If you ask most CEOs what the most valuable part of their company is, they will invariably say the people. In any organization I have run, it really is the people that make the difference. And more importantly, it is the philosophy of those people.
The following items have been essential to the development of any organization I have built. They are core to value and how a great company operates. These concepts were basically not covered in the MBA program I attended. Yet, if you look into the DNA of the best companies, these principles reign.
Respect and Trust
A critical building block in growing a company is that we trust and respect the people with whom we work. Like many things, it may be better to talk about the opposite of this to best illustrate the importance.
How does the opposite of respect and trust manifest itself? Backbiting and disparaging remarks to put people down are examples. Gossip is another. I suppose we are all a little guilty of this type of behavior, but many companies let bad habits fly. You can almost feel it when you are in the environment.
Strife is the enemy of building anything, from a church to a family to a big organization. There should be a zero tolerance policy for people who put others down, especially behind their backs. When there is no trust, people are uneasy and afraid.
I have noticed that there is often too much agreement in meetings. Meetings and discussions are times when we want to hear from everyone, and we want to turn ideas over and look for angles that have not been thought through.
Encourage disagreement in meetings, especially with leaders, because the rubbing together of ideas is how we come up with the best solutions.
It is important to understand the difference between respect and agreement, of course. They are not related at all, even though some people don't seem to know the difference. There is a great tendency to have one person coming up with most of the ideas. This is not a good model for success.
It is unreasonable to start a company and say off the bat that it will be worth $50 billion. It is unreasonable for a child to claim he or she will be president. It is unreasonable for a small un-united country with no armaments or army to declare independence from the world's greatest military power (and then to win a war against that power).
Set huge goals. Of course, they are unreasonable. They probably won't be achieved. Who cares? Life would not be interesting if things were simply reasonable. This is why logic and reason, although necessary, are not sufficient. In school, we tend to focus on the reasonable too much.
Good companies work a little harder and a little smarter.
Everyone should have measurable goals that make sense. Why? Because when building a company, you always worry about politics cropping up. People start worrying about the people and groups they get along with and play golf with, rather than creating value: Getting and keeping customers. Having goals is a way of building a meritocracy that insulates employees from the vagaries or opinions of people.
I remember working for a CEO and seeing him take out the garbage from his office one morning. This really impressed me.
All people should be willing to do real work. Sure, you delegate when it makes sense, but we all roll up our sleeves and do work at the lowest level when necessary. There are no prima donnas or royalty. In addition, our leaders are humble, not big, self-important braggarts who call attention to themselves. Real leaders serve.
Love of Customers
Companies exist to serve customers. The purpose of the organization is to create value outside of it, or else there is no point of reference other than us. We don't blame customers or clients.
By the way, the highest form of love for a customer in a tech company is to develop stuff that works reliably. Interestingly, tech products that work are not common at all.
Employees work to help the organization and themselves but their families come first. Like everything, this needs to manifest itself in real actions and policies. For example, I have run companies for many years. I don't like night meetings or unnecessary travel that takes people away from their families.
As leaders, we are never going to be perfect. I have made so many sad mistakes that I look back at them now with horror. All you can do is try to get closer to a construct that most companies never even get near.