Monday, July 30, 2007

Learning From Microsoft

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, (see not about Steve Ballmer at the end of this post) recently had a presentation to wall street financial analysts. That talk is now available to all of us. While looking at the powerpoint presentation and listening to Steve blab on (no offense Steve) I was awakened from my stupor occasionally by things that hit home for all business. Here's couple:
Innovation: Value All Forms

Every business has to innovate continuously if you want to remain relevant and superior to the competition. How do we interpret this for a small business?
Build and Buy. Those are completely relevant just as they are with no interpretation. Sometimes it makes sense to build it yourself; sometimes you're better off buying it. I've done both. We build internal skills sets. We build our book of business by advertising and meetings, meetings, meeting. But we buy groups of clients from technicians that want to join us. We also buy tools (which in our cases means both software and physical tools) to help us get the job done more efficiently.
Large Scale and Small Scale. To interpret this you need to know something about the applications listed on the slide in those categories. The items listed under Large Scale are the bread and butter of Microsoft: Vista (Windows) and MS Office. He could have thrown Windows Server in there. This is where Microsoft makes its money. The software listed as Small Scale are the packages Microsoft is pretty sure will lead to significant revenue in the future. They are out there and building revenue. In small business we have these too only by different names. Large Scale is the thing we do. It's what we're known for. Small Scale are the things we do that make us well-rounded, set us apart from the competition, give us joy, and add to the revenue stream.
Research. Microsoft spends more money on research that any other company in the world by a large margin, nix that, by a VERY large margin. I wish I had the numbers handy to show you. It's truly astounding. In small business do we spend money on research? Yes we do and maybe we should add it up and assign a dollar value. Research in small business are those things that we do to make sure we know where the market is going and what it's going to want next year. It's how we keep our relevance. It's not about generating revenue today. It's about making sure we keep generating revenue in the future. For me it's going to conferences, reading, learning, being chapter leader of a local IT Pro group, being an active member of several online communities, seminars, chamber of commerce, etc.
Occasionally we have something to learn from the big guys. We're not that different from the Fortune 500. We require innovation too and we need to value all of the forms that innovation takes on and support those because innovation drives every business.
Of Note about Steve Ballmer: He's a native of Detroit. He's the first person in the USA to become a Billionaire from Stock Options. He's loud. He's apparently afraid of nothing. He returns email, personally, even from me. He's known for erecting a guillotine on the Microsoft campus and placing a Novell server under it, chopped it in half, declared something about killing Novell corporation and then sent everyone back to work. He also hyperactive. Here's the video. How much do you love your company?


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