Keeping Up Appearances

When Snap went public in March, investors had high hopes that they’d see Facebook like returns on their IPO dollars.  That might be a stretch, but the thought was that Snap would be a good addition to a portfolio.  Since the IPO, shares have fallen by 28% due investor concerns surrounding slowing user growth and lack of profitability.  Class actions lawsuits seeking to protect investors have followed.

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In the wake of Uber’s troubles, comparisons between Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick and Snap’s CEO Evan Spiegel have been common place.  Now that Snap is a publicly held company, Spiegel is more likely to lose his job as a result of poor user growth and low profitability.  Both are known to be egotistical, brash, and narcissistic and both have gotten in trouble for their comments.

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Monday night Snap threw a party in Cannes at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  Ironically, there were no cameras allowed in the event and guests were not allowed to take photos.  Additionally, journalists were not allowed into the party either.  Sounds like Snap likes being in the camera business, but doesn’t want the cameras in its business.  Perhaps they are trying to maintain an illusion of austerity in the face of the numerous class action suits or a contrived sense of exclusivity.  Meanwhile stateside, Kalanchick resigned Tuesday as CEO of Uber.

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When it comes to maintaining illusions, it isn’t just powerful CEOs, but regular people via their social media accounts.  Society has created a web of perceived perfection via filters, influencers and viral videos.  The illusion becomes dangerous when people can no longer cope with real life against the juxtaposition of the illusion.  If your kids were to look at your pics, would they see you or would they see a contrived version of you?

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Commit or Quit

I wrote last night about how a single blog post has completely upended Uber’s rocket like trajectory to the top of the business world.   Uber and Lyft provided a much needed alternative to current modes of transportation available in our cities.  Uber was a head of the game, but a lack of discipline and an abysmal, abusive corporate culture has derailed their ascent to the top.

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When you look at the core values of Uber, at least from what can be pieced together through various media and former employees’ reports, are built around winning and only winning.  Some of these are toe stepping, make magic, super pumped, and always be hustling.  While these are levels of motivation you’d want to see in your employees on the daily, they’re not the only traits or values that you’re looking for them to uphold.  Most companies’ core values reflect their goal of making a profit, but they also reflect their goal of making a profit in concert with integrity, great work environment, and responsibility.  The core values serve as a guide for all of their employees to make sure the business is run both within the letter of the law and with the utmost integrity.

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The establishment of core values for a corporation is important as it signals to employees, customers, and shareholders who you are and wants important to you as a business.  When establishing the core values, it is essential that all levels of the organization commit to living within that value set or else you’re operating within a house of cards much like Uber.

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Much like any habit, if you say you’re going to commit to running 25-30 miles a week to achieve a PR at our next race, but you only run 10-15 miles a week your PR will likely not materialize.  Likewise, if you as a business commit to core values, but do not adhere to all of them, your business practices will not align with your core values.  Moreover, as a leader you’ll have little to no credibility with your folks.  The lesson is don’t be half pregnant.  Don’t preach one things and live another; commit to your goals, your values and stick to them.

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House of Cards

Uber had been a darling of the business world for the past couple of years.  When my youngest son and I along with his best friend and his mom found ourselves stranded with a couple of strangers at a seedy motel in Union City, GA at 2:00 am.   The hotel shuttle dropped us off assuring us we could use our vouchers there.  Upon dropping us of at the hotel, the driver collected his kickback and promptly departed.  No sooner had the driver left, when the hotel clerk informed us that they did not accept Southwest’s travel vouchers.  As the others in the party argued with the hotel clerk, we sat off in the corner with the kids watching as several pimps and their hoes walked in and out of the hotel.   There was no way in hell that we were going to stay out of the hotel, but getting a taxi outside of the city was difficult.  A businesswomen from Milwaukee, called us two Ubers and booked us hotel rooms as a hotel closer to the airport.  Thank god for her and for Uber.

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The past couple of months for Uber, much like that night for us, have been nothing but an unmitigated disaster culminating yesterday with the departure of Uber’s CEO.  I was reading an article in the paper the other day about the state of Uber and how one blog post has brought the once might company to its knees.  In her blog post, Susan Fowler described her very strange year as an employee of Uber.  This blog post recounted a number of issues at the company including explicit sexual harassment, career sabotage and gender discrimination to name a few.  This blog post by a former engineer ended up going viral setting off a number of earth shaking events at the company.

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The lesson for bloggers is that your words matter and your voices can be heard, so use the platform wisely and judiciously.   For corporate leaders, consider how your run your teams and your organizations.  If your employees were to write a blog post on your leadership, what would they say?  Would they recount stories similar to Susan Fowler’s?  Leadership is rarely glamorous and often thankless, but when people are treated with respect and made to feel value their opinions of their leaders and organizations will reflect it.  Build an organization on respect, valued employees and principled leadership and you won’t find yourself leading an organization built on a house of cards.

 

For further reading on the Uber debacle:

https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/how-a-single-courageous-voice-led-ubers-ceo-to-resign.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/technology/uber-workplace-culture.html

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/22/uber-cto-thuan-pham-susan-fowler-travis-kalanick