Groupon Looks to Grow Up (Burp!)

I know the whole daily deals thing isn’t very newsworthy to our readers. I get that. As business people, though, the story of Groupon is actually fascinating and it continues to entertain at the very least.

After a much ballyhooed IPO that left many people (the insiders) rich but now leaves actual investors (the suckers) feeling the pain of reality (the stock opens today at just over $12 per share after its IPO opening of $26 and has shed exactly 53% of its value since that fateful day), Groupon seems, at least from the reports, to be a bit of a mess.

Here’s the question though. If you are looking to right a ship that is supposedly worth billions of dollars would this report from the Wall Street Journal instill confidence that this will get better?

Groupon Inc. Chief Executive Andrew Mason told the company’s employees on Wednesday that the daily-deals site needs to grow up—right after he apologized for drinking too much beer.

In a wide-ranging town hall meeting with employees that lasted about an hour on Wednesday, the 31-year-old CEO at times swigged from a beer bottle while he set corporate priorities for the next six months, including beefing up financial controls and hiring more finance staff. Mr. Mason also discussed how the Chicago company doesn’t “have any margin for error.”

OK, so I am a bit old school. I am silly enough to think that major decisions in life and discussions about those major decisions are usually best served when sobriety is part of the equation. I know that in today’s anti-corporate world it may be cool to drink beer at your work place and party a bit but that doesn’t make it smart.

If you are an investor in the a “next wave” company such as Groupon and this is the report you are getting from the CEO wouldn’t you have at least a slight cause for alarm? Don’t get me wrong, if everything was going well and the company was NOT embroiled in yet another accounting irregularity concern and the stock wasn’t tanking then this behavior would be just fine. In fact, it could be held up as evidence that this irreverence works in business.

Well, guess what folks. It doesn’t and if you believe for even a minute that someone like Andrew Mason should be running a public company like Groupon then you need to get your head examined. Does Mason think this is his problem? Well, maybe the beer isn’t a problem but apparently his ability to run a big company is even if he doesn’t say so directly. Take this comment for instance

The financial revision, Mr. Mason said at the meeting Wednesday, was “the latest in a string of just us making an example of how bad we are at being a public company. We have to get good at this.”

In the meeting, Mr. Mason said Groupon made a strategic decision to grow quickly to race ahead of competitors in the nascent local-deals industry. Now, he said, Groupon needs to slow down and focus on fewer initiatives, including on “quality and control” and “not taking stupid risks.”

Uhh, who has been at the helm during this entire fiasco and why is there not more talk about removing what may well be the real problem? it appears that Mason simply felt he could get away with a lot more as a private company and this accountability thing is for the birds. Yikes, can you say “dumpster fire” which is what this company appears to have turned into?

What’s your take on this kind of management style? Does Groupon have what it takes to right the ship? Is the daily deals space going to be able to support this model or will Groupon ultimately be a bust that is reserved for case studies in business schools?