9 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
Bob Gore, son of the founder of a privately held company (the inventor of Gore-Tex) is debating the pros and cons of going public, the main challenge of which will be the effect on a company that has developed a successful and innovative culture.
W.L. GORE & ASSOCIATES
Bob Gore sat in his modest office glowing with pride. In the most recent issue of Fortune magazine, his company, W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. was cited as one of “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America.” It marked the fifth time Gore was included on the coveted list and made it one of fewer than 20 companies to be included on each list since its inception in 1983. This was one of many awards W.L. Gore & Associates had received: the company was often recognized for its unique corporate culture as well as innovative products. Bob recalled stories about when his parents, Wilbert Lee “Bill” and Genevieve “Vieve” Gore, first talked about a new work culture while backpacking in the Utah Mountains more than sixty years ago. As teen-agers they had spent their free time hiking the scenic trails, chatting about what they liked and disliked about their jobs, how they hated bureaucracy, and how the workplace could be so different.
Suddenly the phone rang. Bob knew it was his weekly call from John Winston, a managing director in Morgan Stanley's investment banking division. Recently John had been pressuring Bob to offer shares of W.L. Gore & Associates in the public markets. Bob was well aware of the value the investment community would place on Gore's patents and track record for success, but he questioned whether a public offering was the right move for the family and employee-owned company.
Bill Gore was born in Meridian, Idaho in 1912. In 1933, he earned a chemical engineering degree from the University of Utah. Two years later, Gore graduated with a master's in physical chemistry and wed Vieve Walton. He took a position with E.I. DuPont de Nemours as a research chemist, and his early assignments took him all over the world. Gore finally settled in Newark, Delaware in 1945. From 1945 to 1957, Bill worked on a task force in the research labs at DuPont. The task-force approach to problem solving had just been introduced at DuPont and had become increasingly popular in scientific research after prototype groups had proven their effectiveness in World War II. Bill's group was intent on fabricating useful products from a polymer DuPont had patented in 1937 called polytetrafluoroethylene, known as PTFE to scientists and Teflon to consumers. Bill recalled, “The task force was exciting, challenging and loads of fun. Besides, we worked like Trojans. I began to wonder why entire companies couldn't be run the same way.” Ultimately, another task force succeeded in creating a thermoplastic co-polymer of PTFE that could be conventionally fabricated. DuPont was satisfied with the discovery, Bill's task force was dissolved and employees went back to their departments.
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Keywords: inovation management, leadership, organizational structure, teams
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Harder, Joseph and Townsend, D., W.L. Gore & Associates. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0700. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910771
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