Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on Building a Business

I recently listened to the Podcast of the interview Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg conducted with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the D5 conference on May 30, 2007. This podcast is available as a free download from iTunes (search Podcasts for Title = Steve Jobs) and the transcript is here.

It is an incredible interview and shows just how brilliant these two people are. There is so much valuable information that it's impossible to summarize it. But everyone in business (not just those of us in technology related businesses) will find the interview both informative and entertaining.

But I will share one segment because as a business owner, it really resonated with me. At the end of the interview during the Q&A session a business owner of a 100-person Internet media business asked "I’m wondering what would be the single most valuable piece of advice you’d give us to even attempt to create some of the value that you guys have done in both your very impressive companies.". The answer from both Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs was this (again, read the entire interview at d5):

Bill: Well, I think actually–it may be in both cases–correct me if I’m wrong–the excitement wasn’t really seeing the economic value. You know, even when we wrote down at Microsoft in 1975, “a computer on every desk and in every home,” we didn’t realize, oh, we’ll have to be a big company. Every time, I thought, “Oh, God, can we double in size?” Jeez, can we manage that many people? Will that feel fun still? You know, and so every doubling was, like, okay, this is the last one. And so the economic thing wasn’t at the forefront. The idea of being at the forefront and seeing new things and things we wanted to do and being able to bring in different people who were fun to work with eventually with a pretty broad set of skills and figuring out how to get those people those broad skills to work well together has been one of the greatest challenges. You know, I made more of my mistakes in that area maybe than anywhere, but, you know, eventually getting some of those teams to work very well together. So, you know, I think it’s a lot about the people and the passion. And it’s amazing that the business worked out the way that it did.

Steve: Yeah. People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up. And that’s what happens to most people, actually. If you really look at the ones that ended up, you know, being “successful” in the eyes of society and the ones that didn’t, oftentimes, it’s the ones [who] were successful loved what they did so they could persevere, you know, when it got really tough. And the ones that didn’t love it quit because they’re sane, right? Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it? So it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of worrying constantly and if you don’t love it, you’re going to fail. So you’ve got to love it and you’ve got to have passion and I think that’s the high-order bit. The second thing is, you’ve got to be a really good talent scout because no matter how smart you are, you need a team of great people and you’ve got to figure out how to size people up fairly quickly, make decisions without knowing people too well and hire them and, you know, see how you do and refine your intuition and be able to help, you know, build an organization that can eventually just, you know, build itself because you need great people around you.

Isn't that awesome?

Thanks Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs for sharing your thoughts with the world.

Posted By: Mark Willaman

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