Method to the Madness

At Trilogy Software Inc., the rules are work hard, play hard.


The cult on the hill. The software sweatshop. The company run by kids. Chief recruiter Jeff Daniel has heard them all. For some people, Trilogy’s culture is too outrageous, too juvenile. “A lot of people look down their noses at us,” says Daniel. “They don’t get it.” What makes Trilogy so unusual? A set of rules that you won’t find in a company handbook — because there isn’t one. So, by way of a Trilogy primer, here are a few of the unwritten rules that explain the method to the madness at Trilogy.


Talk the talk.

If you’re going to act like a Trilogian, you’ve got to sound like one. You don’t “learn new skills” or “become an expert” on software. You “ramp up.” You don’t say, “Austin and Trilogy are a good fit.” You say, “Trilogy maps really well to Austin.”

Work hard.

No matter when you cruise down the Capital of Texas Highway, the lights at Trilogy headquarters, which is perched above the road, always seem to be on. Trilogians are notorious for keeping long hours. “I’m working only 12 hours today,” someone confesses during a break. “Don’t put my name in your article.”

Play hard.

No matter how hard you work, work has to be fun, says Liemandt. He practices what he preaches. He’s a regular at POP, the company’s Friday-afternoon happy hour, where he acts less like a host than like one of the gang. When TU ’98 charters a couple of buses to go to a barbecue restaurant outside Austin, Liemandt is on board. On the way home, he and his new colleagues take turns telling jokes on the bus’s microphone.

Play well with others.

This principle extends beyond office teamwork. A lot of Trilogians go rock climbing or mountain biking together. Or they go waterskiing on one of the company’s boats. “It’s a community,” says Liemandt. “If you want to be a part of it only 40 or 50 hours a week, because you have a family, that’s fine.”

Get used to criticism.

Liemandt wants risk takers who will question their own ideas and acknowledge their failures. “Every manager at Trilogy has screwed up something. I’ve screwed up hundreds of things,” he says. “You have to broadcast your failures so that everybody can learn from them: ‘This was a fiasco. Let’s not do it twice.’ “

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug