The life of a CEO is not always as hyped up as people make it to be. From what former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, it seems even they have a few regrets of their own. Even they feel that there are some decisions that should have been or could have been made differently.
Ballmer was the CEO of Microsoft for 14 years, from the January of 2000 until February 2014. He was given the position after Bill Gates stepped down and chose to just remain the chairman of the board. Gates was still Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, hence he had most control of the company’s ideas and vision. However, in 2006, Gates stepped down from that position as well, which gave Ballmer the freedom to make alter and change the major factors of the company.
So what regret does the CEO of 14 years have? While addressing students at the Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, Ballmer was faced with the question of what the biggest regret in his career was. Ballmer answered by saying that it was delaying the decision of transitioning from software to hardware. He believes that the company should have combined hardware and software sooner, as it seemed to have worked well for other companies. Giving the example of Android and Samsung, he further expressed how important and beneficial the decision is to combine the production of hardware and software.
According to him, there were a lot of decision and results in the last 10 years that did not go as intended. He felt that had they done a few things differently, they would have had the upper hand in the mobile industry. Failing to act on the right time, according to Ballmer, was what gave companies. such as Apple and Samsung, the lead in the mobile market.
Ballmer’s talk with the students was not all about failure and regrets, as he did have some useful advice to share. He said that all companies fail at one point or the other but great companies make sure that they do not fail quickly. They continuously alter their plan of attack and even their core principles until they finally get it right. Ballmer did go on to say that this may not always solve some problems but their job was not to give up, but to persevere. Persistence is what gives anyone the desire to survive and thrive along with the ability to adapt to any new trend or change in innovation and technology.
Ballmer also noted that the most important thing needed for a company to truly succeed is time. There are many examples of companies that rose to prominence after being in the industry for many years. Microsoft started in the 1970s, but it was not until the late 1990s that they gained a reputation. Goggle began sometime in 1997, but it took them 10 years before they became a household name. Facebook might be making billions today, but it took them a decade to reach the position they are now.
It might not be a surprise that people such as Ballmer, who have had to make countless decisions in their careers, might regret a few of them. What would have seemed the best approach then, might not seem as appropriate today. But again, as Ballmer said, the devices we might be using 20 years from now might look nothing like the ones we use today. With that in mind, what every company should focus on, is moving forward and always looking ahead.
By Hammad Ali