To My PAR Fam,
I wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year!
While New Year’s Day is a great time for reflection, I think it’s more important for setting the tone in the upcoming the year. I spent a lot of the holiday re-reading many of the CEO letters, books, and podcasts that have inspired me over the years. It reminded that one of the most important jobs we all have is to constantly remind ourselves, that today, and every day after, is Day 1. Jeff Bezos famously coined the concept of a Day 1 mentality in his 1997 shareholder letter. He described the Day 1 mentality as a focus on being nimble, making decisions quickly and essentially never being scared to question the status quo. Every day is Day 1, because Day 2 brings on stasis. And stasis brings on a celebration of the past combined with an ignorance of the future. It’s the moment when you let paper cuts begin to erode the foundation, it’s the moment where you lower the bar from great to good, it’s the moment that you give up on a virtuous fight for the fear of stepping on someone’s toes. Day 2 is often times the beginning of a long and slow decline.
After Bezos wrote about the Day 1 mentality, it went on to become a Silicon Valley mantra, a great saying for CEOs like me, and almost a must read in business schools. Everyone from Warren Buffett to CNBC couldn’t stop talking about the wisdom in a Day 1 mentality.
But what all the quotes and sayings about a Day 1 mentality hide is that working in Day 1 business is difficult. The team members in these businesses aren’t scared to bring up the awkward questions, confront established processes and propose changes to those in different departments. In fact, these businesses actually have more problems than the average business, because they go out looking for them! They live every day thinking about how to get better by asking the tough questions, that while uncomfortable, often lead to the changes that make impact. That sounds easy, but as humans we’re wired to seek social cohesion, and the person questioning established norms is often the first person voted off the island. So, working in these businesses requires immense trust, immense intensity, but most of all, an understanding that the only way to get better is to confront the brutal facts, live in humility, and never stop believing in “why not us”.
So how do Day 1 businesses end up becoming Day 2 businesses? Scale! Scale makes things harder because it forces us to build processes, departments and layers for decision making that can quickly get stale. They turn great thinkers into GPS followers, great problem solvers into rule followers and squeeze out the ingenuity that made a business great in the first place. Scaling companies often bring in “experts” who while truly exceptional, don’t often take critique well, and social cohesion becomes far more important for advancement than actual concrete output. Simplistically, the way I think about this is the bigger a company gets the more time it spends on internal problems and not external problems (solving our customer needs). This will not and cannot happen at PAR.
So, get ready boys and girls, while today is Day 1 of 2024, tomorrow is still Day 1 for us. Our excellence today and tomorrow will be our capacity to take pain. Can we outlast, outthink and out-question our competitors and ourselves, while trusting ourselves to be open-minded towards progress? Can we live in pursuit of not perfection, but constant improvement? Can we learn to trust that while we may be the expert, it’s often the unencumbered who have the best solutions or ideas? Let’s all remember that while we all got to PAR through different avenues, our ability to succeed will be our collective commitment to get better every day.
I hope everyone had a restful and refreshing holiday. I’m excited to be back at my desk with all of you and can’t wait for Day 1!
This message was originally sent to PAR employees on January 1st, 2024