G: David Gelles
F: Sarah Friar
Sarah Friar grew up during the conflict in Northern Ireland (referring to the long-term violence that occurred in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1998). She grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland, she was used to seeing the violent confrontation between neighbors, and she also witnessed the strength of everyone’s unity. Now, Friar is fully committed to another difficult-to-manage community—Nextdoor, and serves as the company’s CEO.
Nextdoor is a social networking platform based in San Francisco that focuses on neighborhood communities. People can seek advice and help on the platform, or they can complain to each other. Here, the neighbors sometimes quarrel endlessly, but sometimes they also lend a hand to each other. After the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, people were trapped in their homes, and Nextdoor’s users and usage also surged. Friar said that although small businesses have been impacted by the epidemic and reduced their efforts to place ads on the site, the site’s influence has grown and attracted a number of larger new brand advertisers.
G: Tell me about your growing up experience.
F: I grew up in a turbulent time and lived in a place with constant conflicts. Although our small city is located between two towns that have been bombarded indiscriminately, apartheid is not visible in the village. The village was originally established by the Quakers of Christianity, who believed that people would always live in harmony. At that time, people gave birth at home, and my mother was a local midwife in charge of delivering babies. My father is the personnel manager of the factory. They still live a simple life there, but are very actively involved in community activities.
G: How did your growth experience in Northern Ireland affect your work at Nextdoor?
F: There is no problem of religious estrangement in our village, but this problem is the cause of the disintegration of our country. We have a mixed elementary school, where the educational environment makes people gradually realize that there is actually no difference between people. Sometimes, neighbors would knock on the door and inform us: “There is a bomb in the police barracks.” After that, everyone would rush into the windowless Catholic church hall to take refuge. At that time, we showed a human side, caring about each other and helping each other. However, people often forget what they have in common. Everyone will kill each other for some accidental dissent, and even create explosions for this. This is simply absurd. When people lose their humanity and the ability to communicate face-to-face, the situation becomes very bad. The reason why I like neighbourhood relations is that it allows people to reunite with a common goal. We all hope that our community is safe and a place where our children can grow up healthily. In this way, even if we have different religious or political beliefs, we will have a strong driving force to work hard to realize this vision.
G: The starting salary for Wal-Mart employees is $11 an hour, and the average hourly salary for full-time employees is about $15. As a director of Wal-Mart, do you think this salary level is sufficient to support a family in the United States?
F: When I joined Wal-Mart, I was very concerned about two issues. One is that employees, especially female employees, not only pay attention to their wages, but also benefits such as maternity leave and paternity leave. Now other companies have laid off or temporarily fired employees, but Wal-Mart continues to raise salaries and recruit new people. I am also concerned about another issue, that is, stores are becoming the center of the community, and Wal-Mart has made great efforts in community building. This philosophy comes from Sam Walton (SamWalton), I think it is a very powerful part of the corporate culture, and it is what attracted me to join the company. But I can’t help thinking that Wal-Mart has had a lot of negative effects on small businesses in the past few decades. Generally speaking, hypermarkets make the situation for small businesses more difficult. But this question should be viewed in two separate ways. The Sams Club has actually become the place where most small businesses buy goods. For example, local Thai restaurants can buy rice, napkins and other materials at the cheapest prices to keep themselves running. And this is the belief that Walton insists-always guarantee to welcome customers at the lowest price. In fact, I think there can be a very virtuous circle between local communities. Wal-Mart also needs to accept this. Companies should consider whether they should choose to complete their performance or make long-term investments to become a beloved member of the community. I personally believe that the pursuit of long-term value is always the right approach, even if it will experience pain in the short term.