From the Corner Deli to the Corner Office: Bill McDermott of SAP Part 1
by Tim Healy
In my interview with Bill McDermott you will hear his amazing story of grit, belief, and determination that took him from owning the corner deli to residing in the corner office as CEO of SAP. SAP is the world’s market leader in business software with approximately 335,000 customers in 190 countries where he leads the companies nearly 83k employees.
It wasn’t his pedigree or college degree that landed him in the pantheon of CEOs, it was his hustle. Bill’s ability to hustle is unlike many at his level. To me hustle is an attribute not often discussed with today’s Top CEOs. Perhaps the idea or the notion of hustle doesn’t sound sophisticated enough.
Bill’s journey started as a local deli owner where he quickly learned the advantage of being nimble enough to gather customer feedback and then offer his customers what the local giants like 7-11 weren’t. Getting out from behind the desk is something he has never forgotten even as the CEO of 83k employees at SAP.
Hustle and determination played a major role in his career trajectory. When he was interviewing at XEROX for his 1st job after college Bill realized the importance of sizing up the competition. You see the lobby at XEROX was filled with kids from Greenwich, CT who went to Harvard and Wharton. Bill surveyed their level of commitment for the job. For most it was one of the many jobs they were looking at. For Bill XEROX was his dream job!
He wanted it more than anyone else in the lobby that day and he told the manager that. At the end of a series of interviews that day the manager thanked Bill and let him know that they would get back to him.
Bill told the manager Emerson Fullwood, “Oh we are not done. Mr. Fullwood I don’t think you completely understand my situation. I told my father as I left him at the train station today, that I guaranteed I would come home tonight with my employee badge in my pocket. In 21 years I have never broken a promise to my dad and I can’t start now.” Silence.
There is a long pause then Fullwood goes on to say, “Bill McDermott, I am going to do something I have never done in all my years at XEROX and hire you today. As long as you haven’t broken any laws, you can go home and tell your father you will be working for XEROX.”
As his career led him to taking the helm at SAP Bill continued to embrace many of the lessons learned from his corner deli days!
Bill is a big believer in hiring great people but then believing in them with his whole heart and soul and trust they will get the job done. Great leaders have enough self-confidence to put their egos aside and let their people shine.
Enjoy my interview with Bill and feel free to pass it along!