January 25, 2012
How to Run a Business That Doesn’t Suck: The Hank and John Green Rules



So Hank and I run or help run several businesses at the moment: Vidcon, DFTBA Records, the juggernaut that is 2-D Glasses, ecogeek, vlogbrothers, scishow, and crashcourse, as well as administering the nonprofit Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck. These are not huge businesses or anything (and in some cases are not even profitable), but many of them have employees and revenue and function like any other business, so recently Hank and I have developed some Rules for Running a Business That Doesn’t Suck, which we thought we’d share.

Rule 1: Don’t be a dick. This is the governing law of the Internet, as created by the great Wil Wheaton, and we try to apply it to our businesses. Not being a dick mostly means treating your clients and customers respectfully, and focusing on creating value rather than creating profit, and generally being reasonably kind and personable when it comes to business relationships.

Rule 2: Increase Awesome or Decrease Suck. If an idea won’t increase world awesome or decrease worldsuck, we won’t do it. (And if we’re doing something that no longer feels like it is increasing awesome or decreasing suck, we stop doing it.)

Rule 3: Minimize lawyering. Hank and I tend to lose interest in any endeavor when a lot of lawyers become involved. Basically, if we require lawyers other than our cousin Mike or the people he works with, we don’t do it.

Rule 4: Employ more people per dollar of revenue than PepsiCo. This is very important to us. So one of the emerging metrics for a company’s “success” is revenue generated per employee. PepsiCo generates more than $196,728 in revenue per employee. (That may seem ludicrously high, but it’s much lower than many companies: Google generates $1,900,000 every year per employee.) The thinking goes that successful companies generate a lot of money per employee. Our thinking is that it is both good business and good citizenship to invest revenue in new employees.

Rule 5: Keep promises. We try to keep promises even when they are very inconvenient and expensive to keep, such as when Amazon Germany ships out a thousand unsigned preorders of your new book even though you signed more than enough copies for them to ship to their customers

Rule 6: Pay tops out at 10x average worker pay. Pretty simple, really: The highest paid employees of a company shouldn’t make more than 10 times the average employee’s pay. (Current estimates in the US indicate CEOs make between 185 and 310 times more than the average worker.) Capping this at a multiple of ten means everyone is invested in seeing the company grow and succeed.

Rule 7: Have awesome customers. If you don’t like the people who watch and read and wear the stuff you make, then you will not have any fun. Speaking of which…

Rule 8: Have fun. Our grandfather wrote thousands of lists in his life—grocery lists, lists of business ideas, pros and cons of taking different jobs. Almost all of his lists ended “Have fun!” We think this is good advice.

And I thought I couldn’t like Hank and John more than I already did. This is fantastic advice, and I’m honored to be included in it.

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