It is tough to turn on a financial show, or look at the Business Section of the Times, without reading more and more about Google. They have announced their IPO, and the two geeky boys who came up with the idea will be wealthy beyond anyone’s imagination.
If PR were the arbiter of how company’s do financially (and often, it is not), Google would be high atop the pack. Microsoft would be down at the bottom.
Google built its reputation by doing what it does – searching – better and faster than anyone else. There were plenty of search engines before Google, but none as good. And they did it without cluttering up the landscape with intrusive commercial content.
Stop and think for a moment of what Google has to do to perform searches for you. It seems as if they have the entire Internet cached on their servers – every single byte! Recent educated rumors say they have somewhere near 100,000 servers scattered around the globe.
Did I mention, it’s free!
After years of court battles, commissions and hearings, Microsoft is often referred to (at least on hobbyist bulletin boards) as the “Evil Empire.” Until recently, I had never seen anyone ever say a bad word about Google. There are concerns about Google’s new Gmail and its privacy implications – but even then, Google is criticized for underestimating the worry, as opposed to being a bad company.
Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but it seems the traits one normally needs to make a lot of money are hardly ever benevolent. So, Google comes across as a breath of fresh air because their whole reason for being seems to be based upon benevolence. And, the numbers seem to say, benevolence can work.
Wouldn’t you want your boss to speak like this as a letter to potential Google shareholders from company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin did? The letter is located in Google’s registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:
We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are careful to consider the long term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.
The significant employee ownership of Google has made us what we are today. Because of our employee talent, Google is doing exciting work in nearly every area of computer science. We are in a very competitive industry where the quality of our product is paramount. Talented people are attracted to Google because we empower them to change the world; Google has large computational resources and distribution that enables individuals to make a difference. Our main benefit is a workplace with important projects, where employees can contribute and grow. We are focused on providing an environment where talented, hard working people are rewarded for their contributions to Google and for making the world a better place.
Here’s a success story where the main characters get rich because of what they did and did well – not because they screwed the other guy or played hardball in business or did anything underhanded.
Wake me. I must be dreaming.