One the companies I admire the most is 37 Signals, and I'm not alone. Jason Fried, CEO and founder of the web company, is an incredible business thinker, writer, speaker, and leader. He's built web products worth millions of dollars and created a programming concept that's been incredibly successful across the technology industry. But recently my admiration for Jason grew ten fold, not because of the launch, but because he quit.
They expect offers well into the millions, if not much more. These aren't bum failures that are easy to walk away from.
Jason has announced that 37 Signals will be completely focusing on their most successful product, Basecamp. A 100 percent, all in, focus. They're walking away from further development on tools that, by many perspectives, have been quite successful. They are looking to sell or spin off these other products and expect them to bring offers well into the millions, if not much more. These aren't bum failures that are easy to walk away from. In fact, the are going so far as to rename the company entire 37 Sginals company, Basecamp. A complete focus on the core.
There are so many lessons in this bold move. Let me outline a few things I see:
1. Honesty and Transparency
First, I applaud Jason for his authenticity. If you read his post about the changes, you'll find focused clarity. So many organizations today will struggle desperately to be authentic. We don't want to alienate anyone, and with these reservations we tend to release "corporate spin" announcements that say a lot without saying anything at all. Our culture wants transparency. It might come with pushback and frustration, but it also comes with respect and loyalty.
2. Simplicity and Excellence
If I had a "leadership love language", this would be it. I believe in the power of simplicity and excellence - it resonates with my very core. 37 Signals is a hot tech company full of talented people, well lead, and well resourced. This makes it a fertile place for things to grow. Thus, you get a wealth of great ideas with the people to execute them. But complexity kills momentum, confuses customers, dilutes resources, creates silos, stunts growth, and ultimately is the fuel for mediocrity. Jason understands the power of simplifying and focusing incredible talent on incredible potential. People want excellence. That's what really matters. Excellence.
People want excellence. That's what really matters. Excellence.
3. Organizational Learning
Great leaders are great learners. Great organizations are great learning organizations. Launching products like Highrise and Campfire where not mistakes for 37 signals. They continued to evaluate and document what was happening with the business as whole, learning with each step. This learning lead them to confidently understand what was making them successful and what would ultimately lead to growth in their next season. Risk and failure are only wasted when we don't learn from them.
This week America's largest pharmacy retailer, CVS, announced they would stop selling what is widely considered one of the most profitable products: tobacco. The company predicts it could decrease earnings per share by 17 cents, while losing the $2 billion a year in sales of tobacco products. Why cut a $2 billion product? CVS states that they are a health care company, and they can't continue to sell a product that is detrimental to users health. They know who they are. They are sticking to their core. They are simplifying down. Cutting profitable products that don't fit who they are to refocus on things that fit them better in the long run.
So, the question is, what do you need to quit?