Aug 22

Closing the Gap: Transitions in Family Leadership

By | August 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

By André Castellini and James Allen

Behind the early success of family-owned companies is a team of talented individuals who have a clear understanding of the company’s insurgent mission and passionately implement it. Family members have often been involved since founding, or they learned directly from the founders themselves. For this reason, many family businesses have an advantage when it comes to scaling.

Take Luiza Helena Trajano, chairwoman of Magazine Luiza, a leading Brazilian retailer. Luiza’s aunt and uncle founded the company in 1957. Luiza Helena started working in her aunt’s store when she was 12 and began running the company in 1991, when it had 30 stores. Magazine Luiza now has more than 800 stores and more than 26,000 employees.


Jun 8

Our Future: The Chair Is Empty

By | June 8th, 2016|Agile & Innovative Organization, Uncategorized|1 Comment

A CEO I spoke with recently told me he’d become so angry that he and his team weren’t dealing with their future issues that he put a sign on an empty chair in his boardroom. It read: Our Future.

In taping it to the chair he told his team, “This is the only way I know to get us to focus on our Engine 2 strategy. It has been months and we still haven’t freed up anyone to lead our Engine 2 initiative. So the sign will stay on the chair until we do, and every meeting I will make the same point: While every one of us is working hard on the present, let’s remind ourselves that no one is working on our future. That chair is empty.”

Here’s a picture of that empty chair:


I love this image. Here’s why: […]

Mar 2

The Golden Thread, or A Movie and Three Questions

By | March 2nd, 2016|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, Owner mindset, Uncategorized, Video|0 Comments

Grab some popcorn; we’re going to watch a little movie and then have a discussion. The movie is a short version of a story we’ve told here before—the story of Jaipur Rugs, the story of Founder’s Mentality in action. Please enjoy.


Jan 25

Starting the Founder’s Mentality revolution in a large company

By | January 25th, 2016|Insurgency, The curse of the matrix, Uncategorized|0 Comments

revolution-in-large-companyI love entrepreneur Steve Blank’s phrase “hacking the corporate culture.” While he focuses on how to increase agility and adaptability to increase innovation, I think the phrase applies more broadly. Over the past two weeks, I was at two workshops (one in Europe, the other in China) at the division level of huge multinational corporations. In both, the question discussed was: “How do we create change in a large organization were we are not at the top and don’t completely control our destiny?” Or, as Blank might ask, “How do we hack the corporate culture?” […]

Jan 5

Not so shocking

By | January 5th, 2016|Insurgency, Uncategorized|0 Comments

high voltage sign on white metal plate

I was pleased to learn recently that my blog post on “shock reports” was one of the five most popular small-business posts published in the Wall Street Journal’s The Experts blogs.

The term shock report, you may recall, was actually a garbled but evocative translation of rapport d’étonnement. It refers to a tool used by businesses, government and academia to tap the insights of new recruits or students by asking what most astonished them after joining the company or institution. The goal is to capture the collective wisdom of first impressions before the organization’s culture begins to shape the way new recruits see things.


Apr 8

The systems and capabilities table

By | April 8th, 2014|Revenue grows faster than talent, The complexity doom loop, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Strategy on a handAs companies seek to grow and achieve scale while maintaining their Founder’s MentalitySM, they face one constant: the tension between building a professional organization and maintaining a company’s entrepreneurial energy.

As we’ve discussed previously in these blog posts, companies can and must thoughtfully add professional management without destroying the founding culture. We’ve talked about the value of “upside-down management” and adding structure without sinking into the quicksand of bureaucracy. None of this, of course, is clear cut. For a fascinating look at the lively debate around the wisdom of replacing founders with outside talent, consider the well-argued, but opposing, viewpoints of Ben Horowitz (on behalf of founders) and Reid Hoffman (in support of professional management). […]

Feb 5

Improve everything you touch

By | February 5th, 2014|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Founder's Mentality - Poornima Bhambal of Oberoi Udaivilas Poornima Bhambal, one of the many faces of customer service at the Oberoi Udaivilas

Last fall I had the privilege of talking with Vikram Oberoi, chief operating officer and joint managing director of the Oberoi Group, about how he maintains the Founder’s MentalitySM as the hotel group expands (it now has 22 hotels). I also mentioned that I would be staying at some Oberoi hotels during an upcoming vacation in India with my wife and promised to interview some of his managers about how they maintain the company’s Founder’s Mentality during such periods of high growth.

One of these conversations was with Poornima Bhambal at the Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. The Oberoi Udaivilas sits on Lake Pichola, directly across from the City Palace of Udaipur. Udaipur itself is called the City of Lakes, and most Indians I talk to cite it as the most beautiful city in India. I can certainly understand why. Sitting in our room at Udaivilas and watching the sun set against the palace, we ranked Udaipur as the most beautiful city we’ve visited anywhere. […]

Oct 30

The four great balancing acts

By | October 30th, 2013|Frontline obsession, Net benefits of scale and scope, The complexity doom loop, The curse of the matrix, The path to Scale Insurgency, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The four great balancing actsDuring my recent trip to Brazil, one founder asked me to provide a list of the likely tensions his fast-growing company would face over the next couple of years. I prepared four key items, which I refer to as The Four Great Balancing Acts of fast-growing, founder-led companies:

1. The tension between nurturing the Founder’s MentalitySM (looking backward) while capturing benefits of scale and scope and building new capabilities (looking forward). […]

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