Here we see some of the philosophical lessons learned by Jerry throughout this entire process. Words of wisdom if you will.
SM: This is a great, great story. Personally what is your philosophical analysis or gains out of this experience? You have gone up and down and hit highs and lows, what is your take away? JR: I think there are a few principles that serve you well as a company. I think, for us it has been sort of the foundation, and it is all about culture.
I heard a guy a few years ago make a talk and somewhere in his talk he threw out a line that said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I thought about that for a little while, and kicked it around in my head over time, and I absolutely agree with that. The answer is we have a culture that we are focused on the customer first. We are focused on delivering value to customers.
We have a culture where we accept nothing … there are no sacred cows. We want to continually improve every part of our operation. We have a culture that says we are going to hire bright people, and we are going to hire bright people who have good interpersonal skills and can work well in small groups. We are going to treat each other really well and we are going to preserve each others self esteem and we are going to have fun and a pleasant experience working.
Somehow if you go through all of what we have gone through, a lot of the focus on customers and our willingness to continually challenge, change and improve everything we do, I think is fundamentally what we have done. You can argue that that is strategy, but I think that it is our DNA, and it has served us throughout this period. I think it will continue to serve us well.
I read an article last year, that AT&T had once spent several hundred million dollars in one year on consultants. They were the largest consulting firms, and it was unbelievable, all those guys and their strategies. And what happened to AT&T? They are out of business. They are actually Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in San Antonio Texas now, and they sold Bell Labs, and they sold Lucent and their manufacturing. Lucent is still there, but it is owned by Alcatel now. There is nothing left.
SM: Yes, it is a shadow of its previous glory. JR: One of the things is we didn’t spend money on consultants, but we had developed a company with culture that I think could see us through difficult times, and our focus on customers led to any successes that we have had.
SM: Yes, part of the problem with the consulting business model, especially the way Bain, BCG, McKinsey are set up, is that they are incentivized to stay on, rather than solve the problem and get out. Personally, I prefer charging a LOT for solving a problem, and then getting out, rather than staying on in a company as a permanent fixture in the office.