Nothing has to be the norm

I was talking to someone the other night who is insanely smart and has been incredibly successful at a young age. I get to see that in the tech world. We talked about the way that investors conduct themselves in regards to how they approach their jobs. He believed that in order to return a fund to your LP’s you have to look at things a certain way and perhaps be a certain way. I disagree. Just like growing companies with different cultures, investors do not have to follow the norm. Nothing has to be the norm.

Herb Kelleher, the brains behind Southwest Airlines, died recently. He was a visionary in how he ran his company. He paid his employees well and created a positive culture by treating everyone like they were a customer. That feeling was contagious and translated into loyal travelers. He did it differently and was profitable early on. He did not follow the norm.

The one thing I have repeated to founders again and again is that nothing is standard. You should grow the company in the way that you see fit. Culture and attitude stems from the top. As there is a lot of conversation around the VC culture from the article that Erin Griffith wrote in the NYTimes, is that these cultures are different at every firm, and again, just like start-ups or large corporations such as Southwest Airlines, company culture starts from the top.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I like to think that the rules of common decency, an inclusive narrative well told, and the wisdom of the balance sheet are the key pieces that–for me–never change. Outside of that, different is expected.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It is all about the legal documents as a foundation for not following the norm when it comes to companies

      1. awaldstein

        Excellent point.

  2. Semil Shah

    One of my favorite Southwest trivia items is that they smartly hedged their jet fuel costs, which also enabled them to maintain low fares –

    1. Gotham Gal

      So smart

    2. awaldstein

      Hey!Think I noted somewhere that we share a volunteer obsession with the Mueller investigation. If so, one of my favorite tangential resources is the Slate Amicus podcast on the law and the Supreme Court hosted by Dahlia Lithwick, that is a deep, detailed dive in adjacent topics.The episode released today was an education for me with some real facts and understanding of the laws and FBI processed behind the headlines.(When in NY next, ping me.)

      1. Gotham Gal

        I am obsessed. Thanks. Will listen and ping you when we return.

    3. PhilipSugar

      My favorite is that when Braniff started a price war halving the fare from Dallas to Houston from $26 to $13 Southwest gave you a choice:Buy a $26 ticket and get a free fifth of Chivas or a $13 ticket and nothing.…Yes I am old enough to have flown with my Dad on a business trip and his secretary bought the expensive tickets.Yes it is Texas and to this day a minor may drink if in the presence of parents.Here is your bottle! My Dad: Shaking his head: Give me that! Me: She gave it to me. Give it here.BTW: Look at the flight attendant uniforms that even Southwest posts on their web page from that era: early 1970’s https://www.southwestaircom…Different times. Us Texans born there in the 1960’s and before remember.

      1. Gotham Gal

        I stood in line in the 80’s to get a $19 round-trip ticket for People’s express from Boston to NYC

        1. PhilipSugar

          I remember them. At Mitsubishi Corporation I met both Herb Kelleher from Southwest and Bill McGowan from MCI (remember them?) We were thinking about setting up a low cost airline and we setup DDI which competed with the mighty NTT.They were kindred spirits. Both took on massive monopolistic companies. And I can clearly remember both liked to drink whiskey and smoke. Talk about different times. I don’t know if you ever had the experience of sitting in a conference room and being the only person not smoking.

          1. Gotham Gal

            can’t say i have.

          2. PhilipSugar

            Not fun. The COO of Mitsubishi Asada had a habit of lighting a cigarette every time he picked up the phone, since he was the COO he took calls during our meetings. One time he took three calls and had two going in the ashtray and one in his mouth. I was famous because at that point I couldn’t take it. I in Japanese said: One I can take, two is tough, three I cannot, as I smashed out two in the ashtray and took the one from his mouth and put that out as well. The Japanese guys couldn’t believe it.

  3. lisa hickey

    Almost missed this, but it bubbled up again because of the excellent comments. “Nothing has to be the norm” = new mantra. (I’ve always believed it, but actually putting it into practice is the key.)

    1. Gotham Gal

      Hardest part