Salesforce's co-CEO Marc Benioff has built an iconic tech company that is largely responsible for bringing the idea of software as a service (SaaS) to the masses. Its flagship Sales Cloud software is used by millions of sales professionals at over 100,000 companies, including some of the largest in the world. It has more than $13 billion in annual revenue and is worth roughly $143 billion.

Every year, thousands of those Salesforce users attend the company's annual conference, which is happening this week in San Francisco. It was there at the Dreamforce conference yesterday that Benioff mentioned what I think is the most fascinating thing about how he runs the company:

He does it all from his iPhone.

"I don't even own a computer anymore," Benioff said in an onstage interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook. "The phone has really become an extension of my office. Wherever I am, if I have a phone, I can work."

Look, Benioff has been known to say some pretty, well, interesting things in the past. Like the time he said that "Facebook is the new cigarettes."

But this is different, because while it might sound a little outrageous that you could run a $143 billion company from your iPhone, it's actually not that crazy if you think about it. In fact, many entrepreneurs have talked about how their smartphone is their most vital business tool. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said something similar a few years ago, about how he no longer uses a computer. 

It's actually a brilliant point--if you have a phone, you can work. In fact, most of us would probably agree that our phone is our most important work and productivity tool. The key is focusing on the right kind of work, and how to best use your phone to get it done.

Here's why it matters:

Understand Your Role

As the leader of a business, your role isn't to do everything. Sure, when you first started, there's a pretty good chance that you were the one responsible for making sure everything happened, but as you build a team, your role changes. In fact, your primary role becomes setting expectations, and making sure your team is able to meet those expectations. That means communication.

The iPhone is probably the most revolutionary communication tool of the new century. It literally makes it possible for leaders to be face-to-face with their team, no matter where they're all located. There's a pretty good chance that as your business grows, you'll spend more time communicating, in meetings, and traveling to connect with customers and your team. An iPhone is a far better tool for that role than a laptop.

Limitations Force You to Focus

Sometimes, the best way to get more done is to focus on less. A computer allows you to do a lot of things, but it also allows you to do a lot of things that aren't the most important thing. That's exactly why I love working on my iPad Pro: It forces me to focus. That's true even more on an iPhone. 

If you're running a company, especially one the size of Salesforce, there's a reasonable chance you have a lot going on. There's also a good chance that the most important thing for you is to have a tool to keep track of communications and tasks that require your attention.

There's an App for That

All of the flagship devices from Apple, Google, Samsung, and others are powerful enough to actually get work done, especially when that work is staying in touch with the people and business processes that matter. In fact, the iPhone 11 Pro uses the A13 processor, which is arguably powerful enough to beat many laptops. 

Plus, the iPhone has over two million apps available in the App Store. Android has almost three million. Both of those platforms are capable of powering the apps that allow you to access the information you need to run your business. Very few businesses require legacy software that is restricted to use on a desktop computer sitting in a cubicle.

Instead, most businesses use software tools that run not only in your browser but as apps on your smartphone. They use apps to manage email, apps to manage business processes, and apps to manage sales processes.

Apps like Salesforce. Which a lot of CEOs probably use to run their businesses--from their phone. 

Published on: Nov 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.