I had separate lunches this week with two serial founders, both of whom happened to cut their teeth working at the foot of that tyrannical, yet irrepressibly successful, nearly-but-never-richest-man-in-the-world software mogul whom everyone loves to hate only slightly less respectfully than Bill Gates: Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
Say what you will about the man, they say, he’s a stellar teacher. So we’ve got Two Lessons from “The Big L” for you:
“You eat what you kill….what do you mean you want a salary?”
My lunch date explains how this helped him: “The minute you raise VC money, you treat it like it’s yours, like you’ve earned it. [Like you’ve killed it!] Too many entrepreneurs raise money and then spend it like it’s someone else’s to lose, like they can just go out and raise more when they need to. The minute you forget the discipline of treating VC money like it’s your own, that’s when you start making mistakes.
Rule #1: Eat what you kill. Or at least, act like it you killed it.
II. What are you doing!!?
The Big L really only believes in two things and when Oracle was still nascent — I mean, before we were public and still operating up at [the original headquarters on] 20 Davis Drive in Belmont, Calif — he gave the marketing team a speech to motivate them
to leverage off the work of [his favored] sales and engineering personnel…
“There are two kinds of people in business; people who build products and people who sell products. Figure out how you fit into one of these two camps, or you’re toast.”
Now the man I was talking to had been on was on the marketing team. But, Larry, he says was right all along. “Marketers are sales people. If they think of themselves as anything else, they’re not doing their job.”
Rule #2: Are you building it, or selling it? Even if you’re in marketing, legal, HR, or operations, you should be able to answer this question. If you can’t, you’re probably working off-mission for your company.