We’re just about to hit 40 full-time employees at Treehouse and I’ve noticed that the urge to go “vanilla” is pretty strong.
As companies grow they seem to have a natural tendency to move from creative, fun and adventurous cultures to safe, systemitized “vanilla” cultures. They’re safe and repeatable but very boring.
I think there are two primary reasons why companies get safe-but-boring:
- As they grow, they get a few bad apples in the company and their mistakes cause a knee-jerk reaction among management to create rules to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
- Revenue hits meaningful levels and a lot of people have their livelihoods dependent on the company. Everyone has families to feed or lifestyles to maintain and no one wants to take risks.
My belief is that the best way to avoid this natural vanilla-ization is to work very hard at hiring good people, and if you make a mistake, remove that person from the company quickly. Good people, not thorough corporate guidelines, make a solid company.
I even find this desire to err on the side of safety in my own career. I often debate how transparent I should be on this blog. Will the Treehouse Team think less of me if they know my weaknesses and weirdness? I don’t think so, but nevertheless I have to fight the urge to be safe instead of real.
A worthy Mission
A third reason why companies go vanilla is because no one believes in what the company is doing. You can do everything right culturally, but if the mission of the company doesn’t really matter, no one will ultimately care.
I truly believe in what we’re doing at Treehouse and I talk about it all the time with the Team. We’re bringing affordable education to the masses, which equips them to change their lives. I believe in it so strongly that I will be happy if Treehouse is the one thing I’m remembered for when I die.
This belief and zeal has to come down from the Leaders. If they’re not visibly passionate about the Mission (and able to communicate it), there’s no chance the company will stay interesting. Vanilla-ization is inevitable.
You’re never really safe
Another key to battling going vanilla is to remember that you’re never safe as a company. You’re never done. Systematizing your processes and adding a lot of rules won’t keep your competitors from crushing you or your customers not caring about your products.
You have to remember that embracing constant change is the only way to survive. As soon as you get comfortable you’re dead.
This constant change is something that frustrates me about running a company. I wish we could just get really good at what we do and then go on auto-pilot. I have to accept this will never happen though, and ironically, it’s what makes running a company fun.
Recent commentsBlog comments powered by Disqus
- bentristem likes this
- karmaboomerang likes this
- fbcoverx reblogged this from ryanleecarson
- skylundy reblogged this from ryanleecarson and added:
- pixelpossible likes this
- pixelpossible reblogged this from ryanleecarson
- fredstevenssmith likes this
- firsttenthousand likes this
- brusque likes this
- opebukola likes this
- sephcoster likes this
- frozzare likes this
- joshlong likes this
- hiddenpowers likes this
- toddwickersty likes this
- kirklove reblogged this from ryanleecarson and added:
- kirklove likes this
- ryanleecarson posted this
Stuff I Like
Jay-Z connecting the dots between Russell Simmons and Mark Zuckerberg
“People in the record business had always made a lot of money. Not the artists,...
We work a 4-day week and just raised $4.75m
I think there’s something messed up about the startup culture in the USA. The belief...
@ryancarson on TwitterFollow @ryancarson