Who’s It All About?

There are a number of ways to detect the “soul” of an organization. I like to look at the obvious external signs.

There are a number of ways to detect the “soul” of an organization. Although it can be a lot of fun to get inside a company or group and understand the relationships, the culture, and the tone and tenor of the organization, I like to look at the obvious external signs. It is easier to see things that way to be sure, but you also know that, if it shows outside the organization, it certainly must be there on the inside — usually in spades.

That’s why, to see a company’s culture, I look so often to the things that are readily available to the general public. In looking throughout this site and in my upcoming book (Out of Control?!) you’ll see that I frequently refer to press releases, advertising, and signage as a ways to read an organization’s culture.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice another trend, and it speaks volumes as well. It’s only suitable for this internet era that the sign is the organization’s URL (uniform resource locator — web address). I’ve found that you can read a lot of what the organization is about by the URL they have chosen.

Jason and Nicole Wilson
Jason and Nicole Wilson

A week or two ago my family and I visited the new “hot” restaurant in Seattle: Crush. It has been getting a lot of press, and the young chef is even getting a stint on Martha Stewart’s show (is that an honor??). It’s an interesting little place, set in an old house in the Madison Park area of Seattle. The place is everything it’s supposed to be: it has no parking to speak of, and inside is a hip, trendy, minimalist decor with white plastic furniture that looks like leftovers from the Austin Powers set. The folks are all in black and the food is trying very hard to be great. It was good, but clearly not at or near the top of the excellent Seattle restaurant scene.

But, I digress. When I went to try to find the restaurant to make reservations I did the natural thing: I googled it (“crush restaurant seattle”). And much to my surprise, the URL wasn’t “crushrestaurant.com” (that’s in Calgary, Alberta) or even crushrestaurantseattle.com, or anything similar. No, it’s chefjasonwilson.com. Wow, that’s an interesting choice, I thought, and let it pass.

Casey and Wendy Treat
Casey and Wendy Treat

That was, I let it pass until last night. I couldn’t get to sleep so I turned on late night TV, and after midnight on Sunday is just a wasteland. But in between the infomercials was a show I’ve seen advertised quite a bit here, a religious broadcast from one of the local multi-branch mega-churches that have become so popular (why is a question for another blog). The church is called the Christian Faith Center, and the show is Living on Course. It is lead by an energetic and passionate young pastor Casey Treat and his wife, Wendy, who are both prominently featured in all the promotional material. And the URL is? No, not christianfaithcenter.org or christianfaithinternational.com (the apparent larger organization). Nope, it’s caseytreat.com. You’ll notice two things about that URL: 1) it’s a .com (commercial), not a .org (non-profit), and 2) it’s all about Casey.

So now you see the theme. Both of these organizations (Crush and the Christian Faith Center) are lead by charismatic young up-and-comers. They are trying to “make a name for themselves” and by gosh they have done it, especially with their web addresses. Instead of focusing on their organization, and putting the emphasis on that, they’ve chosen, quite explicitly to put the spotlight on them. In fact, from a web perspective, it’s all about them. That speaks volumes.

Now, before you go crying “hypocrite!” and telling me what a putz I am, complaining about focusing on the individual from a web site with my name (clwill.com), my picture on the front page, let me differentiate. This web site IS all about me. I am a one-man-band. Consultant, speaker, author, it’s all just me. There is no one else. By contrast, these folks (and I’m sure there are others) have chosen to make their public face of their organizations be all about them. I have problems with that.

It takes a pretty healthy ego to think the whole organization revolves around you.

Aside from the difficulties it raises in simply searching for these organizations on the internet, my first and foremost issue is the ego problem. It takes a pretty healthy ego to think the whole organization revolves around you. There’s something about this that reminds me of George Foreman and his five boys named George Foreman II, George Foreman III, etc. Beside the fact that George clearly doesn’t get the whole multi-generational thing, it’s just silly. And stunningly self-centered.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the effect this has on the psyche of the organization. What must the many other members of this organization feel like? They don’t work for the betterment of the organization. The organization doesn’t really have higher goals and aspirations. This isn’t about the best restaurant, or the finest food, or saving the most souls… nope, it’s all about Jason or Casey. How demeaning.

Also, notice that both of these guys have prominent photos on their site of them with their wives. They seem to want to make it seem like a team thing. Nicole Wilson is the first person listed in the “people” section of the Crush web site. But it sure is Jason’s URL. And Wendy Treat is all over their site: “Join Casey and Wendy Treat at…”. The Treat’s try to make it sound like it’s their ministry, but it clearly is Casey’s web address.

What does this say about the lifespan of the organization?

And finally, what does this say about the lifespan of the organization? Does the organization have any life without them? If they die or move on (or get caught in some rancid sex scandal), does the organization die? Restaurants come and go, so perhaps that’s just OK with Crush — without Jason, there is no Crush. I bet his sous chef would like it to be different, but that may be OK with Jason. However, I’m quite sure the many members of the Christian Faith Center don’t think their whole involvement with the organization is with Casey. I’m sure most of them would still like to have a place of worship when Casey Treat is caught with a gay prostitute snorting meth…

So you can tell a lot about an organization from the outside, even from Google. Best of all, you can tell who it’s all about. Is that why the stars of huge business are Exxon Mobil, General Electric, CitiGroup, Bank of America, Chevron, IBM, etc., etc. and companies like Ford, Dell, Gillette, and Sears have lost their luster? Hmmm… interesting…

8 thoughts on “Who’s It All About?

  1. Nancy Williams

    Good post. I have one quibble: those mega-churches ARE all about the principal, the minister who does the show like Casey. It’s entertainment and a family meeting place; the “church” part is just another name for show biz with the minister as the star.

  2. Autumn

    Very interesting outlook. But I find it quite cold. As you know with your research I work at Crush and am very much a part of it’s “organization”. Although I do appreciate your view I wish that you had taken more time to look deeper into the reality of the situation. Jason never hesitates to applaud his staff for their hard work and hospitality. This humility is reflected in the dedication and loyalty of his staff. I hope you decide to come and try us again and perhaps then we could change your mind about our placement on Seattles “restaurant scene”.
    -Autumn Maddox

  3. Chris Williams Post author

    Thank you for your input. I found my entrée quite cold as well… I even discussed it with Jason. He promised to castigate someone for it. Nice.

    The point was not whether Jason is a nice guy, is a good boss, or even if he praises his staff appropriately. The point is that he has quite explicitly decided to make the enterprise about him, not about the whole group. By choosing that URL, he is telling you not “come join a team of people working to build a world-class restaurant”, but “come to work for me”. Those are very different messages, and Jason has very carefully chosen the latter.

    And from a business perspective, finding Crush is hampered by this choice. Worse yet, several good URLs were available including: crushrestaurantseattle.com and even crushseattle.com (although the latter has been grabbed by a URL squatter now). This all just reinforces the “it’s all about Jason” not “all about Crush”.

    Thanks again for commenting. I wish you and Crush all the best.

  4. Michael

    I am sitting here watching the movie version of Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, googling more info on the book and the 1927 phenomenon in general. The movie brought to mind Casey Treat, so I googled on, and I found your blog.

    In my work, I spend quite a lot of time observing the spiritual autocracies of these religious entrepreneurs. Isn’t it ironic that they vociferously damn ego and self centeredness, and then exalt themselves to the high heavens while wrapped in the Bible? They often remind me of the wizard from the Wizard of Oz, standing behind the curtain (pulpit), pulling levers and shouting at the shivering masses. Thank you for being a little Toto, pulling the curtain back and exposing these ordinary men (and women) for what they are, ordinary little men posing as wizards.

    But, the masses seem to need make-believe wizards, and the universe doubtlessly incorporates these amusing displays of egoistic dramas into the larger soul making process. If Pastor Treat disappears from the scene, most of them will find another Oz.

  5. escaped!

    i worked for ego maniacal jason wilson and his bobble headed trophy wife for a long time. during that time, he was verbally and physically abusive to myself and other employees, both behind the scenes and in front of customers. he has chastised other chefs in the city for “poaching employees”, when we were merely tired of being shorted on paychecks and tips, asked to work 7-day weeks and worn-out from abuse AND completely invisible as part of the Jason Wilson machine.

  6. J

    Nope, it’s caseytreat.com. You’ll notice two things about that URL: 1) it’s a .com (commercial), not a .org (non-profit), and 2) it’s all about Casey.

    He has made sure that EVERYONE can find the website by using .com AND .org. Try it.
    Also, it is clear to me that the website is not all about HIM, there is alot of information on what services the church offers, upcomming events and pod casts on his teaching.
    Dont bash … get your info first.

  7. Chris Williams Post author

    J,

    I’m sorry, it IS all about him. It is CASEYTREAT.[whatever]. It’s not ChristianFaithCenter.org., it’s not ChristianFaithIntl.org., it’s CASEYTREAT.[whatever].

    And if you google “casey treat” the .com comes up first. If you look at the bottom of the TV show, it says “.com”. And if you type in “caseytreat.org” it takes you to “caseytreat.com” (look in the page title).

    Then on the web site, there are a thousand pictures of Casey, the “gallery” is “Casey and Wendy in Europe”, “Casey on Mt. Rainier”, etc.

    This is not an organization that is intended to outlive Casey. It is his cult. I’m sorry you don’t see that.

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