Anti-CEO Playbook Challenges 3 Business “Rules”

Based on an article originally published July 24, 2019

We’ve all heard stories of impoverished immigrants who came to the U. S. and prospered through hard work and perseverance.  

Sometimes unique business ideas have been part of the recipe as well. Here’s an example of that. 

Jessica Stillman relates a great story of a Turkish sheep farmer who came to the U.S. about 20 years ago.  

Hamdi Ulukaya came from a family of yogurt makers. He saw an ad for a yogurt factory for sale cheap. He borrowed money and bought it just as the aging owner had ordered it to be closed. 

Ulukaya had some ideas that he terms the “Anti-CEO Playbook”. He brings his concepts to life in a 17-minute TED talk which is linked in Stillman’s article. I think the entire saga is well worth listening to.  

Strapped for time and want to invest less of it in this story?  You can start the video at the 6:30 time and hear the most inspiring part of the story. For those who opt for that, I’ll summarize the “preamble” a little further along.  

He debunks a few ideas that have become accepted business advice:

  • Maximize stockholder value? How about the employees?
  • CEO responsible to the Board? How about the customers?
  • Incentives from the community? He sees it the other way around.

He’s all about cutting out middlemen and getting incentives and gratitude in the right place. 

The following sets the stage for the balance of Ulukaya’s talk in case you choose to start in the middle. 

The yogurt plant was on a dead-end road and was in terrible run-down condition. The 55 employees were still there, working only to shut the place down. Ulukaya detected a spirit among the employees that energized him. He describes the culture of the company as a “time machine”. 

He kept four of the key people and said to them, “First thing we’re going to do is go the local Ace Hardware store and buy some paint. We’ll paint the outside walls white.”  

Of course the employees wondered at this priority, but complied. 

That’s where the story of Chobani Yogurt gets interesting. Listen, as Paul Harvey used to say, to “the rest of the story”. Start at the 6:30 interval in the TED talk video at the end of the article

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