Salesforce founder Marc Benioff’s five big questions for aspiring startups

Probably the best regular session of the annual Dreamforce conference is the final session where Salesforce founders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris answer questions from the attendees.

 

As with any open microphone session, some of the questions are silly but many highlight frustrations Salesforce’s customers have and some give the opportunity for an insight into Parker and Benioff’s thoughts away from the scripted glitz of the main keynotes.

 

One questioner asked Benioff and Parker what their advice would be to someone in their position of 16 years ago with a new business.

 

“Don’t think about the tools or the technology,” said Harris.

 

“Think about the problems you can solve. Stay focused and work hard and build a great company.”

 

Teams and timing

 

While Parker also emphasised a great team is another important element, Benioff flagged an element of luck in building a successful business, “we got the timing right.”

 

Ultimately though it came down to making the jump from a comfortable, if frustrating, corporate job to a risky startup.

 

“I remember I was working in a big company for a long time, very unhappy” Benioff said, while noting the decision to strike out on your own is very much a personal decision, that can only be done when you are convinced it is time.

 

The five questions of business

 

Knowing when that time has arrived comes down to five questions, Benioff believes.

 

“It all starts with you, you have to get clear about what is it that you really want, what is really important to you, how are you going to get it, how will you know when you’ve got it and what is preventing you from having it.”

 

“When you can answer all those five questions you’ll have clarity in your direction. The problem with most small businesses – and big businesses – is they can’t answer those questions.”

 

“If you can answer those questions then you can break out.”

 

Ultimately Benioff and Parker pinpointed focus as the key individual attribute. Being able to focus on answering those five questions is a very good first step to having a successful business.

 

Paul travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce and Splunk

 

Paul Wallbank is the publisher of Networked Globe, his personal blog Decoding The New Economy charts how our society is changing in the connected century. This article was first published on SmartCompany.


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