Lessons from a Masters In Business Administration: Microsoft, eBay & Work/Life Balance

Cash-flow At Microsoft:  Investors tend to like to see cash invested on improving the business or returned to them as dividends.  Microsoft kept a lot of cash on its books. Many think this is because software is intensely competitive, and so Microsoft needs a cash cushion to carry it through. Microsoft habitually create a negative impression to investors to minimize earnings expectations in order to beat the Wall Street predictions. However, Bill Gates explained the cash on hand as such; when he hired his friends, they would be expected to be paid, so he developed a conservative approach to paying them by ensuring that there was enough money in the bank to pay a year’s worth of payroll. Getting your friends to leave their jobs and then not having enough to pay them would be a betrayal. Do not let down your friends if you are working in a start-up.

Meg Whitman & eBay: returns on assets and investment will never go out of fashion. The fundamentals of costs, customers, and competitors yield rewards. Experience builds intuition which is invaluable. Employees are motivated by the feeling of being on a mission.

A Rules To Live By: Whitman says that you’re never as good as you think you are, but never as bad either. She also laments having missed out on her family, and friends. Whitman’s 9 point personal philosophy:

  1. do something you enjoy;
  2. deliver the results;
  3. codify the lessons learned;
  4. be patient and stick around good people, and good things;
  5. build a team and share credit;
  6. be fun to work with;
  7. ask what you don’t know or understand;
  8. don’t take yourself too seriously;
  9. never, ever compromise your integrity.

The Five Whys: ask why five times, and you will find the root of a problem.

Work/Life Balance: business schools are not interested in promoting those who have simply gone out, and led happy lives. They are interested in game-changers to entice new recruits for consultancies, and investment banking. MBA programs pay lip service to giving people the right kind of work/life balance all the time. If you are really seeking a healthy work/life balance than you should work in the education sector.

[This is a synopsis of several books on the MBA experience including What They Teach You At Harvard Business School by P.D. Broughton]