Venture Capitalist at Theory

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3 minute read / Nov 1, 2020 /

The Parallels in the Culture Between the Two Category Defining Companies

I remember reading the Netflix culture deck published in 2009 and feeling inspired. The words on the page resonated with me because they conveyed a logic and thoughtfulness not often underpinning cultural decisions broadly. They are brave because they don’t appeal to everyone.

Reed Hastings’ No Rules Rules delves one level deeper into the stories behind the deck. As I read the book, I was struck with the parallel Bridgewater’s values that founder Ray Dalio expounded in his book, Principles, and his memo to employees

Netflix Bridgewater
Say What You Really Think (With Positive Intent) Be Extremely Open, #3
Be radically candid, and follow the 4 As in your feedback (Aim to Assist, Actionable, Appreciate, Accept or Discard) Create a Culture in Which it is OK to Make Mistakes but Unacceptable not to Identify, Analyze and Learn from them, #8
Build Up Talent Density Look for people who sparkle, not just “another one of those”, #60
Pay top of market Pay for the person, not the job, #61
Act in Netflix’s best interest Think like an owner, and expect the people who work for you to the same, #74
If a person on your team were to quit tomorrow, would you try to change their mind? If not, give them a severance package now. (Keeper Test) When you find that someone is not a good “click” for a job, get them out of it ASAP., #129

The largest modern media company and the largest modern hedge fund in the world share quite a few management precepts.

Do these cultures work? To answer that question, we need to raise another one should one evaluate a culture?

First, in terms of financial success, one can’t argue with the growth of either of these institutions. Bridgewater manages $100B, more than any other hedge fund. Netflix has increased its value by 100x in the 15 years.

Second, these cultures engender a powerful sense of belonging or rejection. You either belong or you don’t, which streamlines interviewing processes and management discussions. The data supports this idea. Netflix employees are the most satisfied with their pay and least likely to look elsewhere, according to this survey.

Third, both of these institutions’ cultures are respected and revered. And we’re reading books about them, contrasting them, debating them.

But there’s another side to the story: reading Glassdoor reviews for each company illuminates the counterpoint of this culture. Some employees fear for their jobs, others mention challenging politics, yet others a lack of work-life balance. Not everyone thrives in cultures like these.

No culture satisfies everyone. And that’s exactly the point: cultures are meant to find, keep, and reward the people who belong in a group. The brilliance and the bravery of both Hastings and Dalio is the confidence to express pointed views of the culture with which they operate their businesses, and to hold fast despite the trade-offs.

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