June 25, 2015

The Difference Between Culture and Values

The Difference Between Culture and Values This topic has been bugging me for a while, so I am going to use the writing of this post as a means of working through it. We have a great set of core values here at Return Path. And we also have a great corporate culture, as evidenced by our winning multiple employer of choice awards, including being Fortune Magazine’s #2 best medium-sized workplace in America. But the two things are different, and they’re often confused. I hear statements all the time, both here and at other companies, like “you can’t do that — it’s not part of our culture,” “I like working there, because the culture is so great,” and “I hope our culture never changes.”  And those statements reveal the disconnect. Here’s my stab at a definition.  Values guide decision-making and a sense of what’s important and what’s right.  Culture is the collection of business practices, processes, and interactions that make up the work environment. A company’s values should never really change. They are the bedrock underneath the surface that will be there 10 or 100 years from now.  They are the uncompromising core principles that the company is willing to […]


December 6, 2012

Book Short: Culture is King

Book Short:  Culture is King Tony Hsieh’s story, Delivering Happiness (book, Kindle), is more than just the story of his life or the story of Zappos. It’s a great window into the soul of a very successful company and one that in many ways has become a model for great culture and a great customer service model.  It’s a relatively quick and breezy read, and it contains a handful of legendary anecdotes from Zappos’ history to demonstrate those two things — culture and customer service — in action. As Hsieh himself says in the book, you can’t copy this stuff […]


October 5, 2011

Building the Company vs. Building the Business

Building the Company vs. Building the Business I was being interviewed recently for a book someone is writing on entrepreneurship, which focused on identifying the elements of my “playbook” for entrepreneurial success at Return Path.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a full playbook, though I’ve certainly documented pieces of it in this blog over the years.  One of the conversations we had in the interview was around the topic of building the company vs. building the business. The classic entrepreneur builds the business — quite frankly, he or she probably just builds the product for a long time first, […]


July 14, 2011

Retail, No Longer

Retail, No Longer I’ve evolved my operating system as a CEO many times over the years as our business at Return Path has changed and as the company has scaled up.  I’ve changed my meeting routines, I’ve delegated more things, and I’ve gotten less in the details of the business. But there’s one specific thing where I’ve remained very “retail,” or on the front lines, and that is the interview process.  I still interview every new hire, usually on the phone or Skype and in most cases only for 15-30 minutes, and then I also do an in-person 15-30 minute […]


December 3, 2010

Selling a Line of Business

Selling a Line of Business It’s been a couple of years since Return Path decided to focus on our deliverability business by divesting and spinning out our other legacy businesses. That link tells some of the story, and the rest is that subsequently, Authentic Response divested part of the Postmaster Direct business to Q Interactive.  Those three transactions, plus a number of experiences over the years on the buy side of similar transactions (Bonded Sender, Habeas, NetCreations), plus my learnings from talking to a number of other CEOs who have done similar things over the years, form the basis of […]


August 26, 2010

Style, or Substance?

Style, or Substance? I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend who sits on a couple of Boards, as do I (besides Return Path’s).  We ended up in a conversation about some challenges one of his Boards is having with their CEO, and the question to some extent boiled down to this:  a Board is responsible for hiring/firing the CEO and for being the guardians of shareholder value, but what does a Board do when it doesn’t like the CEO’s style? There are lots of different kinds of CEOs and corporate cultures.  Some are command-and-control, others are […]