Home > business, management > Ya Can’t Put The Cat Back In The Bag

Ya Can’t Put The Cat Back In The Bag

Check out this snippet from “Can Larger Companies Still be Passionate and Quirky?“:

Writing for The New York Times, Adam Bryant conducted an interview with Tony Hsieh, the chief executive of Zappos.com. Part of the interview that intrigued me was Hsieh’s explanation of why he and his roommate sold their company LinkExchange to Microsoft in 1998.

Part of it was the money, he admits. But, mostly, it was because the passion and excitement that permeated the company in the beginning was gone, and he’d grown to dislike its culture:

“When it was starting out, when it was just 5 or 10 of us, it was like your typical dot-com. We were all really excited, working around the clock, sleeping under our desks, had no idea what day of the week it was. But we didn’t know any better and didn’t pay attention to company culture. By the time we got to 100 people, even though we hired people with the right skill sets and experiences, I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.”

To avoid this happening with Zappos, Hsieh says he formalized the definition of the Zappos culture into 10 core values; core values that they would be willing to hire and fire people based on. Read the interview with Hsieh for details on how they went about this.

With LinkExchange, Tony was wise enough to know that it was fruitless to try and restore the company’s original esprit de corps culture. Once the cat gets out of the bag, it’s pretty much a done deal that you won’t get it back in.

What’s mind boggling to me is that leaders of startups that grow and “mature” over time don’t even have a clue that the vibrant culture of community/comraderie that they originally created has petered out. They get disconnected and buffered from the day to day culture by adding layer upon layer of pyramidal stratification and they delude themselves into thinking the culture has been maintained “for free” over the duration. Those dudes deserve what they get; a transformation from a communal meritocracy into a corpo mediocracy just like the rest of the moo-herd.

  1. Ray
    January 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

    This is the MBA Curse. As a company starts growing they start hiring people who “know” about business, most have MBAs. These people follow the same script which drains the startup of all its original culture. Making into the mono-culture that is American business. Which by the way this model has many cracks. It would be for this country if the MBA factories looked around and modified the script otherwise their product MBAs will become much less valuable.

  1. February 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

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