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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

The secret to Motley Fool’s investing success: Look at the company culture

The secret to Motley Fool’s investing success: Look at the company culture
How important is the culture to the performance of an individual company? According to one Motley Fool, the answer is it’s very important and it’s part of what’s helped him beat the market over the last 20 years.

At the Google re:Work event in 2014, Tom Gardner, CEO and co-founder of The Motley Fool, discussed why his investors look so closely at the corporate cultures of the companies in which they invests. Gardner said that this has been key to the Fool’s market-beating success. “One of our core advantages as investors at the Motley Fool is that we look very, very closely at companies' cultures. And I think that, for the most part, Wall Street does not,” Gardner explained. “So there's an intense focus on the quantitative and an intense focus on short term outcomes on Wall Street. And if instead, you widen the lens and look at the long term, you start to see wow, all of the greatest companies want their people to succeed. They want to retain the people that are coming to work.”

At his own company, Gardner thinks about ways to increase social and collaborative interactions. He told the story of how, one year, he told his employees that in order to receive their annual bonuses, everyone had to be able to name all other 250 employees within the company. Suddenly people were having more lunches with their colleagues, he joked.

Gardner closed by offering four (admittedly non-data driven) tips for organizations seeking to strengthen their own cultures:

  1. Ask your employees what their values are and see if you can connect your organizational values.
  2. Make sure there’s a robust social network among employees (which you could do by requiring they learn everyone else’s names).
  3. Send random emails to people you admire and invite them to hang out with you.
  4. Craft your own job. Think about what you would (and wouldn’t) do if you could take a 15% pay cut, but design your own role.