When it comes to the business world, there is almost nothing sadder than watching a business going down a road with every signboard pointed to success, only for the man in charge to grab the steering wheel and not realise its potential.
This was no exception in the case of WeWork and it’s controversial ex CEO and co-founder, Adam Neumann. The previously multi-billion dollar company, which raised $4.4 billion within 3 months of starting up, was an American commercial real estate company that provided shared workspaces and services for other enterprises.
Everything seemed to be more than smooth sailing since Wework first set sail in 2010, up until the boat started to rock in August of this year, when the company publicly filed it’s IPO paperwork. And now, what was a fast growing company valued at $47 billion, has been bought out by Softbank, and is now valued at a much lower value of $8 billion.
But now the question persists; with everything going so right for Wework, how in the world did it all end up so terribly wrong? To answer that question, we’ll need to turn our attention to the infamous co-founder of this unfortunate company.
What was Adam Neumann’s plan?
Many people account Wework’s failure to it’s CEO, Neumann, and for one simple, logical reason – businesses don’t run themselves. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the employees at Wework, certain factors evolving around him and his actions are viewed by many, to have caused the promising reputation of the company to take a sharp 180 degree turn.
What were these factors, you ask?
1. He was spending at a dizzying pace.
There is a certain spectrum that exists when we look at spending habits. On one end, we have those who wait a whole year for a pair of shoes to be discounted by the bare minimum, and on the other, we have those who couldn’t care less about those shoes, because they’ve already bought an identical pair from Adidas at 4 times the price. To be too close to either side of the spectrum, to say the least, is extreme.
Adam Neumann was seen as being far too close to the latter. In fact, he cashed out over $700 million from Wework, and has spent over $80 million on five homes since he founded the company in 2010. One could be tempted to ask if this seemingly “outlandish” attitude could have contributed to the company’s $1.25 billion loss in the 3 months ending September?
For a vast majority of us, this type of spending would seem not only completely beyond our financial capability, but is also one that we all know to be, unwise. Therefore, this would unlikely be, a personal concern
However, have you ever asked yourself, “Where does my child fall on the spectrum?”. Whether you are aware of it or not, teens do make some questionable “investments”, and the chances are, the allowance that is given to them weekly funds these investments.
The last thing we want is for them to take this allowance-reliant attitude into their adult life, where they spend freely and expect money to materialise out of thin air.
2. He always had his nose in the air.
Another attribute of Neumann’s which apparently made him a very well-known name inside and outside of his company, was his egocentric ways.
Around January 2017, John Cole was trying to raise new funding for SkyTran, a startup he cofounded, and had been recommended by a friend to talk to Neumann, as he was a rising star also in the startup world. “He was full of bravado and aggression” , Cole said. He even criticized Cole for raising, in his words, ‘a puny amount of money.’
Few would want to work with someone who seems to be so full of of himself. Not only would it be difficult to work with and form a close relationship with someone like this, but it could damage the reputation of a business as well, just as it did for Wework. In fact, Some quipped that Neumann was apparently so difficult to work with, that he was paid $1.7 billion to leave the company!
It’s so vital that you identify any signs of arrogance in your child today – does he or she speak to people in a condescending manner? Does he or she refuse to accept other people’s views as it contradicts with their own? Does he or she not give rightful credit to others? Humbling your child may seem like a harsh thing to do, but we all know that the realities of the world will be harsher.
3. He was viewed ashaving mixed pleasure with work a little too often.
20 current and former Wework employees, executives, and business partners were asked about what it was like to work at one of the most controversial and fastest growing startups of all time. They described that under Neumann, boundaries between work and play did not seem to exist, recounting mandatory, alcohol-fueled company retreats.
“A lot of Wework feels like a never-ending party,” one former employee said. “It’s always up or down, and Adam’s screaming both ways, happy or not.”. Ironically, the party eventually did come to an end after the IPO was released.
When it comes to working life, dousing the mixture in fun and games is only appealing until you realise it is a very dissonant, cumbersome combination. It’s important to keep a professional game face on, especially when you’re in a position of authority, because it’s difficult to take someone seriously when they can’t even take their own job seriously (or are too intoxicated to know the difference!)
Does your teen know when it’s time to get serious about work and when it’s time to play? The level of discipline that your teen has now towards completing simple things like homework, chores and even self-started projects, can speak volumes about the attitude they will possess towards work in the future.
4. He always wanted to be in control.
Wework had always wanted to maintain a reputation for being a democratic company. However, this was difficult to uphold while they were walking in the presence of one who many regard as being an ultra autocratic leader in modern day business.
One employee claimed that there had to be music blasting at volumes so loud that the staff couldn’t focus or get anything done, and paying customers would complain. However, when employees wanted to minimize the ruckus, they would get screamed and yelled at by Adam and his team.
Although he had all the right to be in control, seeing that he was the CEO, it really does a number on your business’ reputation as well as your staff motivation when you’re constantly ordering them around, telling them off and giving them little opportunity to express themselves. It’s one of the many things that made him a popular, not-so-favourable man to work with.
Now, you may be wondering, how does one identify if their child has this issue of being overbearing? It’s simple – does your child show any signs of being entitled? Does she or he feel like you as a parent owe them a living? If the answer is yes, you may be looking at someone’s future overly domineering boss.
What do I do now?
At this point in the article, you may be feeling certain feelings, namely worry, if you saw pieces of your child throughout, or relief if you thought that your child was far from these examples. Nonetheless, one cannot empasize enough how crucial it is that vital traits be instilled in our next generation of CEOs and CFOs in order to prevent similar, pitiful cases like this from becoming a recurring event in their futures.
As a parent, setting that good example for them is definitely a key first step, but don’t just stop there! Actively search for ways that will help chisel them into the brilliant minds that will guide them down the path of success – a path that had so many others stop midway.
You can help them drive at full speed with no looking back.