Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Jason Fried, chief executive of Basecamp, a web-based project management tool. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
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What were your early years like?
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents forced me to get a job as soon as I could. So when I was about 14, we went to City Hall to get a worker’s permit so I could get a part-time job at a grocery store.
Was this under protest?
I was excited to do it. I bagged groceries and did a bunch of other jobs, including working at a shoe store. I love the fact that my parents taught me that you’ve got to work for your money. And I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but through those jobs, I saw firsthand different management styles and leadership styles.
The woman who owned a store I worked at didn’t trust anybody. She thought everyone was stealing from her, and the interesting thing was that people did end up stealing from her. But I had a manager who shielded me from all that, and he trusted me.
I worked at places that had similar dynamics. I was building a kind of matrix, thinking that if I ever start my own company, what kind of place would I want to work at?
Other early influences?
My leadership style is probably a hybrid of all the people I’ve met along the way — people I admire and people I don’t admire. I don’t like micromanagers. I don’t like people not trusting you. I don’t like people telling me what to do so I don’t like to tell other people what to do.
Any favorite family expressions?
My dad, who was a private investor, always told me no one ever went broke taking a profit. And I think that’s probably the best business advice, period. But a lot of the tech world is obsessed with growth and revenue and not profit. They’re obsessed with ego. They’re obsessed with all the things that I think are bad business.
The other thing that is weird about the business world in general is the obsession with domination and winning and destroying and fighting. Why? What is that about? It doesn’t ring true with me at all. Can’t you just build a nice business and can’t other people have a nice business?
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.