How to Build a Happy Company

Photo: David Brabyn / Corbis

Wall Street was perplexed last month when Google decided to flout China’s censorship laws, routing Web users to an unrestricted search page based in Hong Kong. In the short term, the move threatens the company’s foothold in the biggest Internet market in the world. By my lights, however, it’s a brilliant long-term plan.

I have followed Google for more than a decade—first as one of the earliest investors (pre-IPO!) in the company and later as an AOL executive who helped arrange a pair of big partnerships with the search giant. But my interest has always been more than merely financial. Google is a prime example of what I call a double-bottom-line company—an organization that measures its success by both its fiscal results and its positive impact on humanity. Google aims to make money, of course, but it also has a motto (“Don’t be evil”) and a higher calling: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. By refusing to participate in Chinese censorship, the company imperiled billions of dollars in future profit. More important, it protected its status as a happy company at peace with its values—and happy companies are more, not less, likely to continue being successful.

The notion of championing principle over profit may strike some people as naive. But I’m no socialist or sap. I realize that “doing the right thing” is meaningless if it doesn’t keep the lights on. My 25 years as an entrepreneur and investor, however, have shown me firsthand the link between pursuing happiness and achieving financial success.

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