Bill Gates on Business Success

Fortune has a nice interview with Bill Gates. The thing I found most interesting is this anaylsis of why Microsoft was successful.

We had three things that really worked for us. One was our vision, which has not changed since the day the company started. Microsoft was a dream [co-founder] Paul Allen and I had about what software could become—the idea that you could buy PCs from many different hardware companies and yet they would all run the same software. That meant a complete restructuring of the computer industry. We knew we were onto something important.

Our second key would be the people we hired. We hired very smart, capable people. We had a little bit of a blind spot in that we always thought that smartness was fungible into whatever needed to be done, because a few of our early employees were like that. "Go learn legal, go learn finance, go learn sales! Okay, I'm sending you to Japan tomorrow—tell me how it works over there!" Later that became something that surprised us—that a lot of very capable people were very, uh, specialized in terms of their abilities. As we tried to move them into a new area, they weren't as effective.

And then the third thing was that we did take a long-term approach. We weren't trying to just go public and get rich. There was no near-term thing. It always was this many-decades thing where there were no shortcuts and we'd sort of put one foot in front of the other.

Vision. Good people. Long-term approach. Don't take shortcuts.

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There you have it, business success in three paragraphs – from the richest man in the world. The long-term approach is what is really lacking in today's go-public-get-rich-quick business world. Maybe in the future we will see a move back to "old school" entrepreneurship – the kind that doesn't take shortcuts, and is focused on the long-term. Business (and life) can be so much more fun when you enjoy the ride and not just the destination.