Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Insights into Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO Microsoft, Oxford

I find this rare off-the cuff interview with Steve Ballmer to be quite fascinating for all kinds of reasons. It is billed as Steve giving insights for the audience of business students in Oxford, 13% of whom are planning to be entrepreneurs. I guess the rest plan to join a bank or an accounting firm.

He certainly has a unique style of management - a loud football coach - born to sell.  I wonder whether he may be hard of hearing. He's definitely a shouter in a world that makes money out of sharing these days. I'm sure people can work for him. It just must be so difficult to work with him.

At 24'40" Steve seems to be saying exactly the opposite to Steve Blank et al. "Those who say fail fast are completely wrong. Great companies and start-ups don't fail fast". They modify their idea, regroup and move on".

In fact I would call that pivoting, accepting that taking a particular path will lead to failure before you go too far down that path. Microsoft should have done that with Windows Millennium, Windows Vista and Windows 8 operating systems. And even Steve acknowledges their ventures with mobile have been a failure to capture the market.

But frankly, hiring someone like Steve Ballmer for your start-up would be a recipe for disaster. He is busy executing a plan. God help you if you are still searching for your business model, as is the case for most start-ups. I wonder what he will do now? Sounds like the Said Business School Dean Peter Tufano is planning to write his biography.

Steve Ballmer is still a director of Microsoft Corporation. He joined Microsoft in 1980 and was the company's first business manager. Ballmer retired as Chief Executive Officer on 4 February 2014. He was guest at the Saïd Business School in Oxford.

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