If You ask the serious people...
Mar 08, 2016
Category: Book Review
If You ask the serious people, those with blue suits and tie clips, Semco is a roaring success. We are pursued by the bankers who enjoy lending money to people who have it, and are stalked to a point of sexual harassment by stock market underwriters.”
Hilarious ,brutally honest and pragmatic! What more can one say.This was first published in 1993 when Semco, a Brazilian group had gone from 35 Million US$ to 160 Million US$ in sales ( NOT market Cap ) and mushroomed from few hundred employees to 1500.
But still at this point Ricardo Semler and his close man Clovis fondly called sultan of HR felt that they only achieved a 30% of their dream they saw 19 years ago and to make it feel worse, they, were nearly 50% of achieving it 3 years back .
Their dream was not sales no. or no. of employees but to Democratize the corporate world or atleast their corporate system.
Ricardo arrived at semco, his father’s manufacturing unit of pumps, when he was in his 20’s,to be precise he was only 20.There are some interesting facts how he started and almost bullied himself in the company and asked his father to become non-executive and on one fine day how he fired all the old war horses which his father had pride in.
For me, what he did in his early 20’s was far more brave and extremely difficult , than, the once started business with no money and no family support to start. In fact this book has so much to say on each page that it gets overwhelming and even exhaustive by the level of details he and his team thought and how they managed to cultivate a new breed of companies.
Read this extract-“When I Took over Semco from my father 12 years ago( This was in 1993) it was a traditional company in every respect ,with a pyramidal structure and a rule for every contingency .But today,our factory workers sometimes set their own production quotas and even come in on their own time to meet them, without prodding from management or overtime pay. They help redesign the product they make and formulate the marketing plan. Their bosses ,for their part ,can run our business units with extraordinary freedom ,determining business strategies without interference from top brass.They even set their own salaries,with no strings. Then again,everyone will know what they are, since all financial information at Semco is openly discussed. Indeed our workers have unlimited access to our books( and we have only one set).To show we are serious about this,Semco, with the labor union that represent our workers , develop a course to read balance sheets and cash flow statement.”
Scary, yes, take your time and reread it if you want.
Amazing participative environment which was created in way back in 1980’s and it’s still this way they arrange tours in the company, now currently they have stopped it because it got, too much and factory workers and office staff felt like being zoo animals. All from huge corps, MNC, Tech Tycoons have seen Semco.
So, It still amazes me , is to why the new companies and MNCS and the BIG B schools don’t implement this philosophy. Ya, I know I have got carried away but once you go page by page, something in you change, the way you see things and people,change and I personally have got a go to mantra of management from this book.“Do what is right, do it the easy way and let them decide the rest” I really want to write more on this book but I might end up writing a whole new book in itself.
There is lot to write about how they acquire companies, how they manage pay roles, Hire HR and how they survived the Recession which they are more prone to because of USA being a neighbor and client.There are many interesting stories of employees who either shifted jobs despite their qualifications and changed departments or companies with in group, to find happiness and satisfaction also some stories of people leaving and rejoining Semco. Point to remember is that, they have near zero attrition. Semco and Ricardo believe that-‘it’s our job to find your area of interest where you will be performing at the best of your skills and not what company want. It’s as though saying join us first then we will figure out what can you do.’ -Unreal isn’t it ???
Another amazing part is Schooling initiative undertaken by semco and Ricardo they say we don’t teach kids gravity, chemistry ,friction ,or languages or history . We teach them to build a bicycle, and while building the bicycle they learn all the subjects’ history of bicycle, the manual is in English which makes them acquainted with new words and phrase and physics and chemistry too is part of process of building the bicycle.And obviously there are plenty of projects to do.
The Book dose change the way we think and act. It is MAVERICK in all sense.
To end with Ricardo’s quote” Democracy is a lot of work, I kept telling myself and anyone who would listen. It needs to be exercised with conviction and without subterfuge* or exception.”
Tribe Appsoft, Goa.