I’m reading “Net Entrepreneurs Only” a book that profiles 10 internet entrepreneurs who were Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. The chapter on Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, lists some of the things Meg Whitman (eBay CEO) learned in making the transition from a traditional business (she worked at Hasbro, Proctor & Gamble, Disney, Bain & Company) to an online business. She compares the “old way” to the “web way.”
- Decisions made in a matter of days or even hours instead of months. Meg’s “main advice” to online entrepreneurs is: “Fasten your seat belt. This is a far faster world. You have to be more nimble and far more willing to make decisions without nearly the kind of data and analysis that I used to have at Hasbro, Disney, or P&G.”
- Focus on selling consumers an experience rather than products
- CEO micromanages the company image rather than monitor it.
- Management style is more approachable instead of hands-off.
- Strategy sessions might be needed several times a week, not just once or twice a year. “At Hasbro we would set a year-long strategy and then we would simply execute against it. At eBay, we constantly revisit the strategy–and revise the tactics.” At eBay, she meets three times a week with her staff to keep up with what other auction sites are doing and to figure out what to do.
Other books like Burn Rate, Business at the Speed of Thought, Blur, and Zero Gravity claim the same thing–that things happen much faster in internet companies than in traditional ones. I have watched individuals join a dot com and then experience a transformation or conversion when they personally experience this pace and the results that come from making quick decisions or changes in strategy. By the next day, you see results from your live website and can’t believe how quickly an idea turned into measurable results. But most people, even in dot coms, have not experienced this first-hand.
I don’t believe large traditional organizations can easily adapt to the new pace of the internet. My advice to “old way” organizations is to create small tiger teams of empowered, already transformed individuals, who have tasted the fruits of the “web way” and are hungry for more. Then get out of the way.