I’m wary of publishing (edited) memos as they lack context, but reading Tom Goodwin’s post on the topic, I felt it was worth it. The following is an edited excerpt regarding the importance of quality and integrity in the product and service you produce and ship.

I am very competitive and like to win. I don’t cheat, I can’t lie, I don’t like to play dirty, but I am intense and play hard. I hate watching teammates – be it on a soccer pitch or at the company – fail to finish a play. It leaves us exposed.

The first half of employees know what I am talking about, the second half don’t. So once in a while, when some of the newer folks see that intensity, they’ve never seen it and I realize it catches some off guard. But the company’s co-founders and early employees keep telling me: we need everyone to up their intensity and show more emotion on the field. Hence this note.

The 4 Ps

The 4 Ps in Marketing are Product, Place, Promotion and Price. In our business, I refer to the 4 Ps as:

– People (you, our audience, partners) – far away #1

– Process (what we do, how we do it) – #NoSacredCows

– Product (what, why, where, when) – here, we need to channel Gordon “Hey Donkey” Ramsey, meaning no business should “ship/serve/publish/deliver/sell” crap to the clients, because if we do, the restaurant closes.

– Profit (finances, the numbers) – Important, but a means to an end.

I don’t think anyone can say I’ve ever expressed anger/disappointment over the financials. Lord knows I have never gotten mad about that.

When I get agitated or upset, it’s always about a breakdown in the Process or the impact on the Product.

In the internal memo to the company, I was going to write “I have never truly gotten angry at People,” but here’s the truth (and what I wrote): normal, competitive, proud people who want to succeed get angry all the time. It’s an emotion. Of course, how you convey that emotion is what separates your good intentions with how you are perceived. Am I disrespectful? No. Do I chew people out? Definitely no. Do I manifest a bit of an… edge? Sure. But if you want to work with/for someone who never gets angry, go work for Kruger Industrial. If you have ever had someone yell at you you would know the difference.

Don’t you want to work for a company whose CEO urges you NOT to ship just anything and focus on QUALITY?

Last year, I made it very clear that those who don’t respect each other had no place at the company, but if an employee doesn’t respect / improve the Process and/or hurts the Product, then we’re all screwed. It’s absolutely your right and responsibility to call people out then. It takes some dexterity to be tough but respectful, but it’s imperative to survive.

Employees who haven’t respected the process don’t last very long at WatchMojo, so no one really here hurts the product. When I shared this with the co-founders and management, we realize that what we lack are employees who improve the process.

Working in Montreal – where people work to live and don’t live to work – means adopting a certain culture. But we compete globally. I have thought long and hard about what is important, and I think that given the foundational DNA of our culture (we’re way too nice) then we can and should show a bit of teeth when it comes to the Process and Product.

I realized that our Culture Needed To Get Tougher

Bear in mind, even when we were insolvent and losing money, I emphasized “people ahead of profit.” I sincerely feel like I work for my employees, but too much of a good thing isn’t so good. Everything is relative. If this was AOL circa late 1990s or early 2000s, I would say “we need to tone it down,” but we’re at the other end of the spectrum and it’s hurting our operations and prospects. We may have grown too soft.

Nintendo of America’s head Reggie Fils-Aime is retiring next month. He said:

“I push people really hard. I push our agencies hard and I push our business partners hard. What I think folks respect is that I do what I’m asking them to do — long nights, weekends, whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Someone else on LinkedIn then said:

“It gives insight into his leadership, that he didn’t expect anyone to be willing to do what he wasn’t willing to do himself. He wanted the people working with him to be as passionate as he was. He wasn’t looking for people who just wanted a paycheck for their 9 to 5. It also shows that it isn’t “Work smarter, not harder” to achieve success. It is ” Work smarter and harder”. You have to be willing to put in the hours if you want to succeed about something you’re passionate about.”

I’m not saying I agree with everything in the following Gary V. video as the entire “hustle porn” mindset isn’t really healthy or sustainable but the bottom line is you have to put in the work.

Why Do Some Organizations Win More Than Others?

Using a sports analogy, I am the coach, I can choose who gets on the ice, who plays with whom, and what style to play. but I can’t set the pace; the players (employees do). I want to see some emotion on the field. Why? Because unlike a coach, as an employer at a company like WatchMojo, I’m also a player.

Rejection is the cost of Success. I get rejected all the time. I feel like when I pass on an employee’s ideas, it’s almost like I have to apologize for it. You know how rarely I hear yes to my ideas?

Criticism is Practice. I’ve conditioned my (relatively young) team to gain confidence and show an ease to dish out criticism. I like it, I can handle it and recognize that’s how we improve. Besides, I’m a masochist. But of late, I am a bit baffled by the range of reactions I get when I give feedback. Too often, I have to walk on egg shells to state the obvious and address things that are not acceptable. A colleague recently told me that in my tendency to focus on everyone’s strengths and positives they bring, it makes it hard for the manager to give constructive criticism, because the employee is quick to point out “but Ash thinks I am great!”

My guess is we are going to see a shift back to a more “old school” style of management because success isn’t about group think, but few people are willing to give it all to win.

Failure is merely a by-product of playing. Michael Jordan would say: “I succeed every day because I fail every day.”But, you/we/I don’t have to accept losing. I don’t. I want to win. All the time. And we can.

I told my team that we need to maintain Content Integrity & Quality, and that requires giving 100%. Finishing every play as we say in sports.

Everyone can elevate their game

I don’t wake up thinking I have all the answers and I certainly don’t go to bed thinking I didn’t make any mistakes that day or couldn’t have done better. Organizations that are successful don’t suddenly wake up one day and suck. Those who fall let failure and under-performers creep in the DNA, culture, process and product. Leadership is admitting to one’s team that you need their help: either to act like that too, or understand/accept why an organization’s leader has to.