The “startup mentality” at Tesla has been an important part of its early success and a clear contrast with its competitors in the auto industry, but as a company grows, it generally transitions to a more traditional corporate way of operating.

Tesla has shown some resistance against this transition and now CEO Elon Musk says that the company needs to maintain its ‘hardcore’ mentality in order to accomplish its mission.

It’s clear that Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy is extremely important to employees – you can easily know just by briefly talking to them, especially those who have been there for a few years.

Tesla made having a passion for the mission an important part of their recruiting process and employee orientation.

It’s easier to maintain with a few hundred or even a few thousands employees, but the company recently grew its workforce to over 30,000 employees and that can complicate things, especially since a lot of them came through recent acquisitions.

In an email to employees obtained by Electrek this week, Musk said that Tesla is redoing its “first day orientation and Tesla handbook” following its recent growth:

“About four years ago, I sent out an email describing some of the core principles of Tesla. Since then, we have grown from 4,500 people to 33,000, so the vast majority of the company has never received this note. We are redoing the first day orientation and Tesla handbook to more clearly capture and emphasize these points, but I thought I should send this out in advance.”

Among the “core principles of Tesla” that Musk is trying to pass on to new employees, he insisted that they should “pay particular attention” to a specific point.

He wrote in the email:

“Tesla has to be hardcore and demanding, not for the hell of it, but because we are fighting for a good cause against giant, entrenched competitors who just want the status quo to continue. The list of companies that want to kill Tesla is so long, I’ve lost track – a week doesn’t go by without some “Tesla Killer” article. The only way for a little company to prevail against those much larger companies is to work faster, smarter and harder.”

To be fair, while some automakers have referred to their own vehicles as “Tesla Killer”, that’s mainly a narrative that has been pushed by the media. That was true four years ago and it is still true today since we still see those articles every week.

But what is most interesting here is that Musk is clearly trying to reinforce this “hardcore mentality” which is most associated with startups – but in a company that is rapidly becoming a large corporation with now over 30,000 employees.

The CEO is known for working long hours and even sleeping on the factory floor when needed, but he also asks a similar level of commitment from his employees.

In the email, Musk also added that “the passing grade at Tesla is excellence.” No pressure for employees…

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