From the author:
Technology industry heroes
On a warm April day in 2016, a massive mourners gathered on the football field of the Sacred Heart School in the heart of the Californian town of Atherton, California, to celebrate William Vincent Campbell Jr. to give final conduct after he died of cancer at the age of seventy-five. Since moving to the American West in 1983, Bill Campbell had been instrumental in the success of Apple, Google, Intuit, and numerous other companies.
To say he has earned the greatest respect in the tech industry would be a gross understatement - "love" is a better fit. Among the guests that day were the top representatives of the industry gathered in droves: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Mary Meeker, John Doerr, Ruth Porat, Scott Cook, Brad Smith, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, to name a few. You rarely come across such concentrated pioneering spirit and so much power - at least in Silicon Valley.
From quirky startup to most valuable company in the world
We sat among the mourners and talked in hushed tones, while the sun shone down on us in a friendly manner and formed a strange contrast to the depressed mood. In the years that I was CEO of Google, we had worked closely with Bill. Bill had been our coach. We met every one or two weeks to talk about the various challenges that the development of the company presented to us. He accompanied us - mostly behind the scenes - as individuals and as a team on the path that led Google from a quirky start-up to one of the most valuable companies and brands in the world.
It is possible that a lot would have turned out differently if Bill hadn't helped us. We called him our coach, but also our friend, and in this we hardly differ from the rest of the mourning community. As we learned later, many of them - and there were more than a thousand guests - even thought Bill was their best friend. So who of all these best friends would have the honor of speaking on our coach? Which high-tech luminary would come to the desk?
The champion from Homestead
When Bill Campbell first came to California, he was in his early 40s. He had started his business career only a few years earlier. But what he then achieved in Silicon Valley was a multiple of what any other 75-year-old could have achieved at the end of a long working life. Even as a child, Bill had been an ambitious and bright head. He grew up in the steel-making town of Homestead in western Pennsylvania, where his father was a physical education teacher at the local high school and worked in the steel mill on the side.
Bill was a good and hardworking student. He was also clever: in April 1955 he wrote one Article for the school newspaper, in which he reminded his classmates that "there is nothing more important for later life" than good grades. "If you stroll around school, you lose important chances of success." That was in his first year of high school.
It depends on the right attitude
In the fall of 1958, Bill left his home to study at Columbia University in Manhattan. He'd become a football star in high school. With his 1,77 meters and 75 kilograms (even if he was registered with 82 kilograms) he was outwardly not the type - even for the conditions at the time, when football players were not yet the colossi of today. With his enthusiasm and his intelligent game, he earned the respect of coaches and fellow players. In his last year of high school he spent - now as team captain - practically every minute of the game as a linebacker in defense or as a lineman (guard) in offense on the field. He helped his team to the only championship title in the Ivy League in Columbia history and earned the All-Ivy Honors as one of the best players in the entire league.
The then coach with the beautiful name Buff Donelli attested him a "significant role" in winning the title. “If he were six feet tall and weighed 1,87 pounds and competed as a professional, he'd be the best lineman the league has ever seen - a ball of fire. But he's small and weighs just 102 kilograms. Not even in college football do you find such little guards. Usually you can't play football with small players. The right mindset is usually not enough. A coach depends on the right attitude, but also on the right players. «Bill's attitude was, of course, that it depends on the team. He attributed the team's success to the fact that "the players pulled together and had experienced leadership."
From taxi driver to millionaire
Bill didn't have a lot of money and so he financed his studies at Columbia by driving a taxi. He got to know the city so well that he would later often argue with his long-time chauffeur and friend Scotty Kramer about the best route. When it came to navigating New York, you didn't question the coach, says Kramer.
After earning a degree in economics in 1962 and a master's degree in teaching in 1964, Bill left Columbia and went north to become an assistant coach on the football team at Boston College. Bill was a great coach and quickly made a name for himself in football circles. When he received an offer from Columbia, his alma mater, to return as head coach, he accepted. Columbia was miserable in football, but feelings of inner connection brought him back to Manhattan.
Jim Rudgers, a fellow coach at the time, said Bill, considered one of the best assistant coaches in the country, had been offered a coaching position under Joe Paterno at Penn State before he "followed his heart" and returned to Columbia. Paterno was one of the top coaches in the country at the time and one can speculate that Bill would have expected a steep career as a coach had he gone to the Nittany Lions. This text might not have been text about Silicon Valley but college football legend Bill Campbell. And then you might not have trouble finding tons of information about him in the popular search engines!
As a trainer to burnout
Coaching talent or not - Bill's return to Columbia didn't turn out to be a success story. The prerequisites were anything but promising: a shabby training ground that could only be reached from campus by at least a 30-minute bus ride in the afternoon, an administration that paid little attention to football, and a city in general decline. The Lions won only twelve games and lost forty-one during Bill's tenure. His most promising season was that of 1978, when the team started the race with a starting record of three wins, one defeat and one draw, but then crushed 69-0 at the Giants Stadium by the (physically and numerically) far superior team from Rutgers University was beaten. The following year, Bill finally made the decision to resign from his coaching position; he finished the season he had started, but that was it.
During his time at Columbia, Bill had worked so hard that in the end all he needed was a hospital stay. The recruiting of new players in particular demanded a lot from him. At one point, he said he had to speak to a hundred possible candidates in order to convince at least twenty-five of them to join the team. "So I drove to Albany after my work-out at 16.30:XNUMX pm and back that evening, or to Scranton and back again, just so I could get back to the office on time the next morning."
Too much compassion as a success factor for business
Still, he didn't fail in the end due to a lack of players. Rather, he himself blamed too much compassion for it. “There's something you need [as a football coach] that I would call unemotional austerity, and I don't think I have it. You mustn't dwell on feelings. You have to constantly push everyone to perform better and to some extent be deaf to feelings. You swap players out at random, replace older ones with younger ones, and so on. That's the game: Survival of the fittest. The best players start. It was always difficult for me. It was important to me that the guys understood what we were doing. I was probably just not hardy enough. "
Bill's view that it takes a dose of numbness to be successful as a football coach may have been correct. In the business world, however, compassion is increasingly emerging as a not insignificant success factor. And so was Bill, who couldn't help but treat everyone with compassion, because in the end, too, many times more successful in the business world than on the football field. Let's run it His football career was over. The 39-year-old took a job at the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. His first client was Kraft in Chicago. A few months later he went back to the east coast to work for Kodak. He threw himself into the job with his usual passion and impressed his clients in Rochester, New York State, with his knowledge and analytical skills to such an extent that they quickly lured him away from the advertising agency.
Wild Wild West
Bill quickly made a career at Kodak: in 1983, he was already in charge of consumer products for the European market in London. When he started looking for a job in 1979, one of his Columbia football comrades introduced him to John Sculley, who was then a manager at PepsiCo and offered him a job that he refused to accept. When Sculley went to Silicon Valley in 1983 to become Apple's CEO, he called Bill's number shortly thereafter. Would he be prepared to turn his back on Kodak and move to the West with his young family - he married Roberta Spagnola, the director of the dormitory at Columbia, in 1976 - to work for Apple?
"My many years as a sleepy football coach had set me back in my career," Bill later said. “My feeling told me that this history would hang on me forever and set me back from my colleagues. The 'Wild West', with its greater appreciation of individual performance, would offer me the chance to move up to management levels quickly. ”8 And indeed, he advanced quickly. After only nine months with Apple, he was promoted to vice president of sales and marketing, tasked with leading the launch of the much-anticipated Macintosh - Apple's new computer that would replace the Apple II as the company's flagship product.
Inspire Steve Jobs once
For the start of the campaign, the company went for a bang: it acquired a slot for a commercial during the Super Bowl on January 22, 1984 in Tampa, Florida. When the spot was ready, Bill and his folks introduced it to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Alluding to George Orwell's novel 1984, it shows a young woman who, followed by security guards, runs through a dark corridor until she reaches a room in which hundreds of bald people in tattered clothes are staring at a large screen like zombies follow Big Brother's booming voice. Screaming, she throws a huge sledgehammer at the screen, which then explodes. The closing credits say that the Apple Macintosh will show us "why 1984 won't be like 1984". *
Steve was delighted, as was E. Floyd Kvamme, Bill's boss at the time. Bill himself was delighted. Ten days before the game, they presented the spot to the Apple board. The board members were anything but enthusiastic. They found it terrible - too expensive and too controversial. They wanted to know whether the slot could be sold on to another advertiser. Was it too late to get out of the number? A few days later, Bill and Floyd learned from an Apple sales manager that she had found a buyer for the slot. “What do you think we should do?” Floyd asked Bill. And he replied: Fuck it! Let's run it - "Fuck it, we'll show it!"
They did not reveal to the board or other senior executives in the company that there was a potential buyer for the slot, and they showed the spot. Not only did it become the Super Bowl's most popular commercial, it became one of the most iconic commercials of all time, ushering in an era in which the Super Bowl commercials became as important as the games themselves. A Los Angeles Times columnist called it the " only good commercial ever shown at the Super Bowl. ”9 Not bad for a“ sleepy football coach ”barely five years after his last season.
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