On The Greatest Legacy Of Bill Gates
Studying the lives of great businessmen offers clues on how they were able to reach the pinnacle of success. We have many homegrown tycoons from whom we could learn many success secrets, but for now, I will focus on a business legend whose wealth, fame and influence spans the globe.
Many young people now know little about Bill Gates other than his mindboggling wealth. However, this is just one aspect of what makes him remarkable; in the future, it may not even be the most important. His history is worth retelling because it can inspire our local entrepreneurs, especially those in the field of information technology, to incredible achievement.
Like every famous person, he has many detractors and I am not knowledgeable enough on those matters to judge if the critics’ accusations are indeed true. But even granting those imperfections, it does appear that his achievements, at present, far outshine them. To support my impression, below are just some of his notable accomplishments that I remember:
He is one of the prime movers in spreading the use of personal computers. His company’s vision was to put “a computer on every desktop and in every home.” One of the biggest hindrances then to the wide adoption of personal computers was the high price and lack of adequate software. Due to some extremely savvy business moves, he was able to sell millions of copies of his operating system software. Since he was able to spread the cost of software development to a very large volume, he was able to bring down the per unit price substantially. This created a virtuous cycle because the cheaper the cost of software, the more people are able to buy and use personal computers.
He became one of the richest men in history in spectacular fashion. During his time, he was the youngest self-made billionaire. The rapidity of the pace in which he accumulated his billions and the long years of his reign as the world’s richest man, combined with other fairy tale-like accomplishments, captured the imagination of millions around the world.
He was able to overcome numerous giant companies in unconventional style. Bill Gates was one of the pioneers of a nimble form of management that focuses more on results rather than formal procedures. This unconventional style has often extended to highly informal office attire and unorthodox interview questions, among other aspects that caught media attention. His tireless hard core work ethic and ultra-competitive attitude destroyed many hi-tech leading companies.
He is a highly-gifted computer programmer. Even before college, his prowess in programming was evident when he programmed his school’s scheduling software. It seems apparent that his skill in programming, along with business acumen, propelled his company’s rise as a software giant. Even if he was no longer involved in the actual programming when Microsoft experienced rapid growth, he was able to give guidance and a review code.
He is one of the leading popularisers of stock options for a larger number of employees. Although stock options were already common among top executives, lower-ranked employees were rarely given this opportunity. Because of the high profile of his company, a lot of people heard of the thousands of Microsoft employees who became millionaires because of stock options. This prompted many of them to copy the incentive to attract talented personnel and to motivate their employees.
He became the ‘Emperor’ of software. One of the first to recognize the value of software, Gates was able to build the world’s largest software company. There was a time when software was treated as a mere accessory to hardware. In fact, it was often given away with the hardware. During his time, software grew to become even more profitable than hardware.
All the achievements above are already impressive on their own, but what really raised his stature in the eyes of humanity is his resigning from his beloved company and devoting his life to charity. Gates, along with his wife, established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is presently the largest private non-religious charity. More than this, Gates and his friend Warren Buffet became the prime advocates of “The Giving Pledge,” which encouraged fellow billionaires to make a non-binding pledge of giving at least half of their wealth to charity.
In 50 or a hundred years from now, Microsoft may possibly be gone and some other business man may have earned more billions than Gates. However, the world will long remember Bill Gates’ acts of philanthropy, which has saved and improved the lives of millions of people, and this is his greatest legacy.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. C-6, Sunday, January 6, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.