing number of tech giants at its disposal, Girls Who Code is poised to create the next wave of women software professionals.

Built In: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

Reshma Saujani: I kiss my one-year-old, Shaan, good morning and head to the gym. I'm religious about working out in the mornings; it powers me through the day.

BI: What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

RS: I read to relax in the evenings. Just finished my friend Adam Grant's brilliant new book, The Originals.

BI: What do you have for breakfast?

RS: I try to eat protein in the morning to sustain me through the day, so I'm a big fan of eggs.

BI: During work hours, what part of your routine do you never sacrifice?

RS: I always make time to grab a healthy lunch. When the day gets busy, I need that fuel to keep me going.

BI: Slack or GChat? 

RS: Neither. I love the phone and prefer hopping on the phone with my team to discuss issues. It's a fast, efficient way to resolve challenges and answer questions.

 

Have a tip? Let us know or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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