In the early days of our company, we bought folding tables and chairs for everyone. When it became clear that the uncomfortable folding chairs were affecting company morale, we bought a truckful of comfortable chairs that had been discarded by a big IT company because they were hideous. Everyone was happy.
Eventually, we decided to hire a CEO to run day-to-day operations. After a long meeting in our conference room full of folding tables and 1970s-reject conference chairs, one candidate told me that the office furniture made him uncomfortable. Success! We had just screened out a candidate who would never fit our values.
Several years later we replaced almost all of the folding tables with ergonomic standing desks. As CEO, I was the last to give up my personal folding table. However, we’ve hung on to the folding-table culture. There are no grand offices in our organization. CEOs don’t sit in corner offices with secretaries perched outside. They interface with the customer. They sign for packages. Occasionally, they take out the trash.
We are a scrappy company.
We don’t care about titles.
We don’t care about offices.
We don’t tolerate bureaucracy.
We keep administrative personnel to a minimum.
We keep communications direct and straightforward.
Every leader should take the scrappiness test:
When was the last time you spoke with a customer?
How many people stand between you and front-line employees?
Are people in your organization focused more on titles or on outcomes?
After a company meeting or event, who takes out the trash?
I have a standing desk now — three of them, actually. But there is a folding table in the corner of my office that reminds me of where we started and why we should never stop being scrappy.