Last week marked the 10-year anniversary of Google's IPO.
Several news organization did great retrospective pieces including a piece by the Wall Street Journal's Dennis Berman called "Ten Years after the IPO: The $400 billion Epistle" and Business Insider's, "7 weird things about Google's IPO 10 years ago." There were several interesting twists to the IPO, but the cover letter to the prospectus, an 80,000-word personal declaration by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, is perhaps the most important.
You can read the entire thing here. It was inspired by Warren Buffett's "An Owner's Manual." This is truly an extraordinary document from the founders to the investors.
What is most amazing is how the letter foretold the way Google would operate and continue to grow and expand. At the time, Google was 12 years old and pretty much just a search engine. Gmail had just launched - there was no Android, YouTube, Google Chrome, Drive, Plus, cars, thermostats, nor satellites.
It had just $3 billion in revenue with about 2,000 employees (In comparison, revenue today is $65 billion and the employee count has surpassed 52,000). While not over-promising anything, it is clear the founders were interested in creating a company that could evolve and expand over time - sometimes into uncharted territories. They did not have a crystal ball, nor did they know exactly what twists or turns the company would take as it continued to mature. But they did know how they were going to operate the business.
As a result, they ensured the company's leadership and shareholders would take a long-term view and allow a certain amount of flexibility. They warned investors ahead of time and asked those who shared their long view to join them. They politely told those who did not, not to invest - several times.
So what can you learn from this?
I think a lot. While your company may not be 12 years old, or have $3 billion in revenue, or have an IPO on the near horizon, you can create (or perhaps have created?) a core set of operating principles.
You can review them with your advisors and board and ask them to agree and hold you accountable to live up to them.
You can share them with you employees and use them as a screener in your recruitment efforts to ensure you are surrounding yourself with people who get what you do and why you are doing it.
You can even publish them so the world can see the kind of business you are building.
So do some research, see how Warren or Sergey or Larry did it and start building your own "An Owner's Manual."