When the BBC published their “No CEO” piece where Crisp is featured with an article and a 4 minute video, there were a lot of reactions. Friends cheered on Facebook. Colleagues gave a thumbs up on LinkedIn. The article was featured on Hacker News and Slashdot. Here are our reflections on some of the comments we found.
They just delegated the job of the CEO to other people
Yes, to some degree this is true. We did delegate some of the tasks of the CEO to our hired staff, and increased their mandate to take decisions regarding finances and their own working conditions. However, one important difference is that no one tells anyone else what to do, or how much to work.
Our Board of Directors consists solely of Crispers. We elect a new board each year. The board does very little at Crisp. The law requires us to have a chairman, and so far we’ve wanted to keep the board around. It holds formal power over the company, but so do the partners, and we invite every Crisper to become an equal partner of the company after working at Crisp for 2 years. It costs a bit of money to buy in and there are no dividends or rewards, just responsibility.
Read more about our Board of Directors: http://dna.crisp.se/docs/board.html
It doesn’t scale
There’s some truth to this. Our exact way of working would not remain unchanged if we decided to grow significantly. But why should it? You should adapt your ways of working to your working conditions. We hope we will remain a flat company, regardless of size.
There are large companies that have maintained a flat structure as they’ve grown. Valve is one example. But sure, it is probably not for every company, or every culture.
We’ve explicitly decided not to grow too much, to avoid problems of scale. Growing Crisp is a recurring topic at our conferences. We have a lot of ideas about how we could grow and what that means to us. The Crisp DNA is one way of spreading Crisp’s way of working, without adding any headcount.
At Crisp there is no direct financial incentive to grow. Owners do not profit from new Crispers. We grow to learn new things and to strengthen our brand. We are very selective about who we bring in. After all, everybody is on track to become an equal partner.
Here’s how we grow: http://dna.crisp.se/docs/recruiting.html
It will all fall apart any day now
We’ve been working without a CEO for 4 years now. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work on organizational issues, company vision and other things a CEO usually does. In fact, we spend a lot of time adapting Crisp, discussing what Crisp should look like in the future, and what more we can help our clients with. We keep an eye on the competition, and make sure we stay ahead.
How do we do this? For starters, every Crisper has the power to decide what to do with their time, 100%. We don’t force anyone to do client work. So we can do anything we want to. Second, we have 3 conferences per year where we all meet in a open space format. These conferences are key to keeping us aligned.
Disagreements over money lead to partnership disputes
Yes, they would. If we hadn’t thought about that. Not many people set their companies up to avoid generating a “huge pile of money”. We did.
Naked-in-naked-out. The company is set up so there’s nothing to “cash out” if you decide to leave.
All Crispers are eligible to become equal partners. You do not gain more shares by being at the company longer. You do not profit from younger partners.
The company has no assets. Capital is not accumulated, it is distributed among the Crispers in proportion to how much income they generated.
You make money as you earn it. Crispers get to keep a large portion of the income they generate.
Those swedes are crazy
Yes, maybe. But it’s working!
Servant leadership rocks
Yes, we agree.
The CEO is needed to supply the vision
Our founders had a vision. To create a home for lone IT consultants. So, everyone who has joined since has signed up for that vision. The vision is somewhat inward-looking, so a few years ago we worked on this issue at a conference and came up with several visions. More is more, right? 😉