So, Elon Musk now owns Twitter.
This should be interesting. Not so “interesting” if you’re an employee. Or vendor. Or user.
Musk is a very smart man. He has had visions and has brought them to life. PayPal. Tesla. SpaceX. Boring (well, sort of). At the same time, his self-righteous arrogance and self-admiration gets in his way.
In this episode, he has taken over an existing company with the goal of…..well, that’s not clear. He had made the usual claims made by raiders – managements is not competent to maximize returns to shareholders. This claim, first widely propagated by economist Milton Friedman, argued that shareholder value was the only purpose of a business. This tenet took hold in corporate America, most famously in GE’s Jack Welch. The result was, ultimately, very short-term thinking, wholesale firings and sale of business, and companies outsourcing and moving critical operations on a hunt for the cheapest labor and costs. Want to know why the US has minimal chip manufacturing capability? Want to know how Wal-Mart does it? That’s how – no R&D, just cheap. Short term – no future. Here’s a take on what happened.
Enter Musk. We do know that about 25% of the workforce are going to be unceremoniously fired – he already dismissed four top execs, including the CEO – one or more of whom were “escorted off the premises” (don’t you love modern American management practices?) In less than a week, he has stumbled from announcing a $20/month charge to keep a “verified” status to promptly backing off that number, from promising to relax standards and reviews to saying that, well, those currently banned will remain so until after the elections…..you get the idea.
Musk has taken over an existing company that has a strong market presence for a particular purpose. The tough part is how to make money with a company with Twitter at its core. Twitter is a private company, and, sorry to tell you, businesses have a responsibility to the community at large. Businesses do not live in isolation but are integrated into the world around them. So yes, business has a responsibility to clear out the wretched scum and villainy that use their company to spew out violence and bigotry.
Musk is going to get his comeuppance. Twitter? Still in need of competent leadership who can figure out how to leverage the current Twitter product to offer products and services that the marketplace will support and generate revenue.