10 years ago someone showed me a set of memos from “Tiger Mike” Davis, owner of Tiger Oil Company. I loved them immediately. I share a lot of business philosophy with Mr. Davis. Recently I was reminded of these memos and looked them up on the interwebs and in doing I found that Mr. Davis died in 2010. In an obituary Huffington Post called him “The World’s Meanest Boss.”
I disagree. He’s particular and does not mince words. This is so foreign in the culture of false courtesy in business. We are now used to being entirely too courteous to the slob, the do-nothing, the troublemaker, the gossip, and other workplace scum. Tiger Mike would have none of that. In his intolerance for incompetence, he protected the good. Here’s some of what we can learn from him.
Work is for work. His delivery may seem harsh when he tells employees to “Do your job and keep your mouth shut!”, but most HR policies amount to this anyway. Why not say it the way it really is?
Be responsible. No one else will take care of your responsibilities for you. Any attempt to put them off on someone else will get you fired in Tiger Mike’s world.
In the 1970’s business world there were no “Stakeholders,” there were only owners, employees, vendors, and clients. Each group had to represent and comport themselves as such. In the tour d’force below, Mike lays down the law. Davis reminds everyone that he owns the company and that he has standards. Standards must be followed. No liquor on site. Keep the workplace clean. Hire good people. Pay them well. Take care of yourself. Take care of the equipment. We are here to work, not be friends. This is true in every business, why not just say so? Why keep up the charade to the contrary?
People who do their work and are proud of that are damaged when the incompetent and slovenly are coddled. The best thing an employer can do for the excellent is to be intolerant of the bad. Bad co-workers cost the company money, cause trouble, get in the way, make everyone else work more to fix their mistakes, and ultimately cause everyone to get an earful when the problem is the fault of the few. Time and again Tiger Mike acknowledges this when he points out in his scathing memos that essentially, “if you ain’t the problem, this memo ain’t for you.” I suspect the excellent employees at Tiger Oil Co. knew that Mike treasured and respected them. He showed that by his generosity with pay, freedom of action to do the right thing, and most of all, respecting the time and work of the good employees by crushing incompetence at every turn. RIP Mike.
Rather that focus on Mike’s demeanor, focus on the direct language, the expectation setting, and the clarity of mission. I love it. Do not wrap your writing in cliche and false nicety. State your point. State the consequences. Respect everyone’s time. Expect that they are adults. If they are not adults, show them the exit.