Grow-or-die Culture Will Tear Us Apart

The reason why we are a calm company.

Last week I read the following quote in an article by Erin Griffith published by the New York Times: “For every unicorn, there are countless other start-ups that grew too fast, burned through investors’ money and died — possibly unnecessarily.” Well, it’s true and we are failing to understand that on time.

Everything has to be done right now. Startup, company and agency plans are designed for the rosiest possible outcome and the pressure of hypergrowth is higher than ever. This screenshot from Nikolay Storonsky, CEO at Revolut, published in Wired sums up today’s high-speed growth companies pretty well.

Revolut emerged as a bank that wanted to treat people as human beings and not numbers with dollar signs attached but instead former Revolut employees have shown how this company has succeeded at human cost with unachievable targets, weekends of work and high-staff turnover. This is what calm companies are designed to avoid. The threatening tone, the “get (sh)it done” emojis, the watch list and so on, we don’t want to live that way. We believe there’s a way of growing and succeeding without leaving every other aspect of your life aside.

The entrepreneurship-techie-unicorn culture has gone wild lately and we all know the 10x-growth is unachievable or, at least, unrealistic even though you add the #hustle hashtag on every story and work on weekends. This isn’t a race, actually. Companies can be calm AND successful at the same time. Basecamp, Buffer, Mailchimp and Notion are some great examples.

We got used to reading posts, tweets and articles that swear that every CEO wakes up at 3am, goes for a run, has breakfast, reads 4 books, meditates, does some yoga, takes their kids to school, goes to work and who knows what else. Well, that’s an utopia. This kind of content and all those inspiring startup stories have moved the norm towards an extreme and suddenly we are okey with the growth-or-die culture.

Weblow’s CEO, Vlad Madgalin, really gets it.

Calm companies aim for a middle ground. We believe, as James Stanier says on this article, that:

  • Growth should not trump good business practices.
  • Growth should not come at the cost of employees.
  • Growth should not negatively impact society and the planet.

Companies are obsessed with their revenue instead of their profit and year-on year growth percentages: “10x thinking,” “10x scaling,” and “10x engineers.” But relentless focus on growth breeds wrong behavior, bad results, unachieved objectives, poor culture and this kind of messages at WeWork:

In a high-stress, growth-driven environment, people take bad decisions and companies go horribly wrong. This is not it, growth-or-die culture leaks into our lives and we begin celebrating a hustle lifestyle. We need to reframe success and include health in it.

At Bardo we are in it for the long-term, we are a calm company that strives to be meaningful for our clients, users and team. We are fully remote and we want to grow but we truly believe slow and steady wins the race. Basecamp, Mailchimp, Webflow, Bubble and Metalab are some of the companies that really inspire us. We have the chance to design our companies and our workplace and grow them into something nice and inhabitable.

As Jason Fried said: “Chaos should not be the natural state at work. Anxiety isn’t a prerequisite for progress. Sitting in meetings all day isn’t required for success. These are all perversions of work — side effects of broken models and follow-the-lemming-off-the-cliff worst practices. Step aside and let the suckers jump.”

Happy 2020.


Juan Manuel Abrigo
CEO - Product Strategist
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