I once had a conversation with my team on why we weren't profitable, and it was one of the most difficult meetings I've had. But, after learning about the We Company's, better known as WeWork, $1.8B loss in 2018, I don't feel so bad anymore.
How does someone lose $2B and still IPO? I'll never know, but luckily, that's not what caught my eye.
As WeWork announced their intention to go public, the CEO, Adam Neumann, sent a short memo to his employees explaining their reasoning of filing for an IPO. Towards the end of the letter, this paragraph caught my attention:
Partly due to technology and partly due to the times we live in, the world has never felt smaller and yet more people than ever are sharing that they feel alone. As one of the world's largest physical networks, it is our responsibility to help lead the way and set the global example for people and corporations on how we should take care of each other and of our planet."
Now, most CEO letters prior to IPOs are fairly standard and don't really disclose any new information, but I thought this carefully worded paragraph was easily the best part of the letter. It was genuine, authentic, and most importantly, explained their core business model and their value to the world.
Let's break down this paragraph starting with the first sentence:
Partly due to technology and partly due to the times we live in, the world has never felt smaller and yet more people than ever are sharing that they feel alone.
You ever read something and immediately stop reading because it was a belief you've held but were never able to articulate? This was that quote for me. Think about it. It's never been easier to access anyone famous (Instagram/Twitter) or another business professional (LinkedIn), and yet, many times we still feel alone.
This perfectly teed up the beginning of the next sentence:
"As one of the World's largest physical networks,"
Think about that sentence for a second. Facebook owns the world's largest social network, and so WeWork found a way to stand out as a "physical network." As more people are complaining about how much time they spend on their phone, and the distress that Facebook causes them, WeWork is using this time to talk about how physical connections are the real value.
I never really thought of WeWork as a "physical network" but more of an office space. This explanation made me think slightly better about the $1.8B loss in 2018. Maybe, just maybe, a digital social network isn't the answer we are all looking for.
Now, let's get to the rest of the sentence:
"it is our responsibility to help lead the way and set the global example for people and corporations on how we should take care of each other and of our planet."
I view this as a perfect ending to a great paragraph. It might be a little too cliche, since all things considered, WeWork at its core is an office space company. However, this statement shows they truly understand the purpose of their company, and why they do what they do.
After all, articulating what your company stands for is often more important than the product itself.
When crafting your values, this memo to WeWork employees can serve as a strong example of a company who truly understands the value they give to the world. I'm not saying lose $2B every year to achieve your goals, but you get the point.