WordPerfect Business Advice

In 1980, as a $5‑an-hour part-time office manager, W. E. Peterson joined the small com­pany that would go on to become Word­Per­fect Cor­por­a­tion. Then, twelve years later, after help­ing grow the com­pany to half a bil­lion dol­lars in annu­al sales and becom­ing the Exec­ut­ive Vice Pres­id­ent, Peterson was forced out of the com­pany and set out to chron­icle the rise and fall of Word­Per­fect in his book, Almost Per­fect.

You can read Almost Per­fect online like I did after hear­ing about it from Jeff Atwood two years ago. Why am I post­ing this now? Now that the book has a Kindle ver­sion I’m re-read­ing it and liked this para­graph of busi­ness advice from the after­word:

If you read [Almost Per­fect] hop­ing to learn more about run­ning a busi­ness, then I hope you noted the parts about teach­ing cor­rect prin­ciples and allow­ing employ­ees to gov­ern them­selves. In spite of the prob­lems I had under­stand­ing and imple­ment­ing this philo­sophy, I am con­vinced it is the best way to run a busi­ness. In today’s com­pet­it­ive envir­on­ment, busi­nesses can no longer afford the over­head of one super­visor for every five or six employ­ees. As organ­iz­a­tions flat­ten and super­vi­sion decreases, employ­ees will make more decisions on their own and gov­ern them­selves much more than they have in the past. If a com­pany is to func­tion effect­ively, its employ­ees must have a good under­stand­ing of what is expec­ted of them. Very small organ­iz­a­tions may be able to find suc­cess without defin­ing and teach­ing cor­rect prin­ciples, but any busi­ness with more than 25 or 30 people must get organ­ized.

3 thoughts on “WordPerfect Business Advice

  1. Jonathan Blake

    Peterson is let­ting his Mor­mon­ism show. :) I don’t know if the book covered it, but the idea of teach­ing people you super­vise “cor­rect prin­ciples” and let­ting them “gov­ern them­selves” is attrib­uted to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mor­mon­ism.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    I know next to noth­ing about Mor­mon­ism, but Peterson does indeed cov­er this, if briefly, at the start of Chapter 11:

    [Alan Ashton] and I, and [Bruce Basti­an] to a less­er extent, claimed that our man­age­ment approach was defined by the state­ment “we teach cor­rect prin­ciples and our employ­ees gov­ern them­selves.” We bor­rowed the state­ment from Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Mor­mon Church, who said “I teach cor­rect prin­ciples and they gov­ern them­selves,” when asked to explain how the church was gov­erned. We had attemp­ted to fol­low this philo­sophy, but over the years we had not done a very good job of teach­ing cor­rect prin­ciples. Our com­pany was run with a philo­sophy closer to “we let employ­ees gov­ern them­selves, and when they make a mis­take, we try to cor­rect them.”

    Seems like fairly sol­id advice.

Comments are closed.