by Brad Wieners –
For nearly 25 years, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil-based Semco, has let his employees set their own hours, wages, even choose their own IT. The result: increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth.
Ricardo Semler had the sort of reckoning at 21 that most executives don’t face until middle age. Fresh from law school, where he’d been a restless underachiever, Semler took over his father’s business, which manufactured pumps and propellers for the world’s merchant marine. He was awfully young, but his dad sensed that if he didn’t give his son a chance, he’d lose him to another career. Besides, Semler Sr. was a pragmatist. “Better make your mistakes,” he told his son, “while I’m still alive.”
Straightaway, Semler Jr. spearheaded an ambitious plan to diversify his dad’s ship-parts company, which, like the Brazilian economy in the mid-eighties, was sinking. At Semco headquarters, in São Paulo, he tried to learn everything there was to know, and, while a quick study, he irritated plenty of the old hands with his precociousness and micromanaging. Working from 7:30 a.m. to midnight every day, or jumping planes overseas to raise capital and find new partners and companies to buy, his live-to-work lifestyle seemed ripped from the pages of John Grisham’s The Firm. [Read more…]