No, this isn't about A-Rod and his use of steroids in 2003. Truthfully, I'm a Yankees fan and at this point, I don't care. That was 2003 and this is now.
Okay. On to the subject matter at hand.
My great buddy and industry pundit Denis Pombriant wrote an article this morning about the three departures at salesforce.com that were announced last week that puts it in the perspective it should be in. The two layoffs of sales executives and the departure (voluntary) of Steve Cakebread, CFO (twice), Chief Strategy Officer (after Tien Tzuo left for Zuora), member of the Cakebread Winery family (just threw that in for color - wine red of course) and a genuine superstah for salesforce.com. I can't speak for the two sales execs, but I can tell you that Steve will be missed there. I remember back in 2004, I was visiting salesforce.com for the first of what became many times at 1 Market St. in SF and I briefly met with Steve Cakebread. He told me that the salesforce.com fiscal year actually ended on January 31 each year. I asked him why and he told me "if you were a prospect or existing salesforce customer, it's pretty likely that your fiscal year ended when most companies did - December 31. Would you want a salesperson hounding you to close a deal so he could get it in under his deadline at the point you were trying to close your fiscal year? I doubt it. So we moved it January 31 so our customers and prospects would be just conducting normal business and gearing up the year. It seemed to be better for our customers and us."
That made a HUGE impression on me then. It was one of the first moments that I thought that salesforce.com was culturally geared toward their customers - which of course is how replicable customer-centrism works in a good company. Maybe he was just telling me a story - I don't really know. I didn't get to know him that well. But if it was only a story - it was a great story.
He will be missed.
But, here's the deal. Once again, salesforce.com is now being treated like Microsoft and being dissected like a frog in student 9th grade biology - and about as well as that poor formaldehyded frog too. About 80% of the headlines, with once again the reasoned exception of my influencer pal Denis P. - threw out headlines like this:
"Salesforce.com Falls As Execs Leave Company" (stock price dropped the next day and article speculated salesforce.com was not as robust as expected. Headline more dire than story).
"Trouble at Salesforce?" (article admitted that Cakebread leaving was to pursue personal interests. Once again, headline more dire than story).
Here's the scoop. First, two sales execs were let go and salesforce.com claims it wasn't for performance related issues. I'm inclined to believe them. Second, Steve Cakebread resigned. The man is a star. He's earned his stripes. He can do what he wants and leaving doesn't always have to be due to some dispute or a problem. Hasn't anyone ever left somewhere to go to something else because, gasp, they want to?
Denis puts it really well:
"Three jobs, even executive jobs, at a billion-dollar company is hardly newsworthy except that it gives tongues the opening they might need to wag." And wag they did."
Look, I have my concerns about salesforce.com and I laid them out here. But I also think that they're situated well enough to not only weather the 2009 economic storm but to make some headway for the enterprise software industry during this year. I'm not an economist, nor do I have any proprietary interest in salesforce.com, nor do I care whether salesforce.com, Oracle, SAP, SugarCRM or any enterprise application "wins" whatever it is they think they are competing for against the "competition." What I care about is that when 2 execs are let go at a company and one leaves - which adds up to three - it doesn't add up to a million mouths chattering well beyond implications of the event.