Looking for some paper at work, I saw a line of books on the cabinet with a note “take one.” Ah, a business book by the CEO of SAP, signed by the author? I took two! One for myself and one for a coworker 🙂
Yes, I can be easily tempted by a free business book (much more than a free t-shirt), but this book was a pleasure! A very inspirational story with lively characters and colorful stories takes the reader through the life and career of Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP.
Bill’s remarkable understanding of people, extended to understanding of customers, most likely, was one of key components of his success. This perspective matched with constantly changing world: customers’ needs changed – so should the company’s offering. The book ended with the author’s desire to share the insight and help new generations of leaders to take their businesses further.
The most thought-provoking point of the book, I thought, was ASP’s ability to develop a deep understanding of business benefits of the product, selling it successfully based on these business benefits, and not using it internally.
The irony was that, despite knowing the value of our own CRM software, we weren’t even using it. Seriously. People were tracking their sales status on paper… It would have been funny – if it weren’t so unproductive.
Hm… What is it I am “selling” and not using?
A few more interesting points from the book:
- “A good strategy had to be easy to understand. Some people, I believed, confused complexity with a great strategy and equated volume with intelligence.”
- “…I had always embraced simplicity as a leader. Not because I feared or could not grasp complexity, but because it was so easy for other people to walk away from complexity.”
- Bill saw the opportunities to emphasize value of his product or service instead of discounts, based on customer knowledge. As a young person running a store, he added delivery or credit, if it helped the categories of customers he observed (even trust – by treating teenagers coming to the store with respect). He shifted conversations “from a piece of technology to productivity” at Xerox and later recognized the need of interface design to make SAP products easier to use.
- How a technology can improve business outcome? Xerox first color copier could not compete on quality of the color image. It was positioned as a copier for business needs and offered to business customers “You are an investment baker preparing a big presentation…Make your argument more enticing in color… and for a lot less than competitors’ extravagant copiers.”
- Turning around under-performing district started from realizing that people were not lacking work ethic and energy, they lacked hope. Giving the hope (and support) moved the lowest-performing district to the top rank. “The more powerful, lasting motivator was the idea that we were all working together toward a crazy miracle.”
- Change management:
- “The people in our district did not fear change. What they feared was what most people feared, which was change without well-defined expectations, change without a plan, and change without a goal. Ambiguous change, what’s what turned people off.”
- “People are most likely to change their minds when the world they once knew no longer exists. A leader’s challenge, then, is to explain why the old world went away, show people what the new world looks like, and get them excited to be a part of it.”
- SAP challenges: “…SAP salespeople were telling a technology story when we needed to be telling a business story.” A new team was created to evaluate the company and give recommendations on its business improvement, not the technology objectives.
- “The world is littered with a lot of companies that, when they were strong, decided not to change. We’re not going to be one of those companies.”
- Communication: “Anything worth communicating is almost always under-communicated.” “As much as I loved technology, especially the mobile movement, an inescapable truth was that too many people were out of practice communicating with one anther in person. There’s no replacement for human interaction.”
Excellent book – highly recommend!