Semco: A Worker Managed Business
Ricardo Semler has established a business deeply based on worker’s participation in management, that has rapidly and steadily grown for the nearly a decade and a half, despite its home country, Brazil’s, economic tremmors.
Lawrence M. Fisher writes in Strategy + Business:
Semco’s 3,000 employees set their own work hours and pay levels. Subordinates hire and review their supervisors. Hammocks are scattered about the grounds for afternoon naps, and employees are encouraged to spend Monday morning at the beach if they spent Saturday afternoon at the office. There are no organization charts, no five-year plans, no corporate values statement, no dress code, and no written rules or policy statements beyond a brief “Survival Manual,” in comic-book form, that introduces new hires to Semco’s unusual ways. The employees elect the corporate leadership and initiate most of Semco’s moves into new businesses and out of old ones. Of the 3,000 votes at the company, Ricardo Semler has just one.
…“If you look at Semco’s numbers, we’ve grown 27.5 percent a year for 14 years,” says Mr. Semler over a cappuccino at one of São Paulo’s sidewalk cafés on a lovely fall day. He conducts many work-related conversations here; the ultimate hands-off leader, Mr. Semler doesn’t even keep an office at Semco. “Here’s why: Our people have a lot of instruments at their disposal to change directions very quickly, to close things and open new things.” Flexibility is the key, he says. “If we said there’s only one way to do things around here and tried to indoctrinate people, would we be growing this steadily? I don’t think so.”