Category Archives: company culture

Jay Hardy Sells Company to Employees

Hardy Diagnostics now employee-owned

Jay Hardy, President of Hardy Diagnostics, recently crossed a big item off of his “to do” list—he sold the company to his employees that he and his lifelong friend,Rob Shibata, founded 34 years ago.  ”I have planned on doing this for a long time,” said Hardy.  “Owning Hardy Diagnostics has been tremendously rewarding for me.  Now everyone at Hardy Diagnostics can share in the joy and rewards of ownership, just as I have,” he said.

Employee ownership promotes participation and leadership on every level for the more than 230 employees of Hardy Diagnostics.  The company’s Open Book Management system encourages involvement and personal responsibility. As Rianna Malherbe, who has worked as a Technical Support Specialist for about a year puts it, “Having co-ownership means having a commitment to holding a bigger picture vision, even as I focus on everyday details of my personal role as part of our continuous improvement process.”

Ownership can be a major competitive advantage

Companies that are employee owned are known as ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Over time, employees are granted real shares in the company at no cost to them.  There are about 11,000 companies in the U.S. that are ESOPs like Hardy Diagnostics. Due to employee involvement, ESOPs generally have a superior track record compared to other companies. An ESOP is 25% more likely to stay in business. ESOPs have 25% higher job growth over the last 10 years compared to the non-ESOP.  Employees at ESOPs have retirement accounts that are 2.5 times greater than their non-ESOP counterparts and they were four times less likely to be laid off during the recent recession.

As employee owners, they work within a culture of ownership that produces both rights and responsibilities: the right to be informed about the management, strategy, and financial health of the company. They are also encouraged to question practices that may not be in the company’s best interest. The net result is to work in a positive environment and share in the company’s financial success.

As an employee-owned company, Hardy Diagnostics will not be obligated to outside shareholders who care only about the bottom line. This ensures the freedom to emphasize other values, like community involvement, environmental responsibility, and the wellness and satisfaction of the workforce as whole people.

“A company made of hundreds of owners who really care about their work is a powerful, if not unbeatable, force in the marketplace,” states Jay Hardy. “I get a great deal of satisfaction, when an employee tells me that they actually look forward to coming to work each day,” he adds.

Hardy Diagnostics is in good company

Hardy Diagnostics joins a long line of successful employee owned companies such as Southwest Airlines, Publix Super Markets, Gore-Tex, Clif Bar, New Belgium Brewery, and King Arthur Flour. Employee owned companies are renowned as some of the world’s best companies to work for due to their high-involvement employee cultures. Hardy Diagnostics is a successful and rapidly growing company; employee ownership makes a piece of the pie that much more coveted.

Source: PR Newwire


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The High Cost of a Bad Hire at Mozilla

Questionable HR comes with a high cost

Should the personal beliefs of a CEO don one issue determine if they are qualified to run a company or not.  Based on the recent series of events at Mozilla, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Brendan Eich speaking on "browser wars: d...

 HR problems took down the entire management structure at Mozilla in the last 30 days.

I missed a lot of the first furor over the Brendan Eich situation at Mozilla.

According to CNET:


Eich had built a strong following as co-founder of Mozilla, a savvy fighter for the Web, inventor of JavaScript, and leader of the Firefox and Firefox OS projects. His promotion to Mozilla chief executive officer from chief technology officer last week was a rare techie triumph over the usual business-school demographic.

Much of that credit evaporated as he struggled to reconcile his 2008 contribution of $1,000 to Proposition 8, a California measure against gay marriage, with Mozilla’s explicit culture of inclusiveness. That inclusiveness is central to the world-spanning organization’s breadth, and Eich told CNET in an interview that it protected his own views, too.

But his argument didn’t persuade critics, and Mozilla management — accustomed to taking the moral high ground — had to defend itself from boycotts and outrage.

Eich tried to lay these concerns to rest, addressing them in a blog post on his personal site in which he sets forth his views and commitment on Inclusiveness at Mozilla.

 ….I ask for your ongoing help to make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all. Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:

  • Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
  • Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
  • My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
  • My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

Despite these efforts, the Mozilla CEO ultimately decided to resign due to the on-going controversy concerning his contribution to a group supporting California’s anti-gay Proposition 8.  This followed the resignations of three Mozilla board members who had previously stepped down over Eich’s appointment.  That’s a significant amount of fallout for any organization, but especially significant for a business like Mozilla, a non-profit competing against huge competitors like Microsoft and Google.

HR problems brought down the Board and the CEO.  Organizational values, succession planning, background checks, talent selection, fit to hire and even something as basic as a background check all played a part in this drama.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the three departing directors resigned over the Eich hiring , believing that the company needed to hire someone with different qualifications, specifically someone more experienced in mobile. It’s likely that Mozilla’s approach in selecting the next CEO will look significantly different.


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Meditation as a business practice, something to contemplate

Meditation can be good for your soul and your business

“ The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered. ”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

Do you meditate? I do, although not as much as I should.

It helps to center you, and slow your mind down. It can help you relax during stressful times, and will often help you to think more clearly and make better decisions.

Sometimes it just turns into a nap, and that can be a good thing too. Other times it can give you an energy boost. Here’s guided meditation that lasts nine minutes and will give you an early morning energy boost with or without a cup of coffee.

Energy Boosting Meditation

Here are some additional resources on the topic if you find it interesting, including articles from HBR, Forbes, Wired and Fast Company.

How Meditation can make you a better leader

In Silicon Valley, everyone is meditating

HBR: if you are too busy to meditate, read this

Three reasons everyone at Google is meditating

There’s even a conference you can attend if you are so inclined: Wisdom 2.0 – the intersection of wisdom and technology

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Employee Owned Businesses the New Future Model for US Business?

This was originally written in December 2008.  It’s still worth a read and some consideration as a company business strategy.

Employee Owned Companies

In my career, I’ve worked for two employee-owned companies. Both were excellent employers.

Being employed by a company  you own a stake in makes a huge difference in the company culture. My mantra for 2009 is that company culture is ultimately the one reason that drives a business to excellence, superseding talent, compensation, visions, missions, innovation and any other reason you may throw out. Without a strong vibrant encouraging culture, none of these other factors can flourish.

Employee ownership is the single strongest differentiators in business, and is sorely under-utilized. I am not talking about employee stock purchase plans. I am talking about actually owning shares that you receive as part of your annual compensation.

This would do far more to help rebuild economies than a piece of adversarial legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act ever could. Business and employees don’t need 3rd party interveners and relationships based on adversarial negotiation. They are mutually engaged in seeking the best outcome for business success, in a way that serves the interest of all stakeholders.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans are one way of achieving this. I saw a really great story about such an example of this in a story from the Naples New this weekend.

In their own hands: Employees run the business at Florida Company

In a rare move to save his company, a dying man initiated a complex process
to put his 30-year venture into his employees’ hands.

Larry Bill had battled cancer for years and needed to address Pelican
Wire Co.’s future without himself at the helm.

There were potential buyers, including a Chinese company, said Ted
Bill, his son and company president.

Instead, the Bill family embarked on a nearly nine-month process of
transferring ownership to Pelican’s 48 employees in an employee stock ownership
plan, or ESOP, which Ted Bill referred to as expensive, although no figures were

The transaction was completed this fall, about six months after Larry
Bill died.

“He always had a passion for the employees,” Ted Bill said. “He wanted
them to come to work feeling like they had an ownership stake.

See the rest of the story here


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Caution, Communication and Culture

TSA employee sleeping at Reagan National Airpo...
Image via Wikipedia

Communicating your culture

I flew through a couple of airports this weekend.  That isn’t unusual.  I may not be a seasoned travel dude like Eric Winegardner, but I get around.   This past Sunday morning,  I was standing in the TSA security line looking at the various signs posted around me, and realized that I had entered a police state.  I was surrounded by people carrying weapons, and preparing to examine my personal documents.   The people behind them waited to scrutinize my personal belongings, and if necessary, frisk my person for suspicious items.

There were signs warning me of potential terrorist threats, reminding me to report any suspicious activity, and warning me that I must comply with numerous security regulations and requirements.  If I failed to do so, then various negative consequences would occur.

Fortunately, it was a small airport, and the process went seamlessly.   None of my junk was harmed during the process, but it did get me thinking about communication and expectation.

Clearly, the leaders and employees of the TSA are forced to live in a world filled with pressure, and suspicion.  They could not do their jobs properly if they don’t believe that every person coming through their security lines is up to no good, and trying to find ways to defeat their security processes.   The communication style of the organization fits the culture.  The TSA signage offers up a true reflection of their purpose and mission, even if it is somewhat dismal and depressing in tone.

From Drop Box

Here’s the question for HR professionals to consider from the TSA example.   Do your communication and messaging accurately reflect your culture?   If they don’t, they should.

From Drop Box
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Which company culture would you pay for?

Why did Amazon want to buy Zappos?

For a lot of reasons, but one of the most compelling: the Zappos culture.

Amazon has its own unique approach, but isn’t afraid to reach out and bring in something new and potentially enriching.

Seth Godin nails it when he says Amazon bought Zappos to gain:

What you buy when you spend that kind of money is what matters
now. And what matters is:

  • A corporate culture that’s not the same (and where great
    people choose to work)
  • A tight relationship with customers that give you
    permission to talk with them
  • A business model that’s remarkable and worth
    talking about
  • A story that spreads
  • Leadership

These things are available to organizations of every size. If you want them
and choose to work for them.

Or buy them in this case.

Which company would you buy if you could pick a company culture to blend with your own?

A couple of mine (besides Zappos) would be Whole Foods, the “old” Starbucks, and a small company in Florida called IZEA.