Elon Musk sleeps at the office. He fired employees and executives at will. And he also lamented that his company was on the verge of bankruptcy.
That’s exactly what happened in 2018 and the company was Tesla. At the time, Musk’s electric car maker was having a hard time mass-producing the Model 3.
“It’s horrible,” Musk told The New York Times at the time. “There are times when I don’t leave the factory for three or four days. I didn’t go out in those days.”
The billionaire’s experience with what he calls Tesla’s “manufacturing hell” seems to have become the blueprint for the crisis he created at Twitter, the company he bought for $44 billion last year. last month.
Over the years, Musk has managed his companies – including Tesla and rocket maker SpaceX – through difficult times, using shock and vigilance, and promoting employees and himself put family and friends aside to devote all their energy to the task of reviving the company.
At Twitter, Musk used many of the same tactics to revive the social media company in just a few weeks.
Since late last month, the 51-year-old has laid off 50% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees and accepted the resignations of 1,200 or more people. The two said on Monday that he was even starting another round of layoffs.
Musk also tweeted that he was sleeping at Twitter’s office in San Francisco. And he told Twitter employees that the company could go bankrupt if it couldn’t turn things around. Musk said that people who want to work on “Twitter 2.0” must commit to his “core” vision in writing.
David Deak, who worked at Tesla from 2014 to 2016 as a senior technical director overseeing the battery materials supply chain, said Musk “clearly thrives in life-or-death circumstances.” “. He added: “Musk was almost trying to create such a situation to light the fire for everyone.”
The similarities between Musk’s Twitter approach and what he’s done at Tesla and SpaceX are stark, said Tammy Madsen, a management professor at Santa Clara University. But it’s not clear if he’ll find the means to motivate employees at a social media company the way he did with employees whose job it is to get people away from gas-powered cars or get people in. universe or not.
“At Tesla and SpaceX, the approach is always high-risk, but also high-reward,” Dr. Madsen said. Twitter is risky, but the question is: What is the reward from it?
On Sunday, Musk held a meeting with Twitter salespeople. Then, on Monday, he fired employees in the sales department. Last weekend, Musk fired Robin Wheeler, a top Twitter sales executive.
Twitter is also reaching out to a number of engineers who have left their jobs to ask them to return, the source said. During a meeting with employees on Monday, Musk said the company has no plans to lay off any more employees.
At companies led by Musk, the kind of statement that companies are on the verge of bankruptcy is common. At Tesla in December 2008, during the deepest financial crisis, Musk closed a $50 million investment round from Daimler, which, he said, was done in “the last hour of the last day.” same possible”.
Musk said the same thing about SpaceX, noting that both SpaceX and Tesla have a more than 90% chance of “will be worth $0” in their early days.
Musk said that for 2017, SpaceX must do rocket launches every two weeks or face bankruptcy, a former SpaceX executive recalls. At a company driven by the goal of making life a “multi-planet,” the threat of bankruptcy is a strong motivating factor, he said.
Since then, SpaceX has successfully launched many rockets into space and landed safely back on Earth. But Musk is back with his favorite trick, tweeting last year that if a “severe global recession” drains capital, bankruptcy at the rocket maker would be ” It’s not impossible.”
“Only the paranoid survive,” he wrote, quoting Andy Grove, a former Intel executive.
Two former Tesla executives say the climate of crisis and self-imposed austerity gave Musk good cover to make drastic changes and fire top managers or Eliminate a large number of employees. They say this is also to prepare people to stay to work in harsh conditions to fulfill Musk’s wishes.
The approach at Twitter, where Musk has laid off thousands of employees, “is typical of Elon,” Mr. Deak said.
The chaos at the social media company was all too familiar to those who worked at Tesla as the company struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3, which went on sale in 2017. In May of that year , Musk sent an email to employees repeating some of the language he used with Twitter employees.
“Tesla must be tough and demanding,” he wrote. In the following year, Musk famously slept on the floor in a Tesla factory boardroom, fired the vice president of engineering, and worked 120 hours a week to deal with Model 3 production delays. Tesla board members worry about Musk’s workload and his use of drugs to try to sleep.
Testifying in a Delaware court last week in a lawsuit over his Tesla bonus package, Musk admitted that his preference for unilateral action could get him in trouble. “When I make decisions without consulting people, the probability of those decisions being wrong is higher.”
At Delaware, Musk also downplayed the comparison between what he’s doing at Twitter with the Model 3 launch, saying on his way into the courtroom that what’s happening at the social media services company is ” easier”.
Some of Musk’s former employees questioned whether his management tactics ultimately worked at Twitter. Tesla and SpaceX were in the early stages of growth when their bosses used tough language and told people they had to do their best. But Twitter is a more mature company that has been inconsistent for years.
“Musk’s management techniques are a good start-up and growth strategy, but it’s not good for building a stable company,” Deak said.
Musk’s total commitment to a company is often inspirational, but can also be toxic, and creates a culture of fear and stigma, said three former Tesla and SpaceX executives.
Moreover, for Musk, working at Twitter is just a part-time job. He remains CEO of Tesla, which he said in court will continue to lead, and SpaceX, which he said will focus on rocket design rather than management.
Musk also heads the Boring Company, a tunneling startup, and Neuralink, a brain-computer interface technology company. Musk has said that his long-term goal is to save humanity by developing technology for space travel, or, in his words, by “creating multi-planetary life to ensure its long-term survival.” of consciousness”.
The ability to multitask has become an issue in a lawsuit by Tesla shareholders, who oppose the compensation package that made Musk the world’s richest man. Last week in Delaware, under questioning by attorneys representing shareholders who have accused Musk of neglecting his duties at Tesla, the billionaire said his active involvement in Twitter is only a matter of fact. temporary.
“It takes an initial set of activities to reorganize the company,” adding: “I hope to reduce my time at Twitter soon.”
Source: New York Times