Thursday, December 20, 2012

HP's Lessons for Software Developers

Book review of The HP Way - How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company by David Packard (published 1995 by HarperCollins).

Bill Hewlett and David Packard met at Stanford University in 1930. They started Hewlett-Packard in 1939. "The HP Way" is their name for the management style that they developed and used to run HP for decades. The principles that HP emphasized were hiring the best people, motivating them, and working together as a team. While these principles seem ordinary today, these were revolutionary ideas in a time when big business was all wrapped up in its hierarchical management and control systems.

Bill Hewlett and David Packard started their company in a garage. In 1989, that garage became a California Historical Landmark. It is called the "birthplace of Silicon Valley."

Sometimes people just get lucky. Everybody knows that selecting a company name is a very important decision. Bill Hewlett and David Packard flipped a coin. Hewlett won. And the company name became Hewlett-Packard.

Today, we think of H-P as a computer and printer company. But their its product was an audio oscillator.

David Packard describes the firm's early adventures. The two founders were hands-on do-it-yourselfers. Their electric products required panels, and they fabricated these panels themselves, by hand, one at a time.

Packard took two college courses at night - Business Law and Management Accounting. In the software development industry, too many microISVs believe that success mainly depends on their tech skills. Even back in the late 1930s, you had to have both business and technical skills to succeed. And both of H-P's founders took the time to learn the necessary skills.

As far back as 1939, H-P's founders believed that their company wouldn't thrive if they had just one product. So, they set a goal to offer multiple products. 1939 was their first full year in business. They grossed $5,369 in sales, and netted $1,563 in profits. Now that's a modest start to their story - a long story with a happy ending.

This book is a quick read, and it delivers a lot of insights about growing a small business - such as a software development business - into a larger one.

No comments:

Post a Comment