Deliberate. Obsessive. Focused. A winning formula, you’ll ‘see’!
As I write this morning’s blog – I am wearing Warby Parker reading glasses.
Fast Company just chose Warby Parker as the Most Innovative Company of 2015 – as a long time fan I want you to read about their “deliberate, obsessive focus on what it takes to win today”.
What looks effortless is actually labored; what looks off the cuff is deeply considered. Italians call this concept sprezzatura, and it’s the key to understanding what has made Blumenthal and Gilboa (in photo) so successful. (David Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal are Warby Parker’s cofounders. The two men, both 34, share the same title, co–CEO.
“Neil and Dave are more disciplined about brand than any other entrepreneurs I’ve ever invested in,” says Ben Lerer, a managing director of Lerer Hippeau Ventures, the New York venture-capital firm. Lerer compares the two men to hospitality savants like Standard founder André Balazs. “They sweat every detail and every touch point.”
All new hires are issued a copy of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (a nod to the fact that Warby Parker’s name is an amalgamation of two early Kerouac characters) and, more important, a neatly bound “Style Guide” that includes suggestions about usage and grammar but also encourages everyone, when they communicate with customers, to “write like Warby Parker is the person you’d want to be next to you at a dinner party.”
“The Warby Parker voice is witty, intelligent, informative, playful, delightful. We are not trite, pretentious, sarcastic, long-winded,” she says. “Every time we create a piece of copy, every time we create something new for marketing—every time it’s either in our office or externally projected—we do it with these filters.”
This carefully cultivated persona is at least in part Blumenthal himself, who still reads (and rereads) every written word that his company puts out into the world. “This is five years in, a 400-person company, and the CEO is approving every marketing message the company puts out,” Lerer says with awe. “Every CEO does that in the early days. You do it with 10 people, and if you’re good you do it with 25 people. You don’t do that when you have 400 people. Neil still does it.”
Blumenthal and Gilboa conjure a perfect portrait of millennial insouciance—among the interview questions they always ask prospective job candidates is, “When was the last time you wore a costume?”—but they’re surprisingly hardheaded as managers. Every week, every Warby Parker employee must complete a “15Five” report explaining what they accomplished in the past week and what they plan to achieve in the following one. They must also rate their happiness and proffer an “innovation idea,” no matter how small. Twice a year, in addition to the typical semi-annual performance review, all Warby Parker employees must also rate the performance of his or her manager and of several coworkers on a 1-to-10 scale.
Did I mention that when they sell a pair of glasses, they donate another pair to someone in need? Wow these glasses do have power, the power to make a difference too.