American Apparel CEO: vilified for not being like millions of other sheep

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BusinessWeek has a really interesting story on Dov Charney, the CEO of American Apparel.

Here’s a guy who doesn’t stick to the corporate culture of button-down, be good, and shut up. Quite the opposite. He appears pants-less in his ads, has had relationships with his staff, and  has built American Apparel into a $520 million dollar powerhouse.

And of course, he’s being vilified for it. Which, I’m sorry, is REALLY FREAKING SAD. Why do we live in a society where having FUN doesn’t coincide with doing a great job? Why are we so concerned about offending people, so scared that we might hurt someone’s precious sensibilities, that we go after ANYONE with just a HINT of cowboy-ish attitude? Imagine what could be created, what great things we could do, how far we could reach, if everyone stepped off their damn high horse for five seconds and didn’t worry so much about offending every other living, breathing thing! Imagine what we could do if we just DID IT, instead of having to consult with a board, twelve advisors, fifteen lawyers, and a handful of meaningless vice-presidents, all of whom err on the side of boring-as-hell caution.

What a shame.

Quote from the article here:

As the company has grown, Charney has tried to maintain an “environment of freedom,” in which, for example, art department employees working late can drink alcohol, and anyone can walk into the boss’s office at any time. BusinessWeek spoke to a number of current and former American Apparel employees who say the culture actually motivates them to work long hours. Tacee Webb, a 32-year-old mother of two who opens new stores on the West Coast for American Apparel, says she has heard Charney curse, scream, and make comments about employees’ appearances, but never to the point of it being offensive. “I’ve seen a lot of things go on at other businesses, and it’s all weird and hushed,” she says. “Dov is just out in the open.” Adds Clara Reis, Charney’s personal assistant for two years, who left American Apparel for another job earlier this year: “Some people might misunderstand the way he is about sexuality. He just considers sex a natural thing. He won’t put any limits on it.”

Where’s the problem? I’d rather work in an environment where everything was out in the open, as opposed to done behind back doors and closed offices.. You know, those closed offices that were such models of morality… Like. um, Enron? Tyco?

When Geek Factory was 15 people, everything was out in the open. And it was great. You had a problem? I was there. Talk to me, and we solve it. Nothing was hidden. Want to date another employee? Fine. If they want to date you, go for it. Working late on a Thursday? Hell, I’ll buy you the damn beer. And you know what? I’d bet that no employee who ever worked for me has EVER had a job that was as much fun as Geek Factory.

I’ve got your back, Mr. Charney. 100%.

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