Seven Day Weekend – Ricardo Semler, company Semco
Posted by Adrian on July 2, 2007
I first heard about Ricardo Semler and his successful Brazilian based company Semco from a television documentary. I remember it was at some point in 2002, I have always thought about a business that is flexible and almost undefinable in it’s quest to create the ultimate work environment. But this was post 9/11 and the neo conservatives both in England and America had now decided to increases security and restructure the concept of democracy, in other words restrict democracies on a broader plain in our society. This in turn has filtered into business and everyday living. I remember when I was finishing high school eighteen years ago. Towards the end of the final year of school, we were all expected to mentally prepare after 12 yrs of schooling for the psychologically enforced slots that were created for us – to become work slaves for future employers. Defined and categorized into the traditional expectation of the 5 day, 9-5 workforce. Semler’s company Semco, has re-instilled the concept of democratizing the work place. Unique and successful. After reading his book The Seven day weekend, Semler goes into a lot of depth regarding Semco. A structured and unstructured work place relying on anthropological and sociological parameters to create a successful business. Workers share, contribute and participate in all matters to do with the company; the worker interaction is on a level with the management. Accounts are open and read by staff, general staff may participate in boardroom meetings. Shared and communal offices, modular based workstations where people work in collective groups – a sort of harmonized synergy in creating productivity. Biorhythms of staff are gaged and excepted, so in the sense you can come in when you want to work, when you feel at your peak – which could be at anytime. Trust and self management and responsibility ensure that the days of childlike behavior, is left at school. Discipline and insubordination is rather estimated by the ability to work in groups, if the worker is unable to do this, another duty is found. Freedom too discuss and add to the well being of your work environments is a must. Workers are not treated like sheep or a mere human resource, but rather a sort of valued commodity that a business wants to retain, from the cleaner to the management team all are important in the survival of a successful company like Semco. A human case study in anthropology/communal based capitalism, and it seems to work.
The idea of mutual and shared responsibility is the core reason Semco is successful. The company releases the resistive restraints that Semler believes causes business to contract, fluctuate with a continue flow of unhappy staff.
This is a list of Semco’s companies and revenue for 2003
“As of 2003, SEMCO had annual revenue of $212 million, from $4 million in 1982 and $35 million in 1994, with an annual growth rate of up to 40 per cent a year. It employs 3,000 workers in 2003, as opposed to 90 in 1982. The company’s units include”
- the industrial machinery unit, which now manufactures mixing equipment as opposed to pumps
- Sembobac, a partnership with Baltimore Air Cooler making cooling towers
- Cushman and Wakefield SEMCO, a partnership with Rockefeller property company Cushman and WakefieldBrazil and Latin America managing properties in
- Semco Johnson Controls, a partnership with Johnson Controls, managing large scale facilities such as airports and hospitals
- ERM, a partnership with Environmental Resources Management, one of the world’s leading environmental consultants
- Semco Ventures, offering high technology and Internet services
- SemcoHR, a human resources management firm
- Semco-RGIS, an inventory control firm
My review of the Seven Day Weekend from amazon.com
The business of Cultural dissidence and freedom in the work place, and how it can sustain and make profit for companies., August 10, 2006
The seven day weekend was such a great read. Ricardo Semler set something in motion with the company Semco, that has worked. A multi facaded, and diverse, slightly chaotic management system. The word democracy is thrown about these days, usually by governments trying to gain some justification in their mismanagement of the masses. But as the masses become more and more autonomous, and self reliant – democracy takes on new paradigms. Democracy in the work place has rarely been touched upon. As western society boosted it’s economic wealth, and power, this was inevitably done by conformity, uniformity and general slave mentality working in the job. Almost a masochistic expectation, that you hate your job, but you still go, work pay your bills – but suffer stress, palpated heart rhythms, and high blood pressure. This isn’t normal.
The seven day weekend, is more on an insight into Semco, a once Brazilian ship building supply company started by Ricardo Semler’s father, Antonio Semler; but as the first chapter of the book explains, once Ricardo was ready to inherit the company; he immediately rearranged the rigid middle upper management (in other words sacked them) and commenced on democratizing, or allowing freedom in the work place, which allowed Semco to grow. Which it did. Semco now expands it’s business infrastructure to IT management, corporate real estate management through partnership with Cushman and Wakefield SEMCO, and human resource management. Semco seems almost organic in it’s approach in creating start up companies, all done with staff participation input and critique.
But it doesn’t end there, all staff are allowed to check audit reports, look at internal accounts, and adjust their pay accordingly within their work input. Hierarchy and secrecy in the work place have been removed, rather an open source management line – where staff hold as much power in decision making as management. Great concept. As Semler points out, it creates just enough chaos, a little unsettledness to push a new idea out. And this can be only done, with all participants, not the management ‘rulers’.
I love the idea of chopping up hierarchy, moving ideas, and decisions around – and in some cases looking at errors as possible achievements. Why didn’t they teach us that at school? Ideas, imagination and the trial and error that occurs is the initial background mechanics to business, management and social economics in the workplace.
As (imposed externally) new work place rules are put in place and unions become less and less visible in the modern workplace. Businesses now offer ‘incentives’ and ‘rewards’ to it’s workers. Semco and Semler would rather not treat workers as children. Issuing punishment and rewards. It creates morale problems, and staff end up behaving like spoiled or agitated children; useless in a growing, profitable company.
The mixing of cultural integration is crucial, and such a good anthropological experiment in the work place. Having young guns. Mix it with old established workers. As the population ages, the new and the old can learn from each other. They fuse with one and other over time, as Semler says, “They form their flavors slowly, like a good strew”.
Non territorial offices, rest areas for staff (to go to sleep!), staff can go home after they finish there job (anytime). Collective work units, that all work to make profits within the company. Opportunity for workers to reinvest back into the Semco (private companies), and hold shares. As Ricardo Semler says, “A capitalist in mind, socialist at heart”. And it appears at Semco it works.
I recommend this book to anyone in business, starting a business, or working for a business. Or also, anyone interested in the fusion of historical philosophy, cultural agitation and dissent – and how that can increase profitability and gratification in the work place, business and life.
On other note. Does anyone remember the 1996 Simpson’s Hank Scorpio Globex Corporation episode? The dream boss, and hammock in the workspace? Although Hank Scorpio turned out to be a super villain. Similarities to Semco are coincidental.