How to run a multi-million dollar company with (almost) no rules

Recently I watched a video that blew my mind. The speaker Ricardo Semler runs a Brazilian company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars and yet has almost no rules at all – no set hours, location, holiday time, management structure, or business plan.

Want to go to the beach or to see a film on a Monday afternoon? You can.

And it was all inspired by Ricardo’s take on life (and death):

“On Mondays and Thursdays, I learn how to die.

I call them my terminal days. My wife Fernanda doesn’t like the term, but a lot of people in my family died of melanoma cancer and my parents and grandparents had it. And I kept thinking, one day I could be sitting in front of a doctor who looks at my exams and says, “Ricardo, things don’t look very good. You have six months or a year to live.”

And you start thinking about what you would do with this time. And you say, “I’m going to spend more time with the kids. I’m going to visit these places, I’m going to go up and down mountains and places and I’m going to do all the things I didn’t do when I had the time.” But of course, we all know these are very bittersweet memories we’re going to have. It’s very difficult to do… So I said, I’m going to do something else.

Every Monday and Thursday, I’m going use my terminal days. And I will do, during those days, whatever it is I was going to do if I had received that piece of news.”


Watch the video to see how he built the entire company around this idea:

Starting early

As Ricardo reveals in his talk, he discovered that a lot of new employees had a hard time adjusting after working somewhere else – and after the way education prepares us to be a passive employee. He realised they needed to start this more natural way of working earlier.  So they started a school. That way people would never be brainwashed to be workers, instead they would become ‘players’ right from the start.


What do you think?

What do you make of Ricardo’s ideas? Even for me, they were pretty radical! But I believe this is the vision for work for the 21st Century.

Leave a comment and give me your thoughts…

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  • Loved it. He doesn’t just think out of the box – he got rid of the box altogether. I believe the traditional way of working and educating people is so out of synch with what is needed today both in terms of personal fulfilment and effectiveness. Ricardo’s ideas are like a breath of fresh air. I would like to get him together with Sir Kenneth Robinson and be a fly on the wall.

  • johnsw

    Yes! Richard Branson has already been inspired by him I think.

  • Fola E

    What a humble and unselfish man! His philosophy is all about focusing on what is really important in life in both work and non-work life. I’m really inspired by this. I liked what he did by burning all his books and other symbols of his achievements – you have to be totally ego-less to do that. It seems that facing death can spur us on to truly live… Thanks for sharing that John.

  • johnsw

    He’s fantastic isn’t he, Fola? Yes amazing not to hold on to his achievements at all, just keep moving forward

  • Youcanthidethespark

    Wow, what an inspiring man! I started watching this thinking I didn’t have time and I should be doing something else, and then I found myself thinking ‘What’s more important than THIS?!’ Really inspiring and, as Sarah says, a breath of fresh air. Thanks for sharing it.

  • James Gregson

    Nice to see a fresh approach. We have to re-invent the whole thing I suppose…

  • johnsw

    I think so

  • Longwayaround

    If I could work at one of his schools, I’d go back to teaching. His ideas on education and managing people are spot on. You get more out of students and employees when there is purpose in their learning/work and are given autonomy.

  • johnsw