We continue this Sunday with our book reviews from great business software leaders. This week, we give you a book review of Behind The Cloud by Marc Benioff. The book, published in 2009, is a compilation of Benioff’s personal account on how he started Salesforce, the $100B+ cloud software company launched in 1999. It also comes with 111 of Benioff’s own management tips. Benioff tells the story of how Salesfore.com grew from a small startup to the company that is now synonymous with the CRM industry. Salesforce is rightly heralded as the most successful SaaS company, with over 30,000 staff and $8B in annual revenue. The book is a foundational read for any business software founder and probably one of the best by way of leadership lessons. The structuring is great in that there are lessons easily accessible on sales, finance, operations, marketing, and other areas.
We give the book a 4.5 out of 5.0. The book gives a lot of history lessons and specifics on the growth of cloud computing and SaaS. Any reader that is starting a company in this ecosystem must read this book. However, most of the lessons are more general management with some weaving in of specific examples and ways in which Benioff solved the problems in front of him. Regardless, it is a fun read and for folks that know some of the actors involved it is a page turner. Below were a few key takeaways from our reading.
1. In Many Cases, End Users Matter More Than You Think. When Salesforce started, most software was marketed towards executives and P+L owners who controlled budget. Benioff says he found this approach nonsensical, and that end users were delighted to finally be given a voice. Salesforce is probably one of the first products in business software where an end user could buy over the web. By focusing on the end user, Salesforce was able to build a community of people who were advocating for their product within their respective companies.
2. Use V2MOM For Your Strategic Planning. We’ve talked bunch about strategic planning on the blog and Benioff invented his own management process and acronym standing for vision, values, mission, objectives, and measures (V2MOM). It was implemented in the first few weeks of operation at Salesforce and has continued today. We won’t get into specifics here but there are some great templates online and any founder should give this process and system a serious look if they are thinking about strategic planning.
3. Always, Always Go After Goliath. As most folks know, Benioff is a bit of marketing genius. The book is filled with accounts of mock protests, over the top events, and peculiar marketing stunts. The police were called on several occasions. All of this to go after Siebel Systems, the Goliath company of the day. Benioff imparts a lot of wisdom in how they developed the tactics and executed on a very strong events and public relations strategy. Any founder should take his advice and thinking to heart as they go up against their Goliath.
The book is a wonderful history lesson about the creation and early growth of the SaaS industry and a must read for anyone operating in this industry. We hope you liked this book review of Behind The Cloud and look forward to another review next Sunday.
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