n 2008, W. L. Gore & Associates celebrated its fiftieth year in business. During the first four decades of its existence, Gore became famous for its products and for its use of business teams located in a single facility. To facilitate the development of teams, corporate facilities were kept to 200 associates or fewer. Due to the challenges of a global marketplace, business teams are no longer in a single facility. They are now often spread over four continents. Products are sold on six continents and used on all seven, as well as under the ocean and in space. The challenge of having a successful global presence requires virtual teams to enable a high degree of coordination in the development, production, and marketing of products to customers across the world. As previously, teams are defined primarily by product, but no longer by facility. Team members are now separated by thousands of miles, multiple time zones, and a variety of languages and cultures. Growth and globalization present significant challenges for Gore as it strives to maintain a family-like, entrepreneurial culture. According to Terri Kelly, the president of Gore and a 30-year associate
In the early days, our business was largely conducted at the local level. There were global operations, but most relationships were built regionally, and most decisions were made regionally. That picture has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years, as businesses can no longer be defined by brick and mortar. Today, most of our teams are spread across regions and continents. Therefore, the decision-making process is much more global and virtual in nature, and there’s a growing need to build strong relationships across geographical boundaries. The globalization of our business has been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the last 25 years.