There’s no disputing that Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, has a way with building a business from the ground up.
Tesla and SpaceX are both spectacularly successful. The jury’s still out on his Boring Company, the one that touts pie-in-the-sky solutions to traffic woes, as is also the case with Neuralink, which aims to put chips in people’s brains.
Acquiring somebody else’s business, on the other hand, seems to pose challenges for Musk.
It doesn’t seem like hyperbole to say he’s fumbled the ball pretty much from the get-go in his $44-billion acquisition of Twitter.
From the bloated purchase price to the subsequent cold feet and legal wrangling, to the latest PR nightmares since taking control of the social-media platform, Musk appears to be offering a case study in how not to acquire a company.
This past weekend’s snafus underline that point.
First Musk rolled out the $8 monthly fee he hopes will help him recoup his billions of dollars. Then he rolled it back until after Tuesday’s elections.
Then came reports that, after sacking about half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees, Musk determined that some were let go by mistake and others were still needed because they were the only ones who could implement changes Musk desired.
He reportedly begged dozens of fired workers to come back, at least for a while.
Then Musk declared that he’d permanently ban anyone who impersonated someone else after a number of Twitter users impersonated … Musk himself. Comedian Kathy Griffin was among those getting the heave-ho.
These missteps perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise for a businessman who waived due diligence before spending billions on a company he clearly didn’t understand as well as he should have.
Moreover, there are reams of business books that offer guidance for taking over another company — from doing your homework in advance to ensuring you don’t lose your best people.
Musk seems to not have read any of those, preferring instead to trust his instincts.
He’s a smart guy, no one disputes that. He’ll undoubtedly figure things out.
But all business leaders should learn from his example. Corporations, we’ve been told, are people. That’s important for any CEO to keep in mind.
Yes, a business leader needs to be willing to execute bold strategies. Yes, you sometimes have to sacrifice pieces to win the game.
But this isn’t rocket science.
We know from successful mergers — Disney acquiring Pixar, say — and unsuccessful ones — hi, AOL Time Warner! — how to make these things go smoothly and how to run them off the road.
Twitter is now spinning its tires as it attempts to get back up to speed.
The danger as some users contemplate alternative platforms is that the company could become roadkill.