My Favourite Businessman

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A discussion with Ricardo Semler, author of Maverick!

BL. But, when you took on being the Managing Director of your family business 12 years ago at the age of 21, where did the ideas and inspiration for your imaginative approach come from in your own personal development? RS. Yes, it had really been a family business but it is now 40 years old. I became the CEO at 21 and certainly my personal development affected the company and vice versa. It was essentially an empirically driven experience. I certainly did not come to the company with ideas on how things had to be done and then implement them. It wasn’t that way at all. I was very disappointed, even shocked, to discover that the business world was such a difficult world for people to enjoy working in. Something was very wrong in the way companies were run in general, because it was obvious people were not having a good time. They were finding Monday mornings difficult to deal with and something was terribly wrong in that. And, at the same time, companies seemed to be unable to make long-term decisions that would work and therefore they were subject to tremendous fluctuations and it started from that point. A perception that something was wrong and something had to be done. BL. You came in young, enthusiastic and committed to the company, its products and its people. Your book gives the impression that the bottom line is a means to an end; not an end in itself. Was that a family tradition? RS. Not at all. I saw the bottom line as being a means – an important means – even the most important means; but starting as a means, ending as a consequence but not the main goal of the business. Directing the company towards the profit goal alone – especially if it is shortterm – would also undo some other long-term considerations, such as quality of the product, quality of life of the people and the quality of the organization as a whole. BL. How far would you...
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