One of the hardest, and underestimated, jobs in business is to take over a going concern and keep it growing.
Examples are few. Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers comes to mind. It's not broke, don't fix it, just find a few ways to make it a little bit better and you can win a Super Bowl.
In football building on success gives a coach his "props," or proper respect. In Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer it's referred to as one's "due and proper."
In the world of open source Jim Whitehurst is a like Tomlin. Critics called Tomlin too young. They called Whitehurst "the airline guy" when he joined Red Hat from Delta Air Lines in 2008.
As with the Steelers Red Hat wasn't broke when Whitehurst came in, and they're just keeping on. The had another good quarter, the stock has more than doubled in value this year, and the market cap is now over $5 billion.
Whitehurst has done this with the business equivalent of blocking and tackling. Red Hat has no trick plays, no wildcat offense. For the fifth time (in six years) it topped all software vendors in CIO's annual survey. That's a bit like winning the Super Bowl, isn't it?
I'm sure Whitehurst was asked, at his recent keynote to a business leadership conference named in part for Duke basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, "how do you do it? How do you get people to pay you for something they can get for free?"
The answer was probably the same as it is for every other successful open source vendor. You help people make the code work and get value from it. Free code is just code. Supported code is a business result. Red Hat is results oriented.
The bottom line doesn't lie folks. Use this thread to give the man his due and proper.