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Behind the Cloud – Part 1 – The Start-Up Playbook

Christopher Tuttle

Whenever I read a good book, I like to summarize it so I can learn it better and recall it later.  I have been asked to make these available. So here are my summary notes of part 1 of an incredible book I recently finished called “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff, the founder of salesforce.com. Scroll to the bottom for links to the rest of the summary of the book – Ken Krogue

Behind the Cloud: the untold story of how Salesforce.com went from idea to billion-dollar company—and revolutionized an industry
Marc Benioff – Chairman & CEO of Salesforce.com and Carlye Adler

Part 1 – The Start-Up Playbook – How to Turn a Simple Idea into a High-Growth Company

Play #1: Allow Yourself Time to Recharge. Don’t be afraid to take time off when you need it.

Marc took three months in Hawaii and two months in India to meet the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Mata Amritanandamayi, the “hugging saint” who introduced the idea of giving back to the world while pursuing career ambitions.

Play #2: Have a Big Dream. Pursue it passionately and constantly defend it.

Marc believed in a new way to deliver business of software applications, what is now called ASP, hosted software, on-demand, software-as-a-service (SaaS), or in “the cloud”.

Play #3: Believe in Yourself.  Become passionate and go after your ideas.

Marc believed that SaaS CRM would cut costs, lessen risk, increase success and eventually replace traditional offline software

Play #4: Trust a Select Few with Your Idea and Listen to Their Advice.

“The number-one mistake entrepreneurs make is that they hold their ideas too closely to their chest.” Marc’s friend Bobby Yazdani told him. “Their destiny is their destiny, though.  If they share their ideas, others can help make it happen.”

Play #5: Pursue Top Talent as if Your Success Depended on It.

Marc persuaded Parker Harris, a top technology talent, to join him.

Play #6: Sell Your Idea to Skeptics and Respond Calmly to Critics.

Marc advocates keeping one’s cool rather than the “management by ridicule” style of Larry Ellison at Oracle. Marc advocates Sun Tzu’s The Art of War with these four checkpoints: 1) Stay in the present moment, 2) Observe your feelings, do not become your feelings. Be aware of your reactions; 3) Do not take on others’ feelings, but listen to others—and yourself. 4) Ask yourself, “How should I handle this? Should I react at all?”

Play #7: Define Your Values and Culture Up Front.

March 8, 1999 they began in a one-bedroom apartment, next to Marc’s house. Apple taught Marc to keep people fulfilled and happy to encourage creativity and to “Think Different.” They wore Hawaiian shirts to instill the aloha spirit at the company, ate late breakfasts, and brought their dog to work.

Play #8: Work Only on What is Important.

“Do it fast, simple, and right the first time.” No fluff. 80/20 rule, focus on the 20%.

Play #9: Listen to Your Prospective Customers.

Marc invited friends and colleagues to visit the “Laboratory,” to test, and offer feedback. Best was to make the site easy to navigate with as few clicks as possible. Marc hired a usability company to test the product. Involve prospective users in order to build a user interface that is intuitive.

Play #10: Defy Convention.

Think differently in everything you do.

Play #11: Have—and Listen to—a Trusted Mentor.

Larry Ellison offered Marc the chance to come back to Oracle if it didn’t work out, and he put in $2 million in seed money and joined the Board of Directors. He taught Marc:

  • Always have a vision
  • Be passionate
  • Act confident, even when you’re not
  • Think of it as you want it, not as it is!
  • Don’t let others sway you from your point of view
  • See things in the present, even if they are in the future
  • Don’t give others your power. Ever.

Play #12: Hire the Best Players You Know.

Marc hired Nancy Connery to recruit and run hr, Jim Cavalieri to build infrastructure, and Mitch Wallace to build Oracle’s philanthropy program. Interesting that he put these three first, right behind the key developers.

Play #13: Be Willing to Take a Risk—No Hedging.

Marc decided to leave Oracle and become a full-fledged entrepreneur in July 1999 and find a building. He tells how to leave a place without burning bridges:

  1. Seek the encouragement and support of your mentor.
  2. Build a welcoming environment with familiar faces.
  3. Embrace increased responsibility.
  4. Consider the thrill of the unknown.
  5. Weigh the ability to take risks.

Play #14: Think Bigger.

“No, I would never sell for that. They left a lot of money on the table,” said Marc when discussing the sale of Hotmail for $400 million. More people, more space.

Here are links to the rest of my notes on “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff, I’ll notify of new summaries of other books I do on my Twitter/LinkedIn accounts – Ken Krogue

Part 1 – The Start-Up Playbook – How to Turn a Simple Idea into a High-Growth Company
Part 2 – The Marketing Playbook – How to Cut Through the Noise and Pitch the Bigger Picture
Part 3 – The Events Playbook – How to Use Events to Build Buzz and Drive Business
Part 4 – The Sales Playbook – How to Energize Your Customers into a Million-Member Sales Team
Part 5 – The Technology Play Book – How to Develop Products Users Love
Part 6 – The Corporate Philanthropy Playbook – Make Your Company About More Than the Bottom Line
Part 7 – The Global Playbook – How to Launch Your Product and Introduce Your Model to New Markets
Part 8 – The Finance Playbook – How to Raise Capital, Create a Return, and Never Sell Your Soul
Part 9 – The Leadership Playbook – How to Create Alignment—the Key to Organizational Success
The Final Play

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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