Case Study

Retaining entrepreneurial spirit during hypergrowth at sportswear brand On (B)

5 pages
November 2023
Reference: IMD-7-2482

When one of On’s co-founders stepped into the elevator at the brand new On Labs headquarters in Zurich, a fellow co-worker asked whether it was also his first day at On. He was speechless. Less than a decade earlier, the 5 partners regularly went for lunch runs with some of the other 30 team members. And now in April 2023, On was a publicly listed multinational company with more than 1,800 employees, some of whom did not know or recognize the founders. This was disconcerting and the five partners reflected on the recent developments. The IPO in 2021 had been a great success and the company had been able to raise $746 million. The funds raised allowed On to further accelerate its growth, and the company had recently passed the CHF 1 billion revenue mark. During the pandemic, 500 new employees had joined the company. To accommodate the growing workforce, a new campus for product development, design and innovation – On Labs, with office space for 1,000 employees – was created in Zurich. After a period of exponential growth, and a number of employees being hired annually – some of them from On’s close competitors – the company was facing new pressures and felt at a crossroads. Although the IPO had had a limited impact on the company culture so far, the partners wondered whether the continued dramatic growth would affect the company culture. Were they going to be able to retain their unique culture and keep it from being diluted, while continuing to grow to achieve their mission? The three founders had a unique opportunity to rethink their role and how they could best contribute to On’s future success.

Learning Objective
  • Impact of growth and an IPO on company culture
  • How to shape corporate culture through growth
  • How to retain entrepreneurial/start-up culture through growth
  • Evolving founder and CEO roles in growing companies
Human Resources, Corporate Culture, Empowerment, Start-up, Growth, Initial Public Offering, Founder, Role
Global, Switzerland
On, Consumer Goods, Sportswear
Field Research
© 2023
Available Languages
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Teaching note
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