Photo Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
by Tom Perkins
Sept. 18, 2015
The consensus is clear: Carly Fiorina won both the first and now second Republican Primary debates. As a result she is climbing in the polls and into the top tier of candidates. Her rise has led pundits to speculate about her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
I was a member of the HP Board of Directors much of the time Carly was the CEO (1999-2005). I was in the room for many of the decisions she made. I can attest to the strength of Carly’s leadership, the accuracy of her vision and the quality of her management.
Carly was an excellent CEO. She led HP through one of the worst economic times in decades. Less than two years into Carly’s leadership, the dot com bubble went bust. Silicon Valley was in chaos. Companies were shedding jobs almost daily. There were so many layoffs The Associated Press ran weekly announcements regarding layoffs at tech companies. And The San Francisco Chronicle declared 2001 “The Year of the Layoff.”
While other Silicon Valley icons like Sun Microsystems disappeared, Carly’s vision and execution not only helped to save HP but made it a strong, more versatile company that could compete in the changing technology sector.
I was on the Compaq Board during the HP-Compaq merger and remained a member of the new HP Board once the merger was complete. Both companies knew that we needed something dramatic to inject life back into our companies.
The merger, while controversial, was unanimously approved by every member of the HP Board and won approval from shareholders. Thanks to Carly’s leadership there was a path forward for this storied but troubled company.
Critics questioned the move, but history proves Carly was right. Post merger, HP became the biggest computer company in the world. It positioned HP to compete in integrated systems and allowed us to compete in sectors beyond the core strength of the company, printers.
Carly was hired at HP because it was struggling. Revenues were down, quarterly earnings were missed, innovation lagged and growth stagnated. HP, once the leader in Silicon Valley, was clinging to the status quo and failing to embrace the new tech era.
Silicon Valley companies were prospering by taking advantage of the new technologies; HP was stubbornly clinging to the past. HP needed a change agent and someone who could return the company to its glory days. Carly was the right choice.
The results of Carly’s transformational leadership? HP revenues doubled to more than $80 billion, innovation tripled to 15 patents per day, the growth rate more than quadrupled 6.5 percent and we grew to become the 11th largest company in the country.
Carly did what she was brought in to do: turn the company around and make it successful again. Not only did she save the company from the dire straits it was in, she laid the foundation for HP’s future growth.
Critics often claim was fired at HP because she was unsuccessful. As a member of the board, I can tell you this is not true.
In truth, it was the Board I was a part of that was ineffective and dysfunctional. The HP board of directors included family members of the founders. Carly worked with the hand she was dealt as best as one could. While Carly fought to save the company and the employees within, some board members fought for their own power or advancement.
You see, some board members wanted to micro-manage the company, hand picking friends and allies to run divisions. This is no way to run a global company and Carly had the strength of character and courage of conviction to stand up to it and ultimately she lost her job because of it.
While lesser leaders would have accepted offers of transition plans and graceful resignations, Carly would have none of that. Carly demanded to be fired. In order to restore peace to the board I voted to fire her. That was a mistake.
In the months and years after Carly left, the Board of Directors remained dysfunctional. The Board members who plotted Carly’s ouster eventually resigned after an embarrassing investigation by Congress.
I have no question that Carly is a transformational leader who uniquely has both vision and the expertise to implement it. We are in the middle of a heated election, and often facts and the truth get lost in the heat of partisan rhetoric.
As someone who worked with and observed Carly first hand I can attest to her abilities, intellect and talent. I am proud to support Carly Fiorina for President of the United States.
Tom Perkins is the founder of the California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, arguably the most famous and successful VC firm in Silicon Valley history.
— This was originally published at Dr. Jack Wheeler’s To The Point News.