To an outsider, Wawa appears like a normal, run of the mill convenience chain — except to residents in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. To them, Wawa is a community hub that deserves praise, fan mail and even country songs. ... On a separate occasion, a Thanksgiving food drive supports employees and customers in need. Whether it’s helping out store associates or donating thousands of dollars to charity, many Wawa stores take pride in their communities. It might seem unusual for a store that sells gas and Sizzlis. ... Later, Wawa became a go-to milk delivery company, but the service unraveled during the late 1950s and early '60s. ... Wawa opened its first food market on April 16, 1964 in Folsom, Pennsylvania. ... It’s not out of the norm for Wawa employees to stay with company 30 to 40 years. At HQ they've pasted photos in their cubicles, work memories throughout the years, alongside kitschy memorabilia. ... 41% of the company is owned by employees through Wawa's employee stock ownership program. ... “You think of a Wegmans, you think of an In-N-Out Burger, they are very slow growth, very deliberate — and i think there’s an element of that cult status that’s attached to that in some regard," Gheysens. ... Annually Wawa brews more than 195 million cups of coffee, sells 80 million built-to-order hoagies and serves 600 million customers. In 2015 the company ranked No. 34 on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies, bringing in $9.7 billion in revenue each year. In 2016 Wawa plans to open 47 new locations.
How the massive diesel fraud incinerated VW’s reputation—and will hobble the company for years to come. ... “Hoax,” of course, is a layman’s word. But plenty of legal terms also arguably apply, including “consumer fraud” and “false advertising.” They are fueling an explosion of litigation. That and the horrific reputational damage are subjecting Volkswagen to one of the severest challenges in its nearly 80-year history. ... The U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA have filed a civil suit that could theoretically subject VW to up to $45 billion in fines (though, in fairness, no one expects penalties quite that draconian). The DOJ and the EPA are also pursuing a criminal inquiry, as are prosecutors in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and South Korea. All 50 state attorneys general in the U.S. are also on the warpath, armed with state laws that, nominally at least, are every bit as crushing as the federal law. ... All of that comes on top of more than 500 class actions filed on behalf of owners and lessors of Volkswagen diesel cars ... VW’s misbehavior did not come out of nowhere. The company has a history of scandals and episodes in which it skirted the law. Each time—till now—it has escaped without dire consequences. ... VW is driven by a ruthless, overweening culture. Under Ferdinand Piëch and his successors, the company was run like an empire, with overwhelming control vested in a few hands, marked by a high-octane mix of ambition and arrogance—and micromanagement—all set against a volatile backdrop of epic family power plays, liaisons, and blood feuds. It’s a culture that mandated success at all costs.
They delved deeply into Catmull’s rules for embracing the messiness that often accompanies great creative output, sending subtle signals, taking smart risks, experimenting to stay ahead of uncertainty, counteracting fear, and taking charge in a new environment—as Catmull did when he became the president of Disney Animation Studios. ... The fundamental tension is that people want clear leadership, but what we’re doing is inherently messy. We know, intellectually, that if we want to do something new, there will be some unpredictable problems. But if it gets too messy, it actually does fall apart. And adhering to the pure, original plan falls apart, too, because it doesn’t represent reality. So you are always in this balance between clear leadership and chaos; in fact that’s where you’re supposed to be. Rather than thinking, “OK, my job is to prevent or avoid all the messes,” I just try to say, “well, let’s make sure it doesn’t get too messy.” ... Most of our people have learned that it isn’t helpful to ask for absolute clarity. They know absolute clarity is damaging because it means that we aren’t responding to problems and that we will stop short of excellence. They also don’t want chaos; if it gets too messy, they can’t do their jobs. If we pull the plug on a film that isn’t working, it causes a great deal of angst and pain. But it also sends a major signal to the organization—that we’re not going to let something bad out. And they really value that. The rule is, we can’t produce a crappy film.
This year, Amazon became the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales. Also this year, Amazon Web Services is reaching $10 billion in annual sales … doing so at a pace even faster than Amazon achieved that milestone. ... What’s going on here? Both were planted as tiny seeds and both have grown organically without significant acquisitions into meaningful and large businesses, quickly. Superficially, the two could hardly be more different. One serves consumers and the other serves enterprises. One is famous for brown boxes and the other for APIs. Is it only a coincidence that two such dissimilar offerings grew so quickly under one roof? Luck plays an outsized role in every endeavor, and I can assure you we’ve had a bountiful supply. But beyond that, there is a connection between these two businesses. Under the surface, the two are not so different after all. They share a distinctive organizational culture that cares deeply about and acts with conviction on a small number of principles. I’m talking about customer obsession rather than competitor obsession, eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence. Through that lens, AWS and Amazon retail are very similar indeed. ... A word about corporate cultures: for better or for worse, they are enduring, stable, hard to change. They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. You can write down your corporate culture, but when you do so, you’re discovering it, uncovering it – not creating it. It is created slowly over time by the people and by events – by the stories of past success and failure that become a deep part of the company lore. If it’s a distinctive culture, it will fit certain people like a custom-made glove. The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select. Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another. The world, thankfully, is full of many high-performing, highly distinctive corporate cultures. We never claim that our approach is the right one – just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful. ... We want to be a large company that’s also an invention machine.
Costco acts more like a cheerful cult than a hard-driving business. Its executives are proud of the fact that the company promotes almost exclusively from within. Even CEO Craig Jelinek, 62, plainspoken and without affectation, once collected shopping carts at a Costco predecessor, and 98% of the company’s store managers have risen through the ranks. Its top executives have been working together for 30 years, more or less, which makes them family as much as colleagues. It also means there are a lot of gray heads now at those budget meetings. ... And therein lies the concern. At that month’s meetings, there were warm and wistful send-offs for six of those gray heads, all senior vice presidents, now retiring. And even though they would be replaced by younger Costco lifers, the succession raises a question: As the company approaches its 35th anniversary, will the replacements keep Costco as Costco? ... It is the question. Lots of companies brag about their culture. But few are as proud of it or as dependent upon it as Costco is. Morgan Stanley retail analyst Simeon Gutman calls it a “super-culture,” which he describes as, “If we continue to serve and delight our customers, they’ll want to keep coming back.
That first year, the National Bank of Washington was swallowed up by Pacific National Bank of Seattle, which in 1981 was bought by Los Angeles-based First Interstate Bancorp, which in 1996 was bought by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which in 1999—as the consolidation frenzy was reaching its peak—merged with Norwest, a Minneapolis-based bank, in a $34 billion deal. ... Wells Fargo, which was founded in 1852 as a stagecoach express to carry valuable goods to and from the gold mines in the West, had a storied brand, so the new, combined company kept that name. But if Norwest’s name didn’t survive, its corporate culture did. ... In Kovacevich’s lingo, bank branches were “stores,” and bankers were “salespeople” whose job was to “cross-sell,” which meant getting “customers”—not “clients,” but “customers”—to buy as many products as possible. ... Achieving sales goals wasn’t easy. ... Wells Fargo’s own analysis found that between 2011 and 2015 its employees had opened more than 1.5 million deposit accounts and more than 565,000 credit-card accounts that may not have been authorized. Some customers were charged fees on accounts they didn’t know they had, and some customers had collection agencies calling them due to unpaid fees on accounts they didn’t know existed. Gaming was so widespread that it had even spawned related terms, such as “pinning,” which meant assigning customers personal-identification numbers, or PINs, without their knowledge in order to impersonate them on Wells Fargo computers and enroll them in various products without their knowledge. ... The quotas for the bankers at Guitron’s branch totaled 12,000 Daily Solutions each year, including almost 3,000 new checking accounts. Without fraud, the math didn’t work.
There are three basic conditions if you want to work for Jack Stack, and they go for everybody from senior executives down to the people who clean his company's bathrooms. The first is you have to learn how to read and understand the company's financials, the second is you really have to believe there is no "I" in "team," and the third is you have to get into the habit of asking, "What could go wrong, and what are we going to do when it does?" ... Over the years, SRC has evolved into a highly entrepreneurial miniconglomerate that has launched more than 60 companies in industries ranging from banking to medical devices to furniture. It has also developed an unusual culture--a humane, Midwestern blend of quantitative management, radical transparency and practical paranoia--that has made it the flagship of what's known as the open-book-management movement.