Readers of this blog know that we pride ourselves on our transparency here at Fab.
To that end, I wanted to take a moment to clear up some misconceptions about how we work at Fab.
A Bloomberg article yesterday put forth some blatant misrepresentations about Fab. I don’t usually make it a habit of taking to my blog to rebut press stories but the misrepresentations of Fab in this article were so egregious that I felt compelled to clear the air. Some may ask why I would even bother to acknowledge the article and draw even more attention to it. My answer is simple. We have four constituents at Fab: our customers, our designers, our employees, and our investors. Our goal is for our four constituents to love Fab. To that end, it is important to us that they know what Fab is really like. I am often asked if we will continue to be so transparent as we grow. We plan to stay this way on our best days as well as when we are challenged.
Before I jump into it, I will note that this sort of “takedown” wasn’t unexpected. We’ve grown really big really fast at Fab and we’ve raised a lot of money along the way. There are bound to be naysayers, skeptics, and critics. That’s normal. It’s our job to prove them wrong. We’re up for that challenge. It’s what we do. And I don’t want any of our customers, designers, employees, or investors to think for a minute that this sort of poke is going to distract us from our focus on our core mission. (A wise Fab investor wrote me yesterday with regards to the story: “As I was told a long time ago you are not somebody until someone wants you dead :)” — ok, maybe that’s the extreme, but we own it.)
We are on a mission to be the world’s design store.
The Fab culture is all about achieving this mission. That’s our goal. That drives all of our decisions. And that drives the intensity, perfectionism, and humor of the culture we have created at Fab.
What’s it like to work at Fab?
Contrary to press reports, there are no “rules” for how to work at Fab. Instead, each employee gets an AMAC plastic storage box to put on their desk to remind them of the Fab company values:
- Put Customers First.
- Exude Passion.
- Take Ownership.
- Foster Teamwork.
- Go Above & Beyond.
- Be Transparent.
- Stay Humble.
- Make it Fun.
(There’s a tad of irony in all this that Bloomberg itself infamously has a 376-page company manual, “The Bloomberg Way” — a “376-page rule book that all new hires are required to study during intensive orientation boot camps.” Source: New York Magazine)
Here are some basic claim/facts in response to the Bloomberg article.
Claim. [Fab] lost or fired at least 11 of its executives in the past year.
Fact. To-date, Fab has had one C-level departure and 4 VP-level departures in 2 years. We have about 650 total employees today and more than 60 people in global management.
Claim. [Fab] missed its 2012 targets for revenue by almost 20 percent.
Fact. Fab achieved its budgeted revenue goal for 2012. Period.
I had also put forth a stretch goal that was 20% higher than our official budget. We had hoped to achieve that stretch goal but like many retailers we saw a weaker than expected October and November 2012 due to the U.S. election attention on the economy and then the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Nonetheless we still put up $45M in sales in Q4 2012 and followed that with nearly $40M in Q1 2013. We’re extremely proud of this. My mistake was letting my bullishness on the stretch goal get out there publicly. I own that.
Claim. [Fab] employees are asked to send e-mails in a certain font, use high-quality paper and always “be Fab.”
Fact. Yes! We do have some basic expectations for brand consistency — as most companies do. We expect Fab employees to use our standard company font, use high-quality paper, and live the Fab values. This is all pretty standard brand best-practice stuff.
Claim. Fab employees are not allowed to put their jackets on the back of their chairs.
Fact. We have some basic expectations around our office environment. The Fab office is a show-space. Every day we have designers and makers visit Fab. To that end, we strive to keep our office looking as crisp and clean and compelling as our website and apps. We ask that Fab employees utilize coat racks and closets instead of putting their jackets on their chairs. We ask them to try to keep their desks tidy. All of this is in the name of putting our best foot forward to visitors. Do we police it? No. It’s just a general expectation.
Claim. One e-mail to the New York office from Goldberg on Dec. 6 asked for a confession from whichever employee left a mess in Fab’s model apartment.
Fact. As I explained to the reporter, this wasn’t the case of someone making a mess. It was a horrible case of vandalism. On the evening of December 5, 2012 an individual seriously vandalized and damaged the Fab model apartment that we use for photo shoots. We were greatly disturbed by this. My harsh email resulted in an employee coming forward and providing us with information showing that the individual responsible for the vandalism was not a Fab employee and we took appropriate measures.
Claim. A message on Feb. 4 carried the subject header “Do you like getting paid?” Goldberg told employees they were required to have a photo uploaded to the “team” page on Fab.com “in order to be eligible for the next company pay period. No exceptions.”
Fact. We pride ourselves on humor and transparency at Fab. As part of our major relaunch relaunch of our employee pages on Feb 5 we required every employee to be listed publicly. The bit about holding out pay was a way to get everyone’s attention. It worked. We required everyone to participate in Fab’s transparency, as it is one of our company values.
Claim. An e-mail on Oct. 11 from Shellhammer, who serves as chief design officer, forbids people from modeling Fab’s products. Employees had been inserting themselves into shots of the company’s wares posted on its website. “If you have time to model, you have time to get fired,” Shellhammer wrote.
Fact. It was a joke. We have about a thousand jokes just like it. “If you have time to xyz, you have time to get fired.” It’s a joke about staying focused and not getting distracted.
Yes, we know that getting fired isn’t the sort of thing to normally joke about. But before haters hate on us, come visit Fab’s offices. We have this thing at Fab called “do your one thing” - the notion that everyone should focus on doing the one thing they are the best at above all other things and that the accumulation of everyone’s one things creates a great organization. No one’s one thing at Fab is to be a professional model.
Claim. [Fab] applies a culture of meticulous control.
Fact. Our employees have an intense amount of freedom within the structure we’ve created to make Fab great.
Claim: Fab spent a lot on marketing last year.
Fact: This is true. I have said publicly that I wish we had about $10M of marketing spend from last year back in our pockets — online ad spend we wish we had spent more efficiently in hindsight. That’s all part of learning and improving. In addition, we also chose to spend more on marketing in Europe last year that in our original plans, in order to successfully fight off the Samwer brother’s Fab clone, Bamarang. That was money well spent as we defeated them and they shut down, leaving Fab with no direct online competitor in Europe.
Claim: I don’t care if we do $200 million or $300 million in sales in 2013.
Fact: This is 100% true. All we care about is that we make our customers, designers, employees, and investors love us. If we accomplish that, lots of value will be created over time. Love first, sales second. That’s what it takes to win at emotional commerce.
Fab has only been around for two years and we’ve accomplished a lot in those two years but we’re still just getting started. It takes time, effort, resources, and the hard work of amazingly talented people to build a long-lasting brands. It takes tenacity, drive, and passion. We have that in abundance at Fab.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to every one of our Fab employees past and present for your incredible efforts on behalf of Fab. We believe in our team and in our ability to execute on our big vision. We are also a learning organization and we welcome continuous feedback on how to make Fab the best employer in the world.
I’ll end with one of our most important Fab values: Stay humble. We are only as good as our next broken dish. We have to keep at it and earn it every day.
Oh, and we’re hiring. If you’re smart, ambitious, and ready to live the Fab values, please apply.
Smile, you’re designed to.
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