Salesforce.com's Secret Weapon

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The mission statement. The corporate philosophy. The mantra.
 
Many companies put into writing the guidelines or goals they aim to live by—perhaps the most famous example
of recent years being Google’s self-admonition, “Do no evil.” In the case of Salesforce.com, one slender list, devised
in the company’s earliest days by Marc Benioff, the company’s cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer, represents
the vendor’s Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Rights of Man, all rolled into one: The V2MOM.
 
Benioff views the V2MOM—pronounced “vee-two-mom,” it stands for “vision, values, methods, obstacles, and
measures”—as a process, not a document, encapsulating Salesforce.com’s corporate and executive priorities at any given moment.
Unlike other mission statement–esque formats, however, the V2MOM is regularly modified, altered to reflect the rapidly shifting market for software-as-aservice (SaaS) and cloud computing.
 
Vision helps define what the company wants to do, while the Values establish the principles that guide that vision.
Methods illustrate how to get that job done, Obstacles outline the challenges, and Measures specify the intended results.
(The initial V2MOM, it’s worth noting, included five Measures, the last of which was “We are all rich.” That one no longer needs to be on future editions.)
 
In researching his latest book, Behind the Cloud, Benioff and coauthor Carlye Adler—see our conversation with
Adler in this month’s Required Reading—rummaged through a decade’s worth of V2MOMs, dating all the way to
the very first, which had been scrawled on the back of an American Express envelope in April 1999. (Cofounder Parker
Harris secreted away that keepsake for five years, presenting it to Benioff as a framed memento on the occasion of the
company’s initial public offering in 2004.)
 
Referring to the V2MOM as “our bestkept secret,” Benioff describes the process as “an exercise in awareness in which the
result is total alignment,” adding that it guides “everything we do in terms of organizational management.” Benioff says
he most cherishes the clarity afforded by the V2MOM—not just for himself, but for every member of the company, and not
just for seeing strengths, but for identifying weaknesses: The first V2MOM, for example, “revealed to us that our biggest
obstacle was a talent deficit,” he writes.
 
“We went back and looked at a lot of the V2MOMs over the last 10 years,” Benioff says, in our exclusive interview. (See
“The Cloud Pleaser” for more of the conversation.) “A lot of them are very similar, but the number-one value has always
been customer success.” In fact, for several of the Vision statements, mere “success” must have been deemed insufficiently
visionary: The V2MOM writers demanded “wildly successful customers.”
 
Benioff says he prefers to revisit the V2MOM every six months or so. Most recently, in the winter of 2009, the worsening
recession drove Benioff to rework the V2MOM—not once, but twice.
 
“It was pretty clear that the world was really changing fast, especially in the first calendar quarter of this year….
What had happened with the economy had really impacted a lot of the customers much more than I [had first]
realized. I hadn’t taken that enough into consideration in the V2MOM.”
 
Benioff insists that involving colleagues is essential to producing the optimal result.“We basically break [250 employees]
up into 16 teams,” he says. “There are eight core initiatives in the V2MOM and each team takes on one of the initiatives,
so you have two teams on [each].” That’s when the fun begins, he says: “Then you really go to them and say, ‘Now, what needs to be rewritten? What needs to be added and changed?’ etc.”
 
Asked to identify the big change that came out of the February 2009 revisions, Benioff has a ready reply. “You see it in how we’re operating the business,” he says.“We needed to focus much more on the existing customers—their success and who they are and how they’re using the service—even more than growing [our] business. While growing the business is important—and we certainly are growing the business and we’ll be the fastest-growing software company of our class in the world—we’re putting a lot of energy back into the customers.”
 
Benioff isn’t alone in crediting the V2MOM with helping properly direct that energy. George Hu, executive vice president for marketing and alliances, has had a hand in every V2MOM since joining the company in 2002. The only significant shift in the V2MOM’s Vision, he recalls, came in 2004 when “growth” moved higher on the to-do list. “There was a tipping point,” Hu says. “Our mantra had been ‘Prove the model,’ but the market began accepting our model, so ‘growth’ became number two.” Perhaps aggressive growth? The word “dominate” suddenly appeared in 2004 as well—but the V2MOM faithful may prefer to focus on that as the first year of profitability.

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