Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Effective CEO: Clumsy Eccentric Oaf

After writing about Netflix’s success amidst the Amazon Outage of April 2011, I remembered about another company that survived that Amazon disaster.

The story, as I remember it:

The way I remember the story goes something like this, as told by their CEO:
I like to walk around the office and just unplug stuff at random. For instance, I’ll see an electric plug in a wall outlet, wonder “what does this do?” and just unplug it. Sometimes I’ll turn off people’s computers at random, or dump coffee in their keyboards, or just pick up a piece of equipment with shiny lights on it (I have no idea what it does) and slam it against the wall. I guess you could say I really like to screw around with my employees. If I find scissors I’ll look for a few cables and cut them (but that doesn’t happen much anymore because someone hid all the office scissors). One time I found a cartridge labeled “full backup” and pulled all the tape out of it to use as a streamer for a party—that was a helluva party. 
Not everyone has my sense of humor about this stuff. They’d probably fire me if I weren’t the CEO. 
One day I was in the CFO’s office and saw all these bills from Amazon, which he said were for “cloud services”. That sounded ridiculous to me. Who would pay for a cloud? So I called up Amazon and said “cut our cloud prices in half—unplug whatever you need to unplug to make that happen”.  I make the same call to Amazon every few weeks to turn stuff off, but for some reason our engineers keep telling Amazon to turn things back on. 
Whatever I’m doing must be working, because when all the other companies were having trouble with Amazon, we and our users hardly even noticed.
The story, as the CEO remembers it:

Thinking that it’s possible I might not be remembering that story 100% accurately, I’ve found the original article, and the CEO’s own words, here: How SmugMug survived the Amazonpocalypse. It’s a nice read—but I like my version better. ☺

Today’s Takeaways from a wise CEO: Build for failure. Test your components.

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