Fearless Brands is a new column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Fried isn’t your average tech CEO. Unlike many of his peers, this best-selling author and TEDx alum (check out his talk above - it's worth watching) doesn’t worry too much about things like venture funding, IPOs, and exit strategies.
But then, 37signals, the firm he co-founded in 1999, isn’t your average tech company, either. Its CEO espouses slow business rather than rapid growth. The company has just 35 employees, though its revenue could support far more. And every summer, the entire company works only four days per week. Fried’s reasoning? “There are very few things that can’t wait till Monday.”
When was the last time you heard a CEO say that? Enter this week’s fearless brand.
Who They Are
37signals creates web-based collaboration apps to help entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large businesses share files, manage projects, and work together more effectively. Their product line includes Basecamp for project management, High Rise for contact management, and Campfire for real-time group chats.
Why They’re Fearless
37signals is one of very few brands that are bold enough to challenge the conventional wisdom that growth is always good, and the more of it the better.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Fried goes so far as to call rapid growth a sign of "sickness":
I’m a fan of growing slowly, carefully, methodically, of not getting big just for the sake of getting big. I think that rapid growth is typically of symptom of... there’s a sickness there. There’s a great quote by a guy named Ricardo Semler, author of the book Maverick. He said that only two things grow for the sake of growth: businesses and tumors.
Needless to say, Fried is taking a highly unpopular position on the subject of growth, and it takes an enormous amount of fearlessness to uphold this ideal for slow growth in the midst of a business culture that espouses just the opposite.
The Lesson for Brands
37signals' philosophy of slow growth flies in the face of everything we think we know about running a successful business, and yet the company is highly profitable. What gives?
Their products aren’t flashy. The problems they solve aren’t sexy. But in an industry obsessed with stories of rapid growth, venture capital, and top-dollar acquisitions, 37signals remains deeply committed to more meaningful metrics of success: building a great product, making their customers happy, and helping their employees flourish.
We live in a business climate where everyone is trying to do more with less. 37signals sends a radically different message, and one we desperately need to hear: Do less with less. And do it really, really well.