For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a propensity to teach. Even before I started school, I somehow knew that a teacher stood out the front and talked while everyone else listened. I wanted to be the person others listened to. As a four year old it had nothing to do with money or profits, I just enjoyed teaching. So I would line up all my dolls and teach them. Inevitably, they were naughty (I don’t know where I picked up such a foreign concept from 😉 so I would smack their tiny, plastic bottoms!

Two weeks ago I spent time in Silicon Valley and I didn’t sit in a classroom, but I learned lessons that I’d never heard anyone else talk (or write) about.

  1. Size Matters
    The most overwhelming first impression was how HUGE everything was. I felt really tiny all of a sudden, like a four year old in a world of adults. Google, Facebook and Apple all have massive properties. I knew they were global companies and that their headquarters would be big. But there is not just one large building, there is campus after campus, building after building, facility after facility. At Google for example, you’ll need a cycle to move between all the locations which sprawl out over Mountain View.
    Creating a sense of scale, helps profits by giving your customers confidence.
  2. Security Matters
    These tech giants are not just concerned with keeping their software secure, they all have a very visible army of security guards physically protecting their properties. You are not allowed into any of their buildings. You are instructed to just take a photo and move on. And it’s even more pronounced in Silicon Beach (in Los Angeles’ Venice Beach area). Google’s offices don’t even have a logo. And Snapchat’s headquarters has no logo, frosted glass windows and security guards.
    Creating a sense of security, helps profits by giving your employees a sense of confidence.
  3. Real Estate Matters
    Google especially, and to a lesser extent Facebook and Apple have leveraged their income streams into successful investments in real estate. Google owns much more real estate than the offices that their more than 50,000 employees turn up to every weekday. In fact, they own more than 10% of all real estate in the neighborhood. There are places you can stand in Silicon Valley where Google is the owner of everything as far as the eye can see.
    Creating a sense of permanency, helps profits by giving your investors a sense of confidence.
  4. Education Matters
    Facebook is the favourite choice of the big three, especially among women, who want to work with Sheryl Sandberg, and everyone who wants a healthy work/life balance (the sprawling employee carpark is empty on the weekend). Apparently, for every one job opening at Facebook, an average of 10,000 applications pour in. Apple has a reputation for attracting those who love design and want to be the best, but different… even though there is a lot of pressure and constant deadlines. Google has high pressure deadlines too. I was told that “Push” is the favourite word of managers there. And the carpark is sadly full on the weekend. But it is the place you go, if you want to get the best training and development. The Education you receive at Google is *almost* as good as students receive at the nearby campus of Stanford University. All three of the giants benefit from this local pool of students where the campus is packed with motivational banners saying things like “Change the world!”
    Creating a culture of learning helps profits by giving suppliers a sense that you will continue growing.
  5. Location Matters
    I once read that the quickest way to acquire any skill is by association. I’ve read many times that you are the sum of the five people who most associate with. That’s why where you locate yourself matters. Silicon Valley has an entire ecosystem of potential customers, employees, investors, suppliers and entrepreneurs. You can go into just about any cafe (and savvy journalists and bloggers often do) and hear conversations about technology, business and growth. In this environment becoming profitable is so easy it can happen almost accidentally .
    Choosing a strategic location helps profits by giving owners a sense that you are surrounded by profits. And I learnt that teachers don’t always have a classroom: sometimes just associating yourself with success, can teach you much more than a smack on a plastic bottom.

If you want to chat about how you can apply these lessons from Silicon Valley unicorns to your specific business, go to the start working with Shaz page.

Silicon Valley tech tour

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