When Marc Benioff founded the tech juggernaut Salesforce in 1999, he introduced some unconventional business practices he felt would be crucial for CEOs in the 21st century. Benioff wasn't just acting on a hunch--his experiences working at Apple and Oracle inspired him to establish some management principles that go way beyond a mission statement.

Benioff recently sat down with The New York Times to discuss some of the key lessons he's learned that have helped him turn Salesforce into a $100 billion company. Here are four business principles he swears by, as reported by the Times.

1. First days are for volunteering

When new employees start at Salesforce, they're shown the kitchen, restroom, and where their desks are, but after that, it's time to leave the building and do some volunteer work. "They'll go to a homeless shelter or they'll go to the hospital or go to a public school," Benioff said. Having new hires volunteer on their first day will not only make them feel good, it will establish in them a stronger sense of purpose and reinforce the importance of giving to others, according to Benioff. 

2. Company culture and service should be intertwined

After 10 years at Oracle, Benioff was feeling burned out, so he took a trip to Hawaii and worked on meditation. Clearing his head gave him time to think about the future of the internet, which is when he became convinced that the Web would soon become all about service, particularly software as a service and cloud computing. Benioff decided then and there that any tech company he founded would need to have a culture built around service. 

3. Teach salespeople to communicate better 

When Benioff was a student at the University of Southern California, a professor told him that the best way to improve your tennis game is to play with better tennis players, so seeking out the best players is the best strategy. During his time working in sales at Oracle, Benioff learned the same goes for becoming a better salesperson, which is why he believes the best way to teach sales is to surround new hires with salespeople who are expert communicators.

4. Growing the company is not the top priority

One of Benioff's most important principles is that in business, trust is more important than growth. This stands in harsh contrast to a memo that Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth wrote, in which he stood by the social network's strategy of growth, no matter the cost. "If you put growth above trust, then all of a sudden you create a toxic culture," Benioff said. "People don't want to work in that environment or use the product."

Of all the personal strategies Benioff put to the test before founding Salesforce, meditation--which he discovered while taking time off in Hawaii and India--may have been one of his most important. In addition to making him "a different person," Benioff said the practice allows him "to step back, so that I can create what wants to be, not what was. I know that the future does not equal the past."

Published on: Jun 18, 2018