Many of us take inspiration from the late, great innovator Steve Jobs. One CEO in particular is no exception, citing the Apple co-founder as one of the greatest mentors he has ever had.

In fact, Marc Benioff, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Salesforce, even credits the existence of his company to the American icon--and it's all because of the priceless advice Jobs gave Benioff early in his career.

In an interview with CNN, Benioff revealed that Jobs gave him his first job as a 19-year-old college student in 1984. Working as an assembly language programmer at Apple, Benioff kept in touch with Jobs over the years, especially during the time when he was starting up Salesforce, a cloud-based software company now headquartered in San Francisco. 

In the early 2000s, when Benioff was feeling stuck about the direction of Salesforce, he headed straight to Jobs for guidance. After viewing a demo of the Salesforce customer relationship management service, Jobs advised Benioff to do three things:

One, Salesforce better be 10 times larger in 24 months or less, or else it's over. Two, you have to close a huge massive customer, like Avon...and three, you've got to build an application economy.

But that's not all. Jobs told Benioff there was something else he needed to remember.

"Marc," Jobs told Benioff, "if you want to be a great CEO, be mindful and project the future."

With Jobs's advice lurking in the back of his mind, Benioff later wondered what would happen if any developer from anywhere in the world could create their own application for the Salesforce platform. He also pondered what would occur if these apps were stored in an online directory that allowed Salesforce users to download them.

These ideas were not "entirely comfortable," Benioff admits, because opening up Salesforce products for tinkering was like giving away intellectual property. But, he says, he knew in his gut that "if Salesforce was to become the new kind of company [he] wanted it to be," he would need to seek innovation everywhere.

Today, the internet entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist currently has a net worth of $7.6 billion. Benioff says that Steve Jobs's advice helped him understand that "no great innovation in business ever happens in a vacuum." A company that wants to achieve true scale, he says, must "seek innovation beyond its own four walls and tap into the entire universe of knowledge and creativity."

Great advice for any founder, entrepreneur, or executive to live by.

Published on: Jan 18, 2020
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