Groupon held an all-hands meeting yesterday to talk about how the company has made an arse of itself since it went public, with the latest embarrassment being a restatement of its first quarterly results.The message from the company’s 31-year old CEO Andrew Mason: We need to grow up.
(Specifically, we need to “stop taking stupid risks.”)
Mason delivered this message, reports Shira Ovide of the Wall Street Journal, after chugging beer from a company fridge. At one point during his presentation, his “voice broke and he said ‘Sorry, too much beer.'”
Knowing Mason, this last comment was probably intended as a joke. But it unfortunately embodies the company’s problem.
How do Shira Ovide and the Wall Street Journal know what Andrew Mason said during the all-hands meeting?
Because they secretly listened in via webcast.
And that also tells you a lot about Groupon.
Groupon isn’t the first company that has had to grow up quickly because it has gotten so big so fast. Amazon did a lot of dumb stuff in its early days as a public company, too (although it never restated earnings). Most companies move past this stage, and Groupon eventually will, too.
But in the interests of hurrying this process along, here’s some unsolicited advice for Groupon and Andrew Mason:
Stop clinging to the wacky-guy “fun” culture that helped Groupon when the company was first getting started. You’re not a wacky little startup anymore. You’re a global corporation with more than $1 billion of revenue and 10,000+ employees. By all means, stop “taking stupid risks”–start taking calculated ones. Also stop trying to be “funny” and “cool.” You can still be a great, fun place to work and a company that produces great value for customers without making ironic corporate jokes that no one understands or knows are ironic. (Look at Amazon–it’s now the most boring company in the world–and one of the most successful. Same for Apple.)
Lastly, Andrew, stop drinking on the job.
You want to throw one back after work with a small group of employees? In a bar with a couple of senior colleagues? Fine.
But not on the job.
You’re the captain of a ship with 10,000 crew members, all of whom have entrusted their livelihoods to you. If you were a crew-member on a ship and the captain called a ship-wide meeting to tell everyone they needed to grow up–and delivered the message while swigging beer–you would understand that the problem came right from the top.
Commanding a ship is serious business. Leading all-hands meetings is serious business. Doing any job is serious business. You can be a serious professional without giving up your soul. And you can help the company take a big step toward growing up by recognising that, for very good reasons, no serious professional, especially a professional leader, drinks on the job.