7 Business Rules From Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the most successful business operators of modern times, Elon does, however, divide opinions for his working style and the incredible hours he works, famously clocking over 100 hour weeks. 

Elon is complicated, there are mixed reports of high levels of stress, toxic company culture and job satisfaction working with Elon, and his company performance rarely comes under question.

Elon’s successful entrepreneurial history stems back to 1995 and his wins include zip2,, PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla. 

I recently learnt Elon has a number of strict rules at Tesla and has a number of important internal rules to make Tesla successful, here are the seven I believe almost every business can take forward and introduce at their company: 

Rule 1: Large-format meetings waste people’s time.

Quote: “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short,”

Jeff Bezos & Amazon has the two-pizza rule, I completely agree, with leadership principles you should remove wasting people’s time and explain what the objective is for the meeting, why you are attending and what your participation level is. 

Rule 2: Meetings should be infrequent unless a matter is urgent.

Quote: “Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved,” 

Meetings are often at the centre of the busy badge of honour many people wear while at work. Meetings unless they are kicking off a large important project or campaign should be kept at a minimum or should be used to address a crisis or issue that needs collaboration quickly. 

Rule 3: If you don’t need to be in a meeting, leave.

Quote: “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time,” 

Depending on your culture and why people have been invited to meetings, you should be careful of setting this up when people are too busy or do this regularly especially when junior members of the team are running the meeting. If the meeting is set up correctly and managed correctly no one should have to leave. 

Here is the Focus recommended ways to optimise your meetings

Rule 4: Avoid confusing jargon

Quote: “Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla,”

This is by far the most important lesson for many businesses, if you do not communicate to everyone easily in the group you are often creating issues or communication issues. Remove jargon and explain so everyone can understand will reduce between 10 and 30 minutes per day. 

Rule 5: Don’t let hierarchical structures make things less efficient.

Quote: “Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command’. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere,” 

Unfortunately, many businesses are not set up to enable clear comms and hierarchies should not be there to create barriers or communication breakdowns. If you are made of aware of managers doing this they are not managing or leading they are creating issues for your business to succeed. 

Rule 6: If you need to get in touch with someone, do so directly.

Quote: “A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels,” 

Direct communications should be normal in any business, the worst-performing businesses have the worst communications and the worst asynchronous communication practices. Ensure you are removing any unnecessary issues and barriers in your internal comms.  

Rule 7: Don’t waste time following silly rules.

Quote: “In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.”

Common sense as a rule shouldn’t be called out however very often with leadership teams this is the level of guidance some colleagues require, something the best companies say is if x or y were hit by a bus how would people make the right set of decisions. At Focus we suggest you set clear pillars to guide decision making. 

Bonus: What Can You Learn From Elon Musk & Twitter Acqusition?

Elon’s acquisition of Twitter has hit the pause button, Elon has the best legal team around him and actively seeks to maximise each and every opportunity.
The lesson here is to take inspiration from how Elon will leverage the platform and known issues to put himself back in the driving seat in negotiations.

A few recent examples of his recent behaviour:

  • Identifying issues like potential bot problem
  • Proactively looking to leverage big-name investors to back him and put up money in the potential deal
  • Putting the deal on hold (not actually possible) when Tesla stocks are on the slide
  • Applying pressure via Twitter (tweets about poor Product features) to remove execs who are seen as slowing down innovation or not addressing core fundamental flaws like user growth.

Only apply these tactics if you are confident in (legally) winning or not burning all of your bridges with colleagues, contacts and professional powerhouses.

FYI no internal actions should become a meme. 

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