• SONY DSCAt Semco in Brazil © KGP 2014
  • SONY DSCDirector Elisabeth Scharang and rechercheuse, unit manager and translator Carolina Freitas da Cunha © KGP 2014
  • SONY DSC© KGP 2014

Looking into the Land of Milk and Honey

Working routine at SEMCO

Elisabeth Scharang on shooting for her documentary “KICK OUT YOUR BOSS” at SEMCO in Brazil.

Looking at Ricardo Semler’s ideas of a democratic corporate model was like the land of milk and honey to me. Thirty years ago, Semler (Brazil) took over his father‘s marine turbine factory under the condition that he would be free to decide independently. Subsequently Semler‘s father took a vacation…

By Elisabeth Scharang

.. and his 21-year-old son completely changed the way how business was done: no more secretaries, no more special privileges for executives that could create social in equality, no contracted working hours, no compulsory attendance, and disclosure of financial statements and salaries informations.

In the time before taking over the company, Ricardo Semler traveled to Japan, America, Europe and China to take a look around. He studied the corporate and social structures and retrieved all the information he would need for his experiment.

It was a long and very communication-intense process that is still on the move and constantly being adapted. Some things have proven successful, some not so much.

Though put into practice, is his model really as effective as it is in Semler‘s books? On my arrival, my critical attitude was answered with a smile by the SEMCO employees. During many years, hundreds of business executives from all over the world came to São Paolo to get a closer look at SEMCO‘s open-plan offices and their way of doing business. And of course they were all looking for flaws. Looking for a prove that allows them to go back home, relieved, knowing that the idea was good in theory but in practice it was never gonna work.

The visiting tours were practically discontinued. The SEMCO employees were tired of being looked at like zoo animals. They were tired of convincing everybody that participation is alive at SEMCO. »You are totally free to take a look around and talk to everybody here. And if you need anything, don‘t hesitate to ask me.« That‘s how Ricardo Semler received me at SEMCO – with utmost frankness.

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