John Chambers – Pattern Matching, Playbooks, and Winning Product Categories – [Founder’s Field Guide, EP.6]

My guest this week is John Chambers. John was the CEO of Cisco from 1995 to 2015 where he helped grow Cisco from $70 million to $40 billion in annual revenue. In this conversation we discuss the best business lesson he learned from long time GE CEO Jack Welch, his key lessons from acquiring over 180 companies with Cisco, pattern recognition and playbooks, capitalizing on market transitions enabled by new technologies, the value of team offsites, and a lot more. I was immediately drawn into John’s magnetic personality and it’s easy to see how he was so adept at running a 40,000 person company for 2 decades. I hope you enjoy this great conversation with John Chambers.

This episode is brought to you by Microsoft for Startups. Microsoft for Startups is a global program dedicated to helping “enterprise-ready” B2B startups successfully scale their companies. If you’re a founder running a B2B company targeting the enterprise, you should definitely check them out.

This episode is also sponsored by Vanta.  Vanta has built software that makes it easier to both get and maintain your SOC 2 report, at a fraction of the normal cost. Founders Field Guide listeners can redeem a $1k off coupon at vanta.com/patrick

For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast

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Show Notes

(2:04) – (First question) – Why companies need a near death experience

(6:37) – The way his leadership changed between 1999 and 2003

(11:34) – His career before and leading to his time joining Cisco

(17:51) – What Cisco was like when he joined 

(21:02) – Role that pattern recognition plays in his management

(24:16) – Lessons learned from the spate of acquisitions they took on under his tenure

(30:46) – Pricing deals and using Cisco’s scale to be successful

(33:09) – Lessons he learned in terms of distribution

(35:10) – What he learned from his relationship with Shimon Peres

(42:08) – His role in helping young entrepreneurs

(46:00) – Transformation on his team building trips to Alaska

(50:42) – Transitions in the world he is focused on right now

(52:542) – Kindest thing anyone has done for John 

Learn More

For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast

Sign up for the book club and new email newsletter called “Inside the Episode” at InvestorFieldGuide.com/bookclub.

Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag