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WL Gore: a company built on two frameworks

There aren't many brands that are as big in consumer markets as they are in business to business markets. WL Gore is one of them. The general public is familiar with Gore-Tex, the wonder breathable fabric used in outdoor gear. In business Gore is famous for its cable assemblies used in aerospace, test equipment and computing. It makes fibres that that produce super strong ropes for industry and marine applications. It makes filtration products and medical products. The list goes on.

What makes WL Gore even more interesting is its business model. The company was set up in 1958 in Newark, Delaware, by Bill and Vieve Gore. Their aim was to build an organisation where inventive people could have fun and make money. The company has proved itself over the years such that in 2018 it had revenues of $3.5 billion. It has a highly unusual structure. It is genuinely flat. Gore's employees carry business cards that state their name but no title. That's not quite true because a small number of people are allowed to use the word "leader" on their cards. Gore defines a leader as "anyone who demonstrates a capability of attracting followers".

The flat organisation encourages innovation and speed of decision-making. Employees are motivated by being "associates". They are shareholders who play an active part in the four founding principles of the company which are freedom, fairness, commitment and waterline (waterline is avoiding making a hole in the boat without first consulting colleagues. In other words, avoid actions that could seriously damage the company).

B2B Frameworks promotes business frameworks – tools for building companies. Bill Gore was a big believer in these tools and he built his company on two of them – Theory X/Theory Y and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. These two tools emphasise the importance of people and they encourage the emergence of natural leaders. Click on the hyperlinks and see how they work. They could help you enjoy some of the success achieved by Gore.

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