Learning from Charles Koch

Have been listening to Tim Ferris’s interview with Charles Koch, which pairs nicely with Sons of Wichita, which I read last year.

In case you don’t know, separate from his efforts to bend our country’s politics to the right over the past 40 years or so (or, maybe, not so separate!), Koch is an extraordinary business leader. He took over his father’s little oil company in 1967 and built it into the second largest private company in America, with $110bn in revenue last year.

The key to Koch Industries’ incredible growth under Charles’ management is a series of astute acquisitions. But Charles seems to think of those acquisitions as partnerships.

His criteria for what makes a good partnership are:

  • Alignment of vision – In other words, having the same big, long-term goal(s)
  • Alignment of values – Obviously, you don’t want to do business with people whose values diverge too far from your own… life’s far too short
  • Complementarity of skills / resources – So that the partners fill in each others’ gaps

Adaptive is, at its core, a partnership between Jon Criss and me. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but the partnership has worked well for more than eight years because we share (i) a long-term faith in the future of Los Angeles, (ii) a willingness to work really hard to build a durable company to help create and benefit from that future, and (iii) complementary skills (deals / financing for me, design / construction for him).

And, over the coming years, as we look to grow by expanding into other, related businesses, we will be looking for partners who fit Koch’s criteria. Whatever you think about his politics, the guys is a master of building businesses.