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Sales Culture: Interview with Bill Gates

A few years before Bill Gates moved from his active management role at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to briefly interview for a business book. For a variety of reasons, that interview was never published verbatim. Here it is:

  • GJ: How do you define the role of management at Microsoft?
  • BG: At Microsoft, the role of management is to spot emerging trends and set the future direction of the company. The most important and exciting part of my work as Chairman is recognizing what we call "sea changes," and articulating the opportunities they present to each person in the company. We then empower employees with as much information and as many productivity tools as possible, so they can achieve results within the framework of that vision. The hardest part is knowing how to allocate the right resources-bet the store when we must-to make sure it all happens.
  • GJ: How does a manager create a corporate culture to ensure that takes place?
  • BG: Our corporate culture nurtures an atmosphere in which creative thinking thrives, and employees develop to the fullest potential. The way Microsoft is set up, you have all the incredible resources of a large company, yet you still have that dynamic small-group, small-company feeling where you can really make a difference. Individuals generate ideas, and Microsoft makes it possible for those ideas to become reality. Our strategy has always been to hire strong, creative employees, and delegate responsibility and resources to them so they can get the job done.
  • GJ: What key event influenced and created your management style?
  • BG: My interest in computers began early, and I started programming in high school at age 13. When I was at Harvard in 1974, Paul Allen and I began the development of BASIC for the first microcomputer, the MITS Altair. Even then we were convinced that the personal computer would ultimately become a valuable tool found on every office desktop and in every home. We saw that a microcomputer revolution was underway, and we left Harvard the following year to form Microsoft in pursuit of that vision.
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