The stuff that I aim to celebrate in this blog, things like simplicity, honesty, and authentic community, are abstract concepts that are harder to measure than things like profit and productivity. Maybe you think those words are nice but irrelevant to what you do. My goal is to convince you otherwise, because being less corporate doesn’t just make the world a better place; It can also be good for business.
But then I’m just a kid so how much can I really know about business, right? Fair enough. I don’t know a lot of things, and I’m not afraid to admit that, but I do know what gets me excited as a consumer, and I suspect I’m not the only one who thinks like I do. So with that said, here are three examples of companies who earned my money and my loyalty by being less corporate:
I bought the Seagate FreeAgent Pro 500 GB hard drive shortly after reading an article about Seagate’s renewed commitment to their community. (I wish I could remember where I found the article.) The executive used straightforward and honest language, and that made an impression.
When I needed a hard drive, I researched the leading brands out there and discovered that Western Digital and Seagate were both well regarded. In the stores I visited, the Western Digital drive was slightly cheaper, but the box design and the technical information on Seagate’s box was much less corporate. The Western Digital box had language that sounded forced and weary, the kind of industry-specific wording that lawyers and engineers force onto unsuspecting souls. The language on the Seagate box sounded more like a friend telling me about a product he really liked and found useful. That closed the deal.
Today, I’m still a Seagate fan, even though my Seagate hard drive crashed and I had to pay to get the data recovered. (That’s what I get for thinking that I can edit anywhere with my laptop, even in places where fate is easily tempted to send the drive plummeting to its doom.) The inviting style of the box and the playful nature of the technical documents that came with the drive sold me on the idea that Seagate isn’t run by a bunch of corporate guys who want to screw me out of my hard-earned money. Their presentation makes me think that they are earnest technology guys who want me to be happy with my hard drive.
Since I’m trying to make a living doing stuff like motion graphics, computer animation, and photography, I spend a good bit of time going through tutorials in the hope of learning something useful. (It doesn’t always happen.) By far, the best tutorial site that I’ve seen is www.lynda.com.
On lynda.com you’ll find a vast range of tutorials on almost every high-end computer program out there. Experts in their fields get you up to speed on programs like Maya, Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop. These tutorials vary by complexity and can be searched for by program, subject, or keyword, making it very easy to find the most relevant tutorial in a matter of seconds.
But the thing that makes lynda.com truly special in my mind is the sense of humor and playfulness found in their tutorials. If you’re up for the challenge, go ahead and sample a few tutorials from one of their teachers at random. I’m willing to bet that eventually something the instructor says in his instructional set will make you smile, even as you’re learning relevant technical information. When you’re dealing with very technical information, sometimes an amusing moment is all it takes to keep you plowing forward, and there are plenty of amusing moments in the lynda.com tutorials.
Why don’t more training companies do this more often? Is it because they believe their customers prefer a just-the-boring-facts corporate style of presentation? Or is it just that they’ve sat through too many awful corporate meetings and lectures and, in the process, lost their sense of humor? Some training companies are better than others at keeping their presentation style informative and fun. From what I’ve seen, Lynda.com does this best, and that’s one reason why I go to them first for information.
Pixar would rather halt production on a movie and restart their efforts than pump out a mediocre product for the sake of meeting a deadline and maximizing profit. That’s what they did with Toy Story 2. The Pixar guys have been very vocal about their opposition to cranking out inferior-quality sequels just to squeeze more money from a brand they own. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Disney! )
Sure, in the short-term that’s less money, but it buys Pixar long-term credibility, and that translates into more sales. Right now, Pixar is the only studio out there who can get me to see a movie just because the company name is on it. Not only that, but every book I’ve read from and about Pixar has been exceptional, and I feel the same way about every Pixar speaker I’ve ever heard. Because Pixar has consistently demonstrated such a strong commitment to excellence and to admirable values with everything they do, they have earned my trust. As long as they do nothing to jeopardize that trust, I will see whatever movie they make for the rest of my life. I can’t say that about Sony or about Disney or about a lot of other companies. Might that kind of loyalty to a company affect its overall profit, from me and people like me, over time? Yes, I think so.
Being less corporate for the sake of making more money is not what I’m getting at. That kind of thinking is corporate thinking; you can’t put a price tag on everything good in this world. But, being less corporate doesn’t have to mean being less successful.