Sunday B2B Book Review: Winners Dream by Bill McDermott
We continue to find insight, history, and new approaches to B2B when reading books from best in class companies and their executives or founders. Learning from the experts in the areas that are core to our investment strategy is a great way to enhance critical thinking, forecast and opine on the future, and potentially impart some wisdom to our founders. We thought we’d start telling others about what we are reading and begin this Sunday with a book review of Winners Dream by Bill McDermott. Why review and talk about this book? The author is currently the CEO of SAP which is one of the largest business software companies in the world. They do about $27B in revenue, have 330,000 customers, over 100 products, and operate in over 180 countries. Beyond this, Bill McDermott is one of the best sales oriented CEOs in the software business having grown SAP from $39B to $144B through big, audacious sales achievements. Prior to SAP, McDermott held executive roles in general management and sales at Xerox, Gartner, and Siebel Systems.
Our book review of Winners Dream is 4.0 out of 5.0. It is a pretty quick read and we would put it on the list of must reads for any B2B founder. It gives a lot of insight into leadership and good management practices. You will learn quite a bit about Xerox, SAP, and Gartner and how McDermott thinks about running SAP today. The framing of the book is one in which hard work and determination determine the outcome rather than luck. One failing of the book is that there are not many stories on the challenges, the conflict, the regret. Regardless, we came away enjoying it. Below are a few key insights we learned.
1. Never Shift Away From Your Values System. McDermott tells a consistent story about how his values continue to drive him to this day. Early in his career, a customer wanted him to give him and the company free stuff in order to get their business. He had worked hard for the sale. He deserved the sale. He needed the sale to be number one in the country. “But my values took over, and I walked away. They chased me down and he apologized. We did the deal.” In sales it often times is easy to let your guard down and shift away from your values but McDermott hammers this home as one thing you should never do.
2. Employee Recognition Is Key To Success. Most of the leadership roles that McDermott took on involved sales management and generally re-building from the ground up. He tells the story of one instance of this that stuck with us. “When I first came to SAP, their president’s club was pretty much nonexistent. Where’s the winners’ circle trip? On a boat somewhere. Where’s somewhere? Oh, probably the Caribbean. Who’s the entertainment? Shirley and the Shirelles. You know, nothing against Shirley or the Shirelles, but ‘Soldier Boy’ was a hit in the 1950s. So what I did was change people’s mind about the power of pageantry. We started to buy out the island of Hawaii, and because people were on the road away from their families, [we established that] when we recognized them, they could bring their spouses and kids. It created an unbelievable culture, where being in the winners’ circle was such an honor.” Whenever you can, ensure that you are celebrating the victories for those that work hard and help your business win.
3. Empathize With Your Customers. One of the biggest things coming out of the book review of Winners Dream is that empathy pretty much drives most of McDermott’s success. When he owns a deli, empathy means finding an unmet customer need by asking, “Why is Sunday night in my deli always so slow?” and then taking the time to find out more about how his customers live. Empathy helps McDermott achieve a breakthrough when he assumes management of the worst performing sales territory at Xerox (Puerto Rico). Instead of first imposing his own way of doing things, he first tries to understand the wants and needs of the Xerox sales team in Puerto Rico. The stories go on and on but this lesson works for any founder.
Those were some of our key takeaways from the book. We hope you give it a read and look out for another book review next Sunday.
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