June 15, 2016 • Bookshelf

“How Google Works”

During a Conscious Capitalism event this Spring in Chicago I had the pleasure of hearing Joe Mansueto, founder of Morningstar, owner of Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, and longtime conscious capital innovator, speak.  During his presentation, he answered this question (or something close to it), “Mr. Mansueto, how have you been able to keep your work life balance?”  His response was inspiring.  As I remember it, it was “we run a high performance culture, and in return, we give people the opportunity to choose when they get their work done.”  In addition to this particular point, I also wrote down his reference to the book How Google Workswhich leads me to today’s blog.

To reiterate what I say in most all of my book blogs, I listen to books while I run, walk or work out.  One of my favorite practices while doing this, is that when I hear something that’s interesting or noteworthy, I ask myself the question, “is it worth interrupting my work out to stop and type out a note?”  For this particular title, many interruptions were taken!  Here are my notes:

  1. The term “Smart Creatives” – as defined in the book, these are product people who combine technical knowledge, business expertise and creativity. It also notes that when you put today’s technology in their hands and give them lots of freedom they can do amazing things, amazingly fast.
  2. Keep people close together – at Google, even senior executives often share offices and work space (just an FYI – Joe Mansueto has the same cubical as his staff). At ScaleCo, we have a traditional office setting, which we now believe to probably be a mistake.  As a team, we often sit in our conference room to collaborate and do work.  To begin correcting, we have now started putting multiple desks in each office to integrate natural collaboration in all of our everyday work.
  3. Obligation to dissent – your team should feel like they can disagree with you. But once decisions are made, everyone needs to support the decision.  I could go on for days about this one, much harder to establish then I ever thought.
  4. Keep organizational structure flat and simple – great chapter on the benefits of a flat corporate structure. It is stated that sales/revenue should report to the president, after all, revenue and keeping close to your customers is the life blood of any organization.
  5. Organizational charts should be centered around people that are adding value – this is described as the people that you’d elect captain of the team, makes sense.
  6. 50% of your people should be focused on sales or product development
  7. Too many resources limits creativity – this one really made me stop running. I think about this in context to when ScaleCo partners with small, growing, frugal, creative companies,  that have generated revenue out of nothing.  Once in a while, when the money hits the bank account (ScaleCo makes growth equity investments typically in the amount of $3M – $6M) it has the ability to change how people think and attack problems and opportunities.  What baffles me is that leaders could treat new “resources” differently than they would have in the past.
  8. Ship and iterate – the concept is that your product will never be perfect, so get it to your customers, allow them to start using it, and then be ready to make changes and improvements quickly!

How Google Works is one of the better reads in the last few years.  I would highly recommend adding it to your “short list.”  There were a few times that I mentally pushed back while reading this book, thinking to myself, “They can do that because they are Google, you can’t do that in a traditional business.” But then I would challenge myself with, “Why not?”  I couldn’t come up with a good answer….can you?!

For other resources as you grow your business, strive to become a better leader, or plan your next entrepreneurial endeavor, check out the ScaleCo Bookshelf.  And as always, I would love to hear from you with suggestions for my “short list,” and to include in an upcoming book blog.

About ScaleCo

ScaleCo Capital is a Cleveland-based lower middle market private equity firm that focuses on control-oriented leveraged buyout and growth equity investments in fast-growing companies based primarily in the Great Lakes region. ScaleCo partners with companies in the verticals of business services, tech-enabled services, value added distribution and assembly, and training, compliance, and education sectors, bringing operational expertise and strategic resources to scale their growth potential and build long-term value. To learn more, visit scaleco.com.

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