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What Made Steve Jobs a Brilliant Leader, Why Walmart is Transforming Into a Tech Company, Stealing Talent Like a Pro and More
Friday, June 7th, 2019
Former Apple CEO John Sculley, who we briefly covered in this newsletter a few weeks ago, revealed a treat that he believes made Steve Jobs a ‘Brilliant’ leader.

And what do you think that treat was?

Drumroll, please….

It was the "ability to listen."

Hey… what?

Wait a minute, wasn't Steve Jobs an asshole you said? And the reason he was fired from the company he founded was that he would NOT listen to anyone?

Well, yes.

But the way Sculley describes it, is that during the 12 years period that Steve spent out of Apple, he became what Sculley calls "Steve 2.0" (in that previous newsletter we called the new Steve Jobs a "different kind of asshole", but I super love the Steve 2.0 moniker, so let’s call it that from now on).

Anyways, Sculley says that "young Steve Jobs was not as good at listening as the Steve Jobs that came back years later… His life experiences between 1.0 and 2.0 were obviously extremely influential."

In the years that followed, Steve Jobs transformed a dying company into the biggest cash cow in the history of humankind, with products that still today touch everything we do.

And he did it because he learned how to listen.

This is something we got to touch on briefly in the book, as we were introducing "the execution system." There, we said:

"…as a leader you must be reachable and in direct contact with your subordinates to develop an active sense of awareness … Asking questions and honestly listening to the answers are powerful techniques that pay off big time when implementing your strategy."
And after reading these comments from Sculley, I couldn’t agree more with myself there (wink).

It is by listening that you can expand the scope of your vision, and include the perspective of other people who, because of their different experiences may have completely different ideas and approaches to solve problems and serve customers’ needs.

By listening (like, really listening), you are able to combine your own ideas with those of others and become a bigger, smarter and as Sculley says, a more brilliant leader.

Now, the question is … will we get to see Elon 2.0?

Why Walmart is Transforming Into a Tech Company
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart hired Suresh Kumar, a former Amazon, Microsoft, and Google executive with a Ph.D. from Princeton, as its new CTO, reporting to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

Suresh will be replacing Jeremy King, who left the company back in March to become Pinterest’s CTO ahead of its IPO.

But what’s interesting about Mr. Kumar recruitment is that lookin at his LinkedIn profile, you can quickly see how he’ll be a key piece in Walmart’s transformation into a technology company.

In the early 2000s, he spent six years leading the development of Amazon's procurement and inventory management systems, becoming Amazon’s VP of retail systems in 2005 and then spent the next nine years leading the development of Amazon’s retail software platform.

He left Amazon in 2014, and went to become Microsoft’s VP of cloud infrastructure, where he was responsible for "planning, delivering, operating and managing all physical infrastructure for Microsoft's cloud services."

Another interesting piece of information I found in his LinkedIn profile was this:

"Responsible for transformation of Microsoft’s cloud supply chain and operations, for increasing throughput, agility and safety, and for driving scale through automation."
So he was the guy negotiating with vendors and partners as Microsoft was putting its cloud business together.

Here’s a video of Mr. Kumar explaining the benefits that companies can reap by transitioning their computing needs to the cloud:

Why do I say that Kumar will be key to Walmart’s transformation?

To answer that, let’s go back to Jeremy King, Walmart’s former CTO.

Here’s what he said about the giant’s tech plans as he was leaving the company in March:

"People all have their own perceptions of Walmart. For years now, I’ve wanted people to understand we are building a tech organization. I’ve got a machine learning team. We have some of the best apps in the world."
And now Walmart appoints the architect of its more intimidating competitor’s retail platform, who also happens to be a leading figure in cloud computing systems.

The way I see it, this has quickly escalated from a retail war, into a fight between technology giants. And once the battle is at that level, I expect other tech giants like Google and Microsoft to also play a key role in it as they try to get a piece of the action.

And this is once again an example of how successful companies expand the boundaries of their knowledge base to remain relevant, something we also touched on three weeks ago.

That’s how Microsoft went from making lame software to becoming a fully-fledged cloud computing company, how Apple became a maker of smart mobile devices, and how Netflix went from DVD rentals to content streaming.

They did it by taking their knowledge to the next frontier and rethinking what they believe they are.

Walmart is now quickly becoming a technology company shedding their retailer skin and transforming in what they need to be to stay relevant in today’s landscape and survive Amazon, something that SEARS, JC Penny and a thousand others that we can barely remember their names never realized.

Why You Must Shamelessly Steal Talent
Kumar's story touches on another subject we covered before: the people you want are already working for someone else.

There’s nothing sad or disappointing about it, that’s just the way it is.

Good people are rarely unemployed, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting them anyway. In the end, that’s what the pros, like Walmart, do.

Between 2015 and 2017, Amazon stole 30 executives from Microsoft, while Google also snapped up 5 others during the same period. Does that talent have anything to do with Amazon’s superior performance during that time? … you bet.

As we advise in the book, great talent is very difficult to come by, so when it shows up you must be ready to act quick and snap it up.

Why should you settle for anything less than what you think is best for your company?

Your people are the most valuable asset in the execution of your strategy, and if you take strategy seriously then you should fight for the right people and that includes getting them from wherever they are.

Amazon’s management is not shy about stealing talent from competitors, and the company is well known for paying juicy signing bonuses which in many cases exceed $100,000. It wants to collect the best pool of talent and moves heaven and earth to make it happen. If the pros are doing it, why wouldn’t you?

As the old saying goes, "If you think that hiring A-players is expensive, try hiring rookies".

Bonus Report: Seven Industries that Amazon Could Disrupt
Speaking about Amazon, CB Insights just published a report on what they believe are the seven industries that Amazon could disrupt in the next five years, a very timely subject as the company is making headways in the pharmacy, healthcare and business lending spaces, and as Walmart ramps up to put up a bigger fight against them.

I haven’t read the full report yet, but judging by its introduction I think is probably a good read if you are into strategy and in pretty much any retail market.

Tech giants will affect many industries as they roll out their ambitious plans for global domination, so ignoring them is kind of difficult (and dumb, obviously) to do.

A proof of this is the following chart by CB Insights (included in that report) where they show the number of times that the five largest tech companies are mentioned in other companies’ earnings calls.

See how Amazon has been dominating the conversations for the last three years, as executives in all industries are paying close attention to the "Amazon Threat" to their businesses.

In all earnings calls, there's always a guy that ask management the "Amazon" question: what are you planning to do about Amazon trying to enter the space?

Remember, your margin is Amazon’s opportunity Bezos said, and he will move his muscles towards anything that looks profitable, because he needs to subsidize his cashflow-negative retail businesses.

That’s what really makes this threat real for many industries that are turning a profit, because for Amazon, rapid expansion into those markets is a necessity, not just a desire for macho points.

Interesting stuff.

Checking out for now.
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