—John Hamblin, former President, Clarke IT Solutions, and CEO, Geode Technologies, Halifax, Canada
The book describes in detail how Cisco transformed from a hardware-based business to an integrated hardware and services enterprise. During the period where the services business was emerging, Cisco also embarked on a plan to “conquer” the emerging markets of the world and build a true, international powerhouse. The Cisco of today has worldwide operations, with high profit margins (particularly in the services areas), and is one of the largest and best-run technology companies. It is a fascinating story told in a manner that provides the reader with both the opportunity to see how the business evolved and to learn valuable business development lessons.
I read the book slowly, lesson by lesson, because there was so much to absorb and so much to learn. The approach, which the author took of building the book around nine “lessons,” was inspiring. Each lesson is filled with specific projects that illustrate the lesson and show how Cisco was moving forward, growing and evolving as a business. Each lesson also culminates with a summary checklist reiterating the key steps and processes required to succeed in the specific area discussed in the lesson. The author provides a beautiful picture of how Cisco grew through embracing “services” while moving into new markets, and as such it is a great business book. But it is more than this because it also provides a “how to” document, which can be applied to virtually any business looking to grow and prosper. I work with a number of start-ups where the lessons can be readily applied and the checklists can be used to ensure that the proper steps are being followed. In the start-up community, where I work, key lessons from this book, which are often “missed,” currently include these: Make your Customer Queen; Organize for Success; Shift Left for Profits; and Find, Grow, and Keep Great Partners.