So Hank and I run or help run several businesses at the moment: Vidcon, DFTBA Records, the juggernaut that is 2-D Glasses, ecogeek, vlogbrothers, scishow, and crashcourse, as well as administering the nonprofit Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck. These are not huge businesses or anything (and in some cases are not even profitable), but many of them have employees and revenue and function like any other business, so recently Hank and I have developed some Rules for Running a Business That Doesn’t Suck, which we thought we’d share.
Rule 1: Don’t be a dick. This is the governing law of the Internet, as created by the great Wil Wheaton, and we try to apply it to our businesses. Not being a dick mostly means treating your clients and customers respectfully, and focusing on creating value rather than creating profit, and generally being reasonably kind and personable when it comes to business relationships.
Rule 2: Increase Awesome or Decrease Suck. If an idea won’t increase world awesome or decrease worldsuck, we won’t do it. (And if we’re doing something that no longer feels like it is increasing awesome or decreasing suck, we stop doing it.)
Rule 3: Minimize lawyering. Hank and I tend to lose interest in any endeavor when a lot of lawyers become involved. Basically, if we require lawyers other than our cousin Mike or the people he works with, we don’t do it.
Rule 4: Employ more people per dollar of revenue than PepsiCo. This is very important to us. So one of the emerging metrics for a company’s “success” is revenue generated per employee. PepsiCo generates more than $196,728 in revenue per employee. (That may seem ludicrously high, but it’s much lower than many companies: Google generates $1,900,000 every year per employee.) The thinking goes that successful companies generate a lot of money per employee. Our thinking is that it is both good business and good citizenship to invest revenue in new employees.
Rule 5: Keep promises. We try to keep promises even when they are very inconvenient and expensive to keep, such as when Amazon Germany ships out a thousand unsigned preorders of your new book even though you signed more than enough copies for them to ship to their customers.
Rule 6: Pay tops out at 10x average worker pay. Pretty simple, really: The highest paid employees of a company shouldn’t make more than 10 times the average employee’s pay. (Current estimates in the US indicate CEOs make between 185 and 310 times more than the average worker.) Capping this at a multiple of ten means everyone is invested in seeing the company grow and succeed.
Rule 7: Have awesome customers. If you don’t like the people who watch and read and wear the stuff you make, then you will not have any fun. Speaking of which…
Rule 8: Have fun. Our grandfather wrote thousands of lists in his life—grocery lists, lists of business ideas, pros and cons of taking different jobs. Almost all of his lists ended “Have fun!” We think this is good advice.
Wow. This is some deep stuff. I think I’ll keep it. :)
I very recently found out about John Green, the Vlogbrothers, and The Fault in Our Stars, being a follower of Mark Reads. So far, I’d bought all of John Green’s books for Kindle, because, as many of you might now know, I do not live in the United States. Actually, I don’t even live in a country that has an Amazon of its own, but that’s the magic of a credit card — even if they do charge you more for most titles. So, when I heard John Green would be signing all pre-order copies of TFiOS, I had already accepted my fate: shipping would be prohibitively expensive!
Then, a few days before release, I learned that my grandmother, who lives in the same country that I do, but not in the same city, would be visiting my aunt who does live in the U.S. So I tried and I tried and I tried to contact this aunt of mine to ask her if I could have the book shipped to her place and finally did the day previous to the release date. I promptly placed my order (IT WAS STILL A PRE-ORDER!) and waited.
So began my copy’s journey from… wherever Amazon warehouses are to my aunt’s house. And so, while many regular Nerdfighters were happily showing off their J-scribble to the world (at least to the Tumblr world), my aunt got the book at her house and I just sat, as Mr Jack Johnson would put it, “sitting, waiting, wishing.”
Some days after that, my grandmother visited them for like a month. I phoned her while she was there to make she made sure she had put the book in her suitcase, as she usually forgets stuff wherever she goes (which doesn’t really matter, because she travels a lot.) So she did, and the book travelled with her to my country, where it lay hidden away somewhere, waiting for the moment to be read (since my grandmother doesn’t read English, and I’m not sure if my aunt did).
So, a few days ago, Mom went to my grandmother’s city to attend some courses regarding the small business we run. Also, you know, contact suppliers, buy material, all that jazz. And yes, she brought the book with her. So finally, on the twenty-sixth day of February in the two-thousand and twelfth year of the current calendar, at approximately eight thirty in the morning, I woke up, and walked down the stair teary-eyed, with shuffled hair and still on my pajamas. I greeted my mother hugged her, sat with her for a while and talked for another while, and, before she went out for breakfast with my dad, she reached into her suitcase and grabbed the book. Of course, I had to keep my cool and not do a full Tom Cruise right there on the couch, but I did smile and thank her. And yes, it was a signed copy. My mom looked at the J-scribble and casually commented she could have made that herself. You know, I could have explained, but I just accepted it as a fact parents will never fully understand.
So here I am, with my hair still a mess and still on my PJ’s holding The Fault in Our Stars in my hand after all this time.
I also tried to take a picture of my dogs reading the book as many of you have, because apparently I live in a world where canines care about the literary content they receive, but in reality they could not be bothered to be raised from their current curled-up forms, so I left it at that.
God, you just can’t help smiling broadly when you get to page 90 of TFiOS, can you?
Hazel Grace Lancaster, The Fault in Our Stars
—Sponsored by the American Association Against the Ghettoization of Scrambled Eggs as a Meal Exclusively for Breakfast (AAAGSEMEB)