The Corporate Manifesto
When I started Centro, I felt a sense of responsibility. Not necessarily a sense of responsibility relative to “what” the company was going to do or “what” we were going to become but rather a sense of responsibility to “who” we were going to be.
Candidly, I had no idea if we were going to succeed or fail. Truthfully, especially if you listened to most people around me who told me it wasn’t a great idea and I wasn’t going to succeed (see Point #2 in this post), there was a much greater chance we were going to fail than succeed. To this day, with ~700 employees and consistent profitability, I still believe we could just as easily ultimately fail as succeed (it’s one of the always present stresses I believe most founders and entrepreneurs eternally carry with us; heck, even Jeff Bezos predicts Amazon will ultimately fail).
Regardless, whether Centro ultimately succeeded (or crashed and burned spectacularly), wasn’t at the forefront of my mind at the time. What was important to me was the kind of company I wanted to build with others. I believe when people come together in the pursuit of any common goal or mission whether it be in businesses, churches, organizations, non-profits or movements, it is a spiritual experience. I view each person as having a unique soul and their own unique mission in life and to think that a part of their mission will be to spend it with me, inside of a company I started, working on a vision I originally set forth, there is no other way to describe it other than “humbling”. I have never, and will never, take for granted the gift of another human being who chooses to join me and others on our collective mission. Because of this, I carry a deep and grave responsibility to ensure the experience they have during this time at Centro is as positive, meaningful and fulfilling to their life as it possibly can be.
So before writing the business plan, I wrote a document I titled “The Corporate Manifesto”. The Corporate Manifesto was written to set forth a North Star of “who” we were going to become. What was going to be important to us. What we were going to stand for. What our values and guiding principles were going to be.
Seventeen years later, having experienced some some amazing highs and suffered through some harrowing and terrible lows, I’m still proud of “who” we are and “who” we’ve become and I feel it is our guiding values and principles that have allowed us to keep our egos in check through the good times and allowed us to persevere and stay together through the dark times.
Through the years, we’ve made some minor tweaks and improvements to it, but this is the original Corporate Manifesto I wrote in October, 2001.
The Corporate Manifesto
This manifesto is written for prospective employees, current employees, companies we look to do business with and anyone else desiring to learn about Centro. We’re not a model company, nor will we ever be, but we strive to become one every day.
Centro’s vision is to become a blueprint for an improved corporate structure and culture. We are blessed with an opportunity to create a model company from ground up. In a perfect world, how would a corporation govern itself? How would it treat its employees? Would it give back to its community? How would it interact with its customers? What role would it play in the personal and professional development of its employees? These are the types of questions we look to answer on a daily basis. In striving to create the model corporation, we expect to address many of these questions and, in the process, accomplish much along the way.
Implicitly, the foundational goal of every individual is to attain happiness. And, in many cases, its not about just being “happy” but rather the “degree of happiness” one attains. Centro believes that true, long lasting happiness is achieved through the willing adherence to “true north” principles. Principles that have stood the test of time and are proven to offer individuals the highest quality of life and greatest degree of happiness.
Unfortunately, the world around us and many companies script us to believe in principles that lead to discontent, dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and sometimes, even depression. Although no company can change everything and make all of its employees happy, it can do its best to develop the right culture, the right environment and the right atmosphere to give each employee the greatest chance of achieving personal well-being and happiness for themselves and those around them.
Centro is, and will always be, a work-in-progress. It is the responsibility of each individual to continually find ways to improve it.
Principle-centered living is difficult because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and societal norms. At the same time, it is difficult because it requires personal commitment and self-discipline. However, principles are the foundation for success in every aspect of life, both personally and professionally.
This handbook defines Centro’s vision, mission, core ideology, core values and governing principles. If you have a question on anything or a suggestion for improvement, please let me know. My goal is for this to be a living, breathing document that each employee adds to and helps refine. It should be a foundational piece that contains the framework for overall organizational effectiveness and, most importantly, the personal happiness of each individual.
Founder and President
“To create a model corporation that will be used as a blueprint for an improved Corporate America of the future.”
Think about what a “model” corporation means, and what it would look like to you.
The use of the word “model” is chosen because it encompasses all desirable elements. As we grow and mature, we don’t want to be good in just one area, we want to be great in all areas.
The reason for adding “blueprint for an improved Corporate America” is two-fold. The first is because the use of the word blueprint connotes the need to document the successful aspects of the company. Without documentation, all we have is a successful company and a bunch of ideas of how we got here. The second is that it establishes an altruistic reason for what we’re doing. The building of this model corporation isn’t about you and it’s not about me, it’s about the value this blueprint will provide to those around us.
“To create a successful corporation which contributes to the health and well-being of the community through continual dedication to the personal growth and self-development of every employee.”
“Corporate invincibility and financial success can only be achieved through the continual dedication to the personal and professional growth of each employee.”
Strategic Business Goal
“To create the most successful media technology and services firm in the industry measured by its financial health relative to like corporations.”
The Business Goal contains the first reference and emphasis to the financial health of the company. Although it is mentioned here it is not the main focus, but it is necessary to support the overall vision.
Our long-term vision is for other corporations to value our success and want to adopt our culture and principles. In order to realize this vision, we must maintain the financial well-being of the firm. After all, what company would want to emulate a financially unhealthy company? Our vision requires us to be one of the most financially successful companies in our respective fields and our lines of business.
However, internally, we must always remember that success can only be achieved through attention to the individual, not the company (i.e. – if we’re all focusing on doing the right things and concentrating on the details everyday, success and the big picture takes care of itself).
Buried inside our vision and mission is the challenge to prove the power of the “and” versus the tyranny of the “or”. In other words, we must prove that a company can focus on the growth and well-being of its employees and be financially successful at the same time. In fact, it is our belief and mission to show that maintaining principles and focusing on personal growth is the only way to become the best in your respective industry.
Lasting success can only be achieved through dedication to the growth and well-being of the individual, not the corporation
Every employee is responsible for his or her own improvement, the improvement of the corporation and the improvement of those around them
- Self-Improvement: the desire to always grow, the desire to always learn; your happiness is determined by the amount of personal investment you make into your own growth; clarifying statement: “The day I stop learning is the day I stop living.”
- Integrity: the ability to live one’s life with the highest level of moral, ethical and “true north” principles; integrity is the foundational principle for lasting success
- Humility: to realize that there is no such thing as “individual success” in life; to acknowledge those who have helped us along the way; to be grateful for the blessings we have received and do not deserve
- Idealism: the belief that we can make the world a better place; the belief that the future of our lives, our community and our country lie in our hands and we have the ability and responsibility to change it for the better
- Courage: the strength to always do what is right, regardless of the consequences; the strength to move beyond one’s own comfort zone which is necessary for personal growth
- Honesty: in everything we do, honesty is essential to trust and dependency; trust is the basic element for all forms of human communication
- Unselfishness: true happiness comes in being able to give to others and enrich their lives; it is okay to take as much joy and happiness out of life as you want, as long as you always put in to life more than you take out
- Self-Discipline: the ability to implement change in one’s own life; the intestinal fortitude to see things through
- Self-Respect: respect for self leads to respect for others
- Accountability the foundational element for organizational effectiveness; everyone must be able to rely on you to handle your responsibilities and follow through on your commitments
- Dedication to Others: as the company is dedicated to each employee, so the employee is dedicated to the well-being of each other and our customers; we will never do anything to compromise the best interest of our client and/or our co-workers for the best interest of ourselves
Too often, the only thing a corporation cares about is how much they are increasing shareholder wealth and value. In fact, its usually the first thing taught in most business schools as the primary goal of a corporation. Everything inside the corporation seems to revolve around this goal. Corporations wrongly believe that numbers are paramount and employees are secondary, if not expendable.
Centro believes if a company’s goal is to increase the numbers, they should stop focusing on them. They should begin focusing solely on the well-being of their employees and customers and, in turn, the numbers will take care of themselves. The more a company focuses on the numbers, and not the people who produce the numbers, the more its business will suffer.
We focus on the bottom-line of the individual. The “bottom line” stands for what is left at the end of the day, the month and the year. It can be looked at in two ways:
How much has the bottom line grown? This gives us a measuring stick of how “healthy” the individual is.
How much exists to draw on in times of need?
In this manner, we always want to make sure that the bottom line of the individual is growing. How much did your knowledge, self-confidence, self-discipline, integrity, courage and other character traits grow in the last year? How large is your “bank account”?
I’m not referring to your financial bank account (although that is important!). Rather, I’m referring to your bank account filled with character principles. Your emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical bank account. Principles that define who you are, not what you have. This is a life-long account that needs to grow over time. The larger this account is, the more fulfilling your life will be and you will carry a greater opportunity to enrich the lives of those around you.