HP Under Hurd – A Focus on Sales Strategy

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Fortune asks can HP win doing it the Hurd way? Yes, it is a funny play on words, but more importantly it is a question that pits Hurd vs. Fiorina in a battle of opposite management styles.

Fiorina owned Davos, the annual teach-in for plutocrats in the Swiss Alps; Hurd skipped this year's session, citing "customer commitments." Fiorina was always on message; Hurd is sales optimization in a suit.

Indeed, from the avuncular way he lets his rimless glasses perch at the end of his nose to his straight-talk emphasis on fundamentals, Hurd evokes another tech industry turnaround maestro, Lou Gerstner, the former IBM (Research) boss who famously said, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision."

Like Gerstner, Hurd is reviving a sales culture that had waned over the years. During the Fiorina era, HP had engineering prowess and marketing razzle-dazzle, yes. But legions of crafty sales mercenaries? Not so much.

Hurd appears to be a nuts and bolts guy. Do people want vision? Yes. But companies often stop with the vision and don't focus on the hard work it takes to implement it.

As an avid college basketball fan, I see this all the time. Guys that are 6'9" and average 25 points a game in high school have NBA dreams, but they don't work hard. They expect to make it on natural talent and a little bit of practice. They don't realize that at the next level, the competition is that much better.

The great ones are always practicing, in any area of expertise. It's the boring hard work that gives the opportunity to be great in the first place. It sounds like HP is on the right track, but we'll check in down the road and see.