Crisp DNA

The inner workings of a rather different consulting company

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Ownership model

Crisp is a Swedish aktiebolag (comparable to an English limited company). This means there are shares, and someone has to own them.

So who owns Crisp, how are new owners brought in, and what does ownership mean?

Our model is simple: anyone who has been at Crisp for 2+ years can become an owner.

Why 2 years? Glad you asked! Although we are notoriously picky with recruiting, we might screw up and bring in a bad apple. We’ll probably notice and get rid of a bad apple faster than 2 years! The 2 year rule reduces the risk that the bad apple is also a shareholder, which would complicate the getting-rid-of process.

Now you might thinking “Huh, so anyone is allowed to become a partner? Really?”.

Exactly! The idea is that, if we wouldn’t trust someone to co-own the company, why would we trust them to represent Crisp at all? So if, after two years, we don’t trust a Crisper enough to offer them ownership, that’s a sign they shouldn’t be at Crisp at all. So far this has never happened though.

Actually, in the bad old days we used to have a kind of “selection process” for new partners. Most people hated it, felt like a stupid beauty contest of some sort, and the people who were NOT offered partnership were of course really disappointed and wondered why. So we ditched that model.

So, every year around October (or is it November? ;-) we send an invite to all non-owners who have been around for at least 2 years, and ask them if they want to become owners.

What does ownership cost?

We strive to minimize the financial value of the company. Yes, you heard it right. I know, that’s like the opposite of what other companies do. But remember, the purpose of Crisp is not to enrich it’s owners. The purpose is to help consultants be happy.

We’ve all seen consulting companies that work like pyramid schemes - where old-timers are like fat cats parasiting from the hard work of newcomers. That’s exactly what we don’t want to be.</rant>

So our shares are pretty fixed at the lowest possible price that complies with Swedish law. Over the years this has been a bit over 1000 Euros.

When you become an owner (which is entirely optional), you buy stock at that low price. You will have the exact same amount of stock as the other owners. And if/when you leave Crisp, you must sell your stock back at basically the same price. For details, see contracts.

This means there is no financial incentive to own stocks, no cashing out.

What does ownership actually mean?

Ownership means very little in practical terms. You won’t get rich, and you won’t gain more influence (power is gained through meritocracy, not ownership - see our decision process). In theory there are situations where ownership CAN make a difference, like if our normal decision process completely breaks down and we have to resort to shareholder voting for a critical decision. But that almost never happens.

So what’s the point of being a shareholder? Well, it’s mostly symbolic - the warm fuzzy feeling of co-owning this fine company. Some of us like that (about half the company as of 2014) and have opted in, while others see ownership as just extra paperwork with no personal benefit and have opted out. Either way is fine, and non-owners will keep getting the invite every year :o)

What if someone buys Crisp?

In theory someone could come along and shell out a bunch of cash to buy Crisp, and in that case the owners would in a sense cash out. But with the current structure we see that as extremely unlikely. Crisp itself is just a container, a platform. The real value is the consultants, and they aren’t even employed by Crisp. So although someone can technically buy Crisp, they can’t really buy the people inside Crisp. And besides, who would buy a company that explicitly strives to minimize it’s financial value :o)

But who knows. The world can be strange sometimes.