In this penultimate week of my finance class, we had a guest venture capitalist come to do a case study with us. The class aimed to highlight the basics of venture capital in comparison with private equity (which we studied previously). Below are the top ten takeaways from the class, which was really engaging and interesting.
I thoroughly enjoyed the class, even though the basic concepts weren't new to me. It was nice to just hear about the guest's stories and perspective that tied together many strategic concepts about VC investing that I had learned about before.
One of my favorite classes this quarter is real estate investment. It's taught by a professor who runs real estate investment funds and is quite active in the industry. His enthusiasm and real-world anecdotes make the class really interesting and insightful.
I've tried to capture the biggest lessons I've learned in the class so far below.
As I mentioned in prior posts, I had a great time at an Anderson event last month where Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, spoke to us as part of his Delivering Happiness book tour. I wondered why a big blue bus ("blue's the new yellow") was parked in front of UCLA, and I quickly learned about Hsieh's Happiness Tour during his talk.
He had written his book as a way to teach about Zappos' culture and mission of generally delivering happiness. It sounds hokey, and he acknowledged it, but his passion and belief in the importance of corporate culture was infectious (infectious enough to make me buy a signed copy of his book that night which I can't wait to read).
Tony's basic message was that corporate culture is everything in determining a company's success, not just a side element that's relegated to the HR department and which determines how much people like working there. He claimed that companies that have superior, more intact, and concretely defined cultures will almost always outperform those without. He explained that they hire and fire putting culture at an equal level as skill and work ethic and will fire talented employees if they don't fit into the culture.
He also encouraged the audience to request a free copy of Zappos' culture book, which is an annual collection of their employees' testaments to and personal experiences of the corporate culture. In addition, he offered us a free download of the audiobook Tribal Leadership, which backs up many of the lessons Tony was teaching that night with research studies.
I greatly enjoyed listening to the audio book over the last few weeks in my car (way more productive than listening to music, though I did intersperse some music here and there -- the radio is so much better if not listened to every day). I liked how the authors of the book compared companies at different stages of "tribal leadership" or corporate culture and showed through many vivid examples how companies can move from one stage to another.
The authors described 5 core stages of tribal leadership, where a tribe is a group of 2 to 120 people (but could grow beyond that) who align around some common goal or interest:
(I sort of had to fudge the percentages above because I didn't remember them exactly, but those are approximately what the authors claimed from having researched thousands of companies.) I really liked this frame of mind, and I could see myself squarely as a Stage 3 operator most of the time (like most type A/overachieving personalities). I've felt what Stage 4 feels like at times, and I want to be involved in teams that can be operating at Stage 4 more often.
The book also describes the "epiphany" that brings one from Stage 3 to Stage 4: realizing that meaningful results cannot be achieved alone or through micro-management, and it is through teamwork and leveraging other people that large impact can be made.
I'd love to speak to people firsthand (other than Tony and Tribal Leadership's authors) about personal experiences of the different stages and what worked for them and their group in transitioning from one to the other. This seems like the crucial thing to understand and probably a skill gained more through experience than simply reading about it.