DreamHost’s Simon AndersonPhoto: DreamHost
Did the incoming CEO of webhosting business DreamHost, Simon Anderson, really get himself inked with a company logo five days before he was offered the job?
It’s in the press release, so I guess it must be true.
If that seems a little bizarre, try this: he was appointed to the role two years ago by a vote of all the (then) more than 90 staff of the Los Angeles-based employee-owned company.
“DreamHost conducted the CEO search democratically, allowing employees at every level of the organisation to meet, interview, and ultimately vote for the candidate who both exhibited clear leadership vision and most embodied the spirit and the ideals of the company,” according to the press release.
“Simon impressed the DreamHost employees during an all-hands meeting in which he exhibited feats of superhuman strength, a preternatural ability to sweat cologne, and a DreamHost tattoo which he’d obtained just five hours before the meeting (and weeks before receiving any offer of employment).”
Workplace democracy, in all its permutations, will often include employee votes on the hiring of new colleagues or managers. Sometimes, employees are also voted onto the company board or have voting rights for strategic decisions.
However, it is highly unusual, even in the small world of democratically run organisations, for the CEO position to be the subject of an election.
But, perhaps, Anderson was just the right sort of person to win such a campaign.
‘A winning smile that goes ‘ding’’
In one of the most entertaining press releases I’ve ever read, Anderson is described thus: “He brings to DreamHost many years of domain experience wrapped in rugged good looks, a commanding presence, and a winning smile that goes ‘ding!’ when the light hits it just right”.
Anderson left his position as senior associate at Atanaskovic Hartnell in Sydney 14 years ago to work in venture capital in the US and then passed through a selection of IT start-ups.
It looks as if his PR team may have hacked into his LinkedIn account, where he claims to have been “ ... poached from his calling as a weekend surf lifesaver in Sydney, Australia.
“He now lives in Los Angeles where everyone wants to live, but nobody wants to admit it.”
The election process for CEO included narrowing down a field of candidates to a short-list of three, one withdrew from the contest, and then the remaining two were invited to separate all-hands meetings where they were asked 10 questions chosen by the employees.
Employees then met the candidates to ask questions one-on-one. The 48-hour voting period was online and anonymous. Anderson won, 53 percent to 47 percent.
“I knew that there were people who had voted the other way . . . That meant I would have to be very open and a very good listener,” Anderson told Inc.com.
Another IT start-up, Brainpark, in San Francisco allowed employees to vote the CEO and other leaders out of their jobs if they are not satisfied with their performance.
However, that strategy may not have been enough for the company, which no longer occupies its website.
Wanted: A CEO that can rhyme
Ice Cream company Ben & Jerry’s takes the prize when it comes to radical CEO recruitment. In 1995, the founders hired Robert Holland Jr as CEO after holding an essay contest as part of the search.
The competition was entitled “YO! I’m Your CEO” and attracted 25,000 applicants.
An African American, Holland decided to write a poem as his entry – Time, Values, and Ice Cream – remembering the days of racial segregation which barred him from ice cream parlours in his youth.
The poem would not be to everyone’s taste: “ ... the ice cream place on Main – swivel stools, cozy booths, and sweet, sweet smells with no sitting place for all of some of us.
“Could only dream such humble pleasure. Sometimes, dear ‘Merica, of thee I simply hum”.
But it didn’t matter. Holland left after 20 months, following philosophical differences.