Groupon CEO’s farewell letter provides lessons in messaging and writing today

If your CEO or GM was fired and wrote a farewell message to the troops, can you imagine what it would be? Lots of officious BS and dishonesty–like I’m leaving to spend more time with my family. Lots of spin, lots of putting lipstick on the pig.

But when Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason was fired for the disastrous performance of the company he founded, he wrote in the “new style” and in the process shows some important lessons for writers and “messagers.”

Here’s what he wrote:

(This is for Groupon employees, but I’m posting it publicly since it will leak anyway)

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.

Love,

Andrew

 

A few comments:

- it was a private message that he went ahead and made public because he knew it would be anyway. Which means, he wrote it for a public audience. Big lesson: everything is public.

- he pokes fun of the officious BS, which resonates well with “the Internet” today

- he is honest, funnily and brutally honest, making both his sorrow and pride very clear

- he does nothing to duck his responsibility or even hint that those lousy busybodies on the board don’t know what they are doing

- he gives credit to the success they enjoyed to his employees–and challenges them on to greater things.

I’m doing some training right now with a major client on writing for the web. What I see is that it is a struggle for many in larger organizations to understand and adapt to the remarkable change in communication style. I am convinced that one of the reasons large companies earn the disdain of too many young people is that the continue to present themselves publicly covered in that officious BS. They can’t relate, and they mistrust as a result. Let Andrew Mason show how such writing should be done.

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