My favorite passages from Marc Benioff’s Trailblazer book (Salesforce’s CEO story about social impact as a business)

These were my favorite passages from reading his stories about his challenges during their rapid growth and the challenges and opportunities he had to go through in order to make a difference as a business.

“Within four years, I had been promoted to vice president, the youngest person ever in that position. Soon I had the multi-million-dollar salary, stock, and perks to go with it. Yet there I was on a workday morning, frozen in place under the covers in my apartment on Telegraph Hill. I did not feel happy or fulfilled. I was supposedly living the American dream, but I was lost. Later that day, I managed to drag myself to the office, where I found Larry and told him about the malaise that had sunk in. His proposed solution was easy and direct: “Why don’t you take a sabbatical? Take three months off, go take a look around.” He added, “And pull yourself back together.”

“In your quest to succeed and make money, don’t forget to do something for others.” With these words, the idea for Salesforce began to take shape. I knew in my head that I wanted to build a company that harnessed innovative new technology, but in my heart, I also wanted it to be committed to giving back. On that day in Trivandrum, the seed was planted. Two years later I left the Oracle nest to do just that.

“But I now know the most powerful engine of our success hasn’t been our software, our people, or our business model, but rather, the decision we made in 1999 to orient our culture around values.”

“This isn’t just my opinion; there’s a growing pile of evidence that markets reward businesses that do good and that companies that have a social mission tend to be more successful. In a competitive business such as tech, where luring top talent can be the difference between profit and loss, it’s often something intangible—like a diverse, inclusive, values-driven culture—that determines where the best and brightest talent decide to work.”

“When it was my turn to speak, I said, “Trust has to be your highest value in your company. And if it’s not, something bad is going to happen.”

A culture rooted in values creates value. My sincere hope is that this book will inspire you to look inside yourself, ask the right questions, and blaze your own trail. What you do next matters.

“Once, when a kindergarten teacher asked me to draw a circle, I looked her straight in the eye and defiantly drew a line. Even though Mom left countless teacher meetings in tears, she continued to give me a long leash to pursue my”

“Looking back, I continue to marvel at the fact that my parents not only tolerated my eccentric behavior, but gave me enough independence to fully indulge it. When I tell people about how I was allowed to turn our basement into my own private residence at age twelve, they are always (justifiably) astonished. In retrospect, I imagine my mother was less than thrilled when I announced, on the very day I got my driver’s license, that I needed to make a business trip to a computer company in Mountain View, much farther than I had ever driven on my own. But she let me go. And that summer, when I asked if I could fly to England, alone, to research castles for my games, Mom gave me her blessing, so long as I stayed with friends of hers in Leeds and promised to call home every night. My mother claims that she indulged me because she knew I was stubborn and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The truth, I know, is that she saw something in me that others didn’t and allowed me to pursue it, even if doing so made it nearly impossible for her to get a good night’s sleep.”

“but they respected my drive, my strong will, and my unwavering commitment to things I cared about, and sensed that these values would serve me well when I got older. They turned out to be right.”

“Even as a teenager, when I would think about how much time my dad spent traveling to meet with suppliers, ferrying inventory around, and minding the company ledgers, I was astounded by how difficult it was to run a business in the analog age. To me, he seemed enslaved by the rudimentary tasks of commerce; he got so buried in the weeds that he rarely had time to focus on the big picture.”

“Another time, during a stop at Mission Bay—then a desolate area that was once home to shipyards, foundries, warehouses, and factories—he boldly (and correctly) proclaimed that one day, “this will be the future of San Francisco.” I was convinced he had the power to see the future. Grandpa also dabbled in politics, and at the close of the Second World War he began an eleven-year stint as a San Francisco city supervisor. In that role, he focused his considerable powers of persuasion on one civic priority: building a new, thoroughly modern mass transit”

“His vision was also guided by the way he defined progress. In his mind, no civic project really mattered unless it also furthered what he saw as San Francisco’s bedrock values: opportunity, equality, and inclusion. By enabling the city’s residents to travel quickly and inexpensively between downtown and the suburbs, he knew BART would give them access to better jobs and more opportunities for life enrichment. He also knew it would reduce the growing congestion on the bridges spanning the Bay and mitigate the environmental problems”

“in truth, as a person—would be the extent to which every future employee found meaning in his or her work. If my father’s example had taught me anything, it was that meaning isn’t about what kind of work you do or how much money you make. It’s grounded in a mindset in which your work, and the integrity with which you perform it, really matters.”

“our 1-1-1 corporate philanthropy program has already generated nearly $300 million in grants and 4 million hours of employee volunteer time. More than forty thousand nonprofits and nongovernmental entities (NGOs) use Salesforce’s products for free or for a steep discount. I’ve always seen this as a tribute to my grandfather, and part of what makes our company different from most.”

“From him I learned that you can’t live your beliefs to the fullest unless you develop the imagination and the confidence to express them in bold, meaningful ways.”

“Beyond that, I was proud of the positive, purposeful culture we’d built around our three founding values: trust, customer success, and innovation.”

“It might surprise some readers to learn that when it comes to politics, I was at one time a Republican, but now I’m an independent. I’ve given advice to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I personally held a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but I had no problem coming to the Trump White House in my capacity as a business leader to talk about workforce development and technology training programs. Salesforce is not a political organization and our values don’t come with party affiliations.”

“While I’d kicked open the door, many more people needed to enter it, and convincing them to do so wasn’t easy. Although they had powerful platforms, many CEOs in 2015 were loath to wade into social issues, especially those with political undertones. Some of them never got back to me. Others chastised me for putting my own values ahead of shareholder value,”

“Then, little by little, other business leaders began stepping over the threshold. Yelp Inc.’s Jeremy Stoppelman thanked me for “creating aircover for the rest of us, so we can feel OK about speaking out.” Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube and a Salesforce board member, supported me too, and Apple CEO Tim Cook published an op-ed in The Washington Post saying that “America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business” and encouraged others to stand up and oppose such legislation.”

“But let me be clear: What Indiana ultimately showed me is that no one person is in charge of the moral compass of a business. The phone calls and messages from my employees proved that if the leadership won’t act, they’ll have to face the bayonets poking up from below. Gone are the days when companies can recruit and retain top talent without upholding a commitment to values. In the coming era of business for good, everyone who taps their alarm button in the morning and heads to work can play a role. This isn’t just a matter of what the C-suite does. It’s about what happens on the shop floor or in the rows of office cubicles. Just as CEOs can’t look away when social issues clash with their values, employees can’t pretend that whatever its leadership decides to do is above their pay grade. If leadership won’t act on a company’s values, employees at every level need to hold them accountable.”

“They want to learn, to better the world, they aren’t afraid to explore, they crave innovation and enjoy solving problems and also giving back,” Sarah wrote. “They are people that care about culture and diversity. They are trailblazers.” I was convinced. To my astonishment, the word “trailblazer” caught fire among our extended family of employees, customers, and partners, to the point that we quickly exhausted the supply of black hoodies we’d made with the term emblazoned on the front. I even used “Trailblazer” as the theme of my next keynote speech at Dreamforce, the annual blowout software conference we host in San Francisco.”

“I recognized the significance of this humble gesture immediately. Loss of face, symbolized by such a bow, is a powerful cultural totem in Japan—a tradition embodied by samurai and military leaders who, when defeated or facing a loss of personal honor, fell on their swords. I could tell his apology was heartfelt. I also knew it wouldn’t be enough. Every CEO has to perform a delicate dance between two priorities: trust and growth. Intellectually, we all know that whenever growth is put before trust, a problem will eventually appear. It can happen to the best of leaders, and to the most respected of companies. Speaking before the U.S. Congress, Toyoda-san acknowledged it plainly: “We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should be sincerely mindful of that.”

“Whenever I touched down in Japan, I felt a heightened sense of clarity, along with an immediate desire to reinvigorate and reinspire myself. To this day there is something about the atmosphere on those magical islands to which I’m deeply connected. So it’s no coincidence that when I decided to explore the teachings of Zen, I bought a train ticket to Kyoto.”

“It was there, at the Ryoan-ji temple in the northwest part of the city, that I began a lifelong journey toward developing a “beginner’s mind,” or what the Japanese call shoshin. (I’ll talk more about this later on.) I began to make annual trips, often inviting friends to join me. I relished introducing them to the Japanese way of life. Part of the allure of Japan for me is how its companies have a knack for creating brilliant, efficient, and beautiful things, from mass-market products like cars and cameras to designer T-shirts, food, and fine art. It’s a country that treasures masters of innovation and design. So it should come as no great surprise that one year after we founded Salesforce, Tokyo became the location of our first office outside the United States.”

“in the sense that it’s all about connection, not transaction. Business is temporal, but relationships are eternal. Which means they have to be genuine, and built on common ground.”

“In Detroit, we discussed how talent is fleeing many companies because they believe those companies’ actions are in conflict, or out of alignment, both with their own values and the values the businesses attempt to project. The bottom line is that people want to work for employers who strive to create purposeful platforms for good. This isn’t some intellectual construct. “

“When bright employees see misalignment with their values, they view it as a personal betrayal—and then they walk.”

“I don’t think my reaction was quite the one he expected. “This is great!” I exclaimed giddily. At that moment, I’m pretty sure he thought I had lost my mind. But I believed that as a leader, you need to be a lot more concerned about what people aren’t saying than about what they are. In fact, it’s when people stop griping that you need to worry, because that’s the first sign that problems are getting swept under the rug. Most of the grievances aired on Chatter were not exactly Code Orange. Like There’s a truck hogging a parking space, or The cashew bin at the snack station is empty. But there were also important insights that forced us to reexamine long-held practices.”

“Maybe I’ve taken transparency a bit too far at times. I know I sometimes embarrass people with my candor. Finding the right balance is not easy. Sometimes it can be downright frightening. But once you’ve genuinely embraced the notion of total transparency, it also becomes liberating. It starts to permeate every decision you make. It starts to lessen the destructive notion of “us” versus “them.” It overcomes and exposes hidden agendas and encourages positive, ethical behavior. It becomes, in short, a competitive advantage. Vulnerability Makes You Stronger Compared to Google or Facebook, or many other Fortune 500 companies, Salesforce is not a household name. We don’t have stores or engage directly with consumers. We don’t make smartphones or flat-screen TVs emblazoned with our logo. I’m sure that to many of you, our name blends in with that of a lot of newfangled tech companies.”

“We understood that this had been a wake-up call, telling us it was finally time to trade in that black box for a clear, transparent one. After all, how long could we continue to hide from all the customers clamoring for answers?”

“I won’t try to deny that when you put yourself out there, there’s usually some pain involved. Vulnerability is scary. But it also makes you stronger.”

“With technology advancing at a blistering pace, what got you here, as they say, isn’t what will get you there. As Parker told the engineering team, “Let’s forget all the old versions. It’s no longer a new version of Salesforce. It’s a new vision.” What I didn’t anticipate at the time is how it would test our resolve and the culture of trust we had built over the years.”

“For a leader, the most difficult of all is knowing when it’s appropriate to trust your own judgment, even when no one else around agrees with you. As a rule, I’ve never been someone who spends a lot of time worrying what other people think of me. I suppose that explains why I’m sometimes caught on video dancing at courtside during Golden State Warriors basketball games, or showing up at work with Salesforce’s Chief Love Officer, aka my pet golden retriever. I’ve always been inclined to march to the beat of my own drum, even when others might think I’m crazy. After all, I trusted myself enough to quit a great job to start a company in a small rented apartment, even after every venture capitalist in Silicon Valley told me that my idea was worthless.”

“Values like trust may not make for dramatic earnings charts and they may never become the tallest trees. They are more like hundreds of small acorns you bury in the ground in the hope that they’ll become saplings. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that if you nurture them, those saplings eventually grow up together. There’s not a single tree on earth that’s sturdier than a forest.”

“For example, when they asked for faster speed in navigation, what they really needed was smarter “tasks” that could do things like triggering proactive alerts about their clients and guiding them to useful market data.”

“Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” In the end, Einstein was right. If you focus the bulk of your time and effort on understanding the problems, solving them becomes the easy part.”

“That was important, but in a world where technology holds almost limitless possibilities, marginal improvements couldn’t come at the expense of stepping back and identifying the biggest, most urgent and potentially painful challenges our customers faced, and then figuring out how to address them. It’s hard to overstate how important this shift would turn out to be. It allowed us to see that the real problem wasn’t the software we’d built for Merrill. It was the customer success infrastructure we’d built. What Merrill’s advisers showed us is that we were going about the process backwards.”

“The way I think of it, Dreamforce is where Salesforce comes alive, a place where people come together under the umbrella of our shared values to mix and mingle, eat and drink, meet and share learnings with interesting people in many different fields. No two people come for the same reasons or leave with the same feelings about what the gathering meant to them.”

“Today it’s a celebration of our customers, a place where they come to revel in their success, acquire new skills, study broader trends in technology and innovation, and discuss social issues. These trailblazers aren’t just thinking of their own success; they want to inspire others to take their businesses, and their careers, to another level. This is why many of the twenty-seven hundred educational sessions and workshops are actually led by customers rather than employees, and why some customers have begun organizing their own affinity groups and events, or even hosting their own Dreamforce-related podcasts.”

“I explain how Dreamforce is the ultimate expression of our brand and customer success, and how our community inspires and creates a virtuous circle of growth. People who become successful using our products want others to join them, and in turn, our community and our business grow.”

The strong economy, combined with easy credit, not only fueled a massive housing boom, it also turned millions of Americans into home-improvement junkies. TV shows about buying, renovating, and flipping houses began dominating the ratings, earning Home Depot an enviable position at the center of the zeitgeist.

“We knew that if Home Depot was to have a strong future, it needed to embrace a digital strategy. Even before the Merrill debacle, we’d believed that it’s every Salesforce employee’s job to listen to our customers—to try to understand what they actually need, rather than pitching them our latest products and trying to maximize sales. To do this well, we’re often forced to step away from our desks and walk in a customer’s shoes. That goes for the CEO, too.”

It’s possible that we could have saved our Merrill account by micromanaging the problem and doing just enough to quell their frustration. That certainly would have been easier. Instead, we attacked the problem by remembering what we aspire to become and being unafraid to reconsider the methods that worked for us in the past.

“Be Mindful, and Project the Future” The first great role model in my life, aside from my father and grandfather, was Albert Einstein.

“Beyond all that, he still managed to approach his work with a passion that bordered on childlike wonder. “Imagination,” he is said to have observed, “is the highest form of research.” To me, Einstein’s rare combination of knowledge, moral conviction, intuition, and insatiable curiosity represented an almost impossible ideal. Like the Zen Buddhists who inspired me later on, Einstein was able to let go of preconceived notions and think about the world in an unconstrained way. This spirit was the one I’d eventually aspire to re-create inside Salesforce. “

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

“He was a busy man, and was legendary for his directness, and ability to quickly zero in on what’s important.”

“One evening, over dinner in San Francisco, I was struck by an irresistibly simple idea. What if any developer from anywhere in the world could create their own application for the Salesforce platform? And what if we offered to store these apps in an online directory that allowed any Salesforce user to download them? I wouldn’t say this idea felt entirely comfortable.”

“I wanted it to be, we would need to seek innovation everywhere. So I sketched out my idea on a restaurant napkin. And the very next morning, I went to our legal team and asked them to register the domain for “AppStore.com” and buy the trademark for “App Store.” Shortly thereafter, I learned that our customers didn’t like the name “App Store.” In fact, they hated it. So I reluctantly conceded and about a year later, we introduced “AppExchange”: the first business software marketplace of its kind, and the first major initiative born out of our new commitment to seek innovation.”

“I was learning that unconscious bias shows up in all kinds of ways, especially in industries like tech that have historically been largely male-dominated. Ellen Kullman, the former CEO of DuPont and co-chair of Paradigm for Parity, an organization of high-powered business leaders whose goal is to achieve full gender parity in the workplace by 2030, once pointed out something that’s both encouraging and, to me, rather daunting. Since men hold the majority of leadership roles in the corporate world, she said, they play a critical role in advocating for women and mentoring them. “Until you level that playing field,” Ellen says, “you’re going to get that same outcome.”

“That Black Birds tweet I’d sent was so profoundly insensitive that I’d deleted it. In a backwards way, though, I was grateful for the backlash it created. It reminded me how important it is for leaders to align their words and behavior. You can make all the empathetic statements you want, but until you figure out how to open doors for people of color and build a welcoming environment for them, you’ll never create lasting change. We have miles to go, but I know we will never stop working to make our culture more compassionate, creative, and diverse.”

“Whenever I venture out in public, which is pretty often, I rarely think of myself as the Salesforce CEO. Truth be told, I feel more like the CAQ. Chief Answerer of Questions. When you make it known publicly that you intend to create a different kind of business—in our case a business that’s equally committed to doing well and doing good—people are going to be curious. They want to know how you operate, what keeps you awake at night, and how well it’s all going. You’ll be cornered at parties, conferences, charity events, and, in my case, even halftime breaks at Golden State Warriors games.”

“They want to make sure their company is committed to improving the state of the world. If business leaders think it’s hard to navigate this now, just wait until the next generational wave enters the workforce. I believe they’ll be two or three times more mission-driven. As companies meet this employee demand, they’re realizing this culture needs to be authentic.”

“A genuine culture built on fundamentals like trust and aimed at the goal of business for good is more than enough, but only if it genuinely outweighs the traditional business motives of driving revenue, growth, and profit.”

“Based on my experience at Salesforce, culture eats everything. All of the business tactics we’ve deployed, every line of code we’ve written, and every marketing campaign we’ve dreamed up over the years are, in the end, ephemeral. Each one could be discarded and replaced at any moment as the world around us changes. It’s our culture’s ability to evolve with the pace of change, to live and breathe on its own, to be both familiar and dynamic, that really drives us forward. For businesses that want to have any hope of thriving in the future, culture—and the values that define it—is what will drive financial success.”

“Over time, your employees and customers, not to mention investors, partners, host communities, and other stakeholders, will want to know your philosophy for doing business. They want to know if you have a soul. We’ve seen moments when two or more of our values have painfully and publicly come into conflict, but we’re getting used to it. Inevitably, these periods of discomfort will come. If your culture is strong, you will survive them. In fact, they may even make you stronger. To us, these situations have always proven to be oddly reassuring. They remind us who we really are.”

“That’s why we livestream our management meetings and allow everyone from seasoned Salesforce veterans to new hires to post questions and make comments that executives can view on the big screens.”

“When something happens in the world that impacts our employee community, members set up Equality Circles, which are safe spaces to have healthy, productive, and constructive conversations. In this way employees can feel heard rather than suffering in silence at their desks, and it helps to build awareness and empathy across the company. For example, in January 2017, when the Trump administration separated families at the U.S. border with Mexico, several employees hosted an Equality Circle. Similarly after white-supremacist demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville, employees gathered to discuss their feelings and fears.”

“Culture is more visceral than intellectual, which is why I often find myself asking: “Does this feel like Salesforce?”

“But my favorite feature of every new Salesforce tower, from our San Francisco headquarters to New York, Indianapolis, London, Tokyo, and others, is the Ohana floor. Normally, the top floor of a big office tower is reserved for top executives—some companies even make it accessible only by a special, private elevator. Well, I completely rejected that practice, and decided to make the top floor in every tower (and its stunning views) a space that is open to all employees to use for meetings, events, and collaboration during the workday, and invite nonprofits and community groups to enjoy it for free on the weekends.”

“The Summit’s goal was to mobilize America’s citizen power in a united effort to solve the problems facing our society—especially those that threaten young people, such as inadequate healthcare, drug abuse, and lack of education needed to compete in the global economy. General Powell wanted us to get involved in what later became a nonprofit called America’s Promise, which works to improve the lives of millions of at-risk youth in the nation. It was a pivotal moment. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing the same message from General Powell, one of the most respected public servants, that I had heard from Amma, the hugging saint, during my visit in India. He offered a pledge, which I took, and it would end up influencing me profoundly: “We pledge to reach out to the most vulnerable members of the American family, our children. They are at risk of growing up unskilled, unlearned or, even worse, unloved….All of us can spare thirty minutes a week or an hour a week. All of us can give an extra dollar. All of us can touch someone who doesn’t look like us, who doesn’t speak like us, who may not dress like us, but, by God, needs us in their lives.”

“That was when I began to understand the value of creating an organizational culture where people know that it’s important to show up. It was wonderful and generous that Oracle was committing to upgrade computer equipment in schools, but giving back wasn’t connected deeply to the culture of the company, so no one felt compelled to exert any extra effort to actually make it happen. I resolved right then—two years before leaving Oracle—that when I eventually had my own company, things would be different.”

“The truth of the matter was that giving back had been baked into every one of our core values from the beginning. After all, the very act of helping others develops and demonstrates trust: It shows employees and customers that we’re motivated by more than money. And the way I wanted to give back—by investing in the workforce of tomorrow—is all about ensuring that we will continue driving the kind of trailblazing innovation that will help our customers succeed not only today, but many years into the future. And finally, our focus on improving access to education for all is far and away the best antidote to inequality.”

“Even back when our nascent company had zero products and just a handful of employees, I knew that if we wanted Salesforce to become a trailblazing company, we would need world-class talent. Which meant we needed to invest in those places where future trailblazers could acquire the education and skills they would need to succeed in the digital, information-economy workforce: our schools and youth institutions.”

“school district in the United States to have a computer science curriculum for every grade. We have more Wi-Fi in more classrooms, more full-time teachers and coaches for math and technology, and smaller class sizes. And the results are measurable. A full 90 percent of San Francisco’s public school students are now proficient in computer science, and we’ve seen a 2,000 percent increase in girls and 6,600 percent increase in underrepresented groups taking computer science. In my mind, that progress, more than how much money or time we donate, is the real measure of success. Encouraged by these results, we’re doing similar work with school districts where we have offices around the globe. In Indianapolis, for example, the location of our second-biggest hub in the United States, we gave $500,000 to the public school district. With about 90 percent of our employees giving their time in the local schools and nonprofits, they spent sixty-five thousand hours volunteering in Indiana last year alone.”

“In the United States alone there are nearly half a million open technology jobs, but our universities produced only sixty-three thousand computer science graduates last year. Meanwhile, our companies can be incredible universities for educating the workforce of the future. Which is why we invest in training employees, as well as interns and apprentices, to acquire new skills, in many cases through specialized instruction and hands-on experience that can’t be obtained at even the most prestigious universities.”

“I often ask my peers in Silicon Valley what would have happened if the top-tier venture capital firms required the companies they invested in to put one percent of their equity into a public charity serving the communities in which they do business. The answer is obvious: Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, and numerous other successful Silicon Valley companies would have created some of the largest public charities in the world, amassing billions of dollars that could fund programs to address the most difficult problems we face. We need to find a way to give back on a massively large scale. The answer is business. Some companies, such as Google, have adopted a variation of our 1-1-1 model, and we’ve worked with other organizations to spread it around the world. We also provided the seed for Pledge1percent.org, which encourages and provides a framework for companies of all sizes and stages to donate 1 percent of their employee time, product, and profit or equity to any charity.”

“This wasn’t the first time I’d gone cold turkey in this way, so I had a sense of how hard the adjustment was about to be. In the first few hours and days, while waiting for a flight or a seat at some seaside restaurant, my muscle memory would be triggered. I’d instinctively reach for my phone and, not finding it, engage in a few seconds of frenzied pocket patting before it would finally dawn on me. Oh, right. I’m unarmed.”

“To squeeze all of this into a day, Rubens was famously adept at multitasking. Yet even knowing this about his esteemed patient, when the physician arrived that day, he could hardly believe what he saw. The maestro stood in front of a canvas, furiously applying paint. To one side sat an assistant who was reading aloud to him from the works of the Roman historian Tacitus while Rubens simultaneously dictated a letter to another assistant. Somehow, in the middle of all that, he managed to greet the physician and engage him in an extensive conversation.”

“However, my personal dedication to give back is non-negotiable: My wife and I have overseen nearly $500 million in personal charitable giving and serve as impact investors in for-profit companies we believe are doing positive things for the planet. And frankly, it’s hard not to want to always be doing even more. I suppose that Lynne and I didn’t have to decide to buy Time magazine in 2018, for example, but we believe it’s an important institution that is having a positive global impact, and ensuring the viability of a free and open press is a cause that is deeply aligned with our values. The same could probably be said about my decision to write this book.”

“But you can’t reimagine the world unless you learn to shield your mind from the everyday noise and chaos. Today, it’s not enough to simply unplug and spend time thinking. We need to make time to think deeply.”

“At times like these, cultivating a beginner’s mind and being open to new ways of thinking isn’t just good for the soul, it’s a survival tactic.”

“It has also been an essential business strategy.”

“If you haven’t taken the time to reconnect with who you are and what you really believe, those instincts will eventually fail you when it matters most.”

“It was time to ask our board of directors to make Keith Block, then Salesforce’s chief operating officer, a co-CEO. Keith had already taken on some of the responsibilities for running the company. But clearly, this wasn’t enough. If I was to maintain my sanity and be the kind of leader Salesforce deserved, I would need Keith to step up and lead the company with me. This move, I knew, would not only take our collaboration to another level, it would accelerate our future growth. I would continue to focus on vision and innovation in our technology, marketing, stakeholder engagement, and culture, while Keith would be responsible for growth strategy, execution, and operations.”

“But during those unplugged weeks my consciousness shifted and I saw that I needed to put more trust in the people around me. Continuing to carry the full weight of the company on my shoulders wasn’t helping anybody. The new arrangement would allow me to be more mindful, more present, and perhaps less chronically late for meetings. It was a dramatic move, but one that I believe will help Salesforce prosper for many years, while also allowing me to reclaim the attention and focus that my jam-packed schedule had been costing me.”

“allowing qualities such as kindness, empathy, and compassion to emerge. It is, in short, the source of a beginner’s mind.”

“But the next morning, with the clarity of a rested mind, I realized that I hadn’t listened deeply enough to my team. I had been so focused on the numbers that I hadn’t addressed the need to relieve the tension, reduce the noise, and get back to our beginner’s mind. I hadn’t been listening with my heart.”

“And to foster transparency, we publish every V2MOM on our corporate social network Chatter instead of hiding them in a vault. And this open-book approach helps break down departmental divisions and harness the collective energy of the entire company. Anyone can look up any employee’s V2MOM to see how each plans to contribute to our company’s future. We even built an app that allows every employee to track their progress on each item in their V2MOM.”

“I knew I needed to comment publicly, but before I did, I would have to listen deeply. So I set up a call with the authors of the letter.”

“Can we trust Salesforce?” A few minutes later, another author of the letter did the same. “Are we an ethical company?” In twenty years, I had never heard anybody seriously question either of those notions. Hearing this left me deeply shaken. It was one of the first times in my life that I found myself quite literally stunned into silence. It rattled me to my very core.

I began to understand that in talking about “integration,” Klaus was urging me to look for the kinds of connections that rarely turn up in your company in-box. What Klaus was really saying is that the only way a company truly thrives is if it fully integrates into society and into the greater effort to build a better world. Every time your company connects to another person, even tangentially, you bear some responsibility for that person’s future well-being. In some ways, this is a burden, but it’s also a golden opportunity. If that one small interaction can make a dent, large or small, in whatever need that person has, or whatever pressing issue is holding that person back, you will have created a lasting impression, which is the first step in building a trusted bond.”

“After a long pause, there was applause, but it was of the nervous rather than robust variety. This teenage climate activist had thrown down the gauntlet to some of the world’s most powerful business leaders and they weren’t entirely sure how to react—not least because they knew deep down that she was right. We can no longer deny the fact that the environment is a key stakeholder for every business—and for everyone who inhabits this planet, for that matter. We cannot sit by passively while climate change is causing our air to become unbreathable, our oceans to heat up and acidify, and our sea levels to rise. Extreme weather events—heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires—are becoming more frequent, and more deadly, with every passing year. If we continue to dump plastic into our rivers and oceans at the current rate, the amount of plastics in the ocean will exceed the weight of the ocean’s fish by 2050, setting off a catastrophic cascade of reactions across our ecosystem.”

“Allbirds is a shining example of a company committed to treating the environment as a critical stakeholder. This fast-growing shoemaking start-up popularized ethical footwear, using wool that meets stringent standards of sustainable farming and animal welfare and that requires 60 percent less energy to produce than typical synthetic materials used in shoes. And Allbirds works with the nonprofit Soles4Souls to redistribute returned shoes to people in need all around the world.”

“The e-commerce site Etsy recently announced a full transition to carbon-neutral shipping. By committing to purchase carbon offsets to cover 100 percent of the emissions generated by package delivery, this online retailer set a gold standard for its entire industry. Even the global giants have gotten the message. More than two hundred fifty companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Unilever, have committed to making all plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

We’re not only instilling these values into our culture, we’re also building them into our infrastructure—literally. Salesforce Tower in San Francisco features the largest onsite water recycling system in a commercial high-rise building in the United States, saving millions of gallons of water every year. For us, this is crucial, given the location of our headquarters in California, a region that is chronically afflicted by drought.”

“That spring, four thousand Google employees had written an open letter to their CEO, Sundar Pichai, to protest the company’s work with a Pentagon program using artificial intelligence on the battlefield. “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter stated. Two months later, Google announced that it would not renew its military contract for 2019.”

“When the Trump administration announced a zero-tolerance policy on immigration and the press began reporting on family separations, I was heartsick. It was unimaginable that families who were coming to America for a better life would be subjected to this treatment. As I thought about my great-grandfather Isaac Benioff, who came to the United States as a refugee, I promptly made donations to nonprofit groups helping families at the border. In the United States, Americans come from many backgrounds and countries—we are truly a melting pot. Every year some of the world’s best and brightest students attend our colleges and universities, and then we send them back to their home countries after they graduate. Instead, we should staple a green card to every diploma and keep them here. Our long-term competitive differentiation strategy for the United States is summed up in one word: immigrants. Ultimately, it’s not AI, bioengineering, or any other technology that will differentiate or make a country competitive. It’s the people.”

“And they weren’t shy about voicing these concerns. Keith and Dave Rey, our head of public-sector business, and other sales executives were fielding calls from some customers wanting to know who would decide if their products were being used for good or for harm. What are the criteria, and who defines the parameters? Does every customer need to be perceived as totally aligned with Salesforce’s values? Can we count on you that you aren’t going to make a decision to pull your software and leave us in the lurch? This quickly became an entirely separate trust issue that our team needed to confront, and it also complicated the situation by roping in yet another of our core values: customer success.”

“I certainly didn’t enjoy seeing these pictures on TV, or the pounding I took on social media. If previous fights hadn’t thickened my skin, I’m not sure how I would have weathered this one. In my period of contemplation, I tried to focus on the truths I knew: that it didn’t matter whether or not Salesforce was being unfairly portrayed in this case; what mattered was our responsibility to make sure our ethical use guidelines were clearly articulated going forward.”

“On July 26, I posted a statement to employees on Chatter announcing that our Office of Equality would have a new unit, called the Office of Ethical and Humane Use. It would work hand-in-hand with our Office of Ethics and Integrity, which focuses on corporate governance. We would appoint a Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer whose newly created team would work with all of our stakeholders, as well as industry groups, thought leaders, and experts, to create, promote, and implement industry standards, guidelines, and living frameworks around the ethical use of technology. Our first ever Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, Paula Goldman, describes her mission as developing a strategic framework for our technology that not only drives the success of our customers, but also drives positive social change and benefits humanity.”

“But mostly, it was because all our fates are intermingled. What’s good for the homeless is what’s good for my company, my community, and my”

“The statistics bear this out. In a corporate social responsibility survey of online shoppers across sixty countries, conducted by Nielsen, 66 percent said they were willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to driving positive social and environmental impact. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that millennials believe business success should be measured by more than profits, citing the creation of innovative ideas, products, and services; positive impact on the environment and society; job creation, career development, and improving people’s lives; and promotion of inclusion and diversity in the workplace as the top priorities. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, 75 percent of consumers say they won’t buy from unethical companies, and 86 percent say they’re more loyal to ethical companies.”
“In Fortune’s CEO Initiative 2019 survey of eleven hundred executives, managers, and employees, 87 percent agreed that the need for moral leadership in business is greater than ever. Yet only 7 percent of employees surveyed said their leaders often or always exhibited the behaviors of moral leadership. The disconnect between beliefs and action is still enormous, and there will be consequences for business whose leadership doesn’t live by values like trust and equality. In this age of instantaneous digital feedback, companies and their leaders simply can no longer turn a blind eye to the issues that matter to their employees, their customers, and the communities in which they do business.”

“This insight inspired Lynne and me to fund the $30 million UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, aimed at building reliable and credible science-based research to help policymakers, community leaders, and the public understand how people become homeless and identify solutions to alleviate the crisis. The world badly needs a North Star for truth in homelessness. Data is crucial for ensuring that we invest in programs that can make a real difference in addressing homelessness and housing. For example, data shows that providing permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless adults creates long-term housing stability in over 85 percent of the people housed and often does so with an overall reduction in government expenditure. Dr. Margot Kushel, the director of the initiative, is leading the research team that studies factors such as poverty, domestic violence, age, family size, and unemployment office visits, to design the most effective ways to prevent and end homelessness. By leaning on medical science, emerging research, and data, my hope is that we’ll no longer have to argue about what works best. Instead of letting our gut instinct, assumptions, and the partial truths fed to us by snake-oil salesmen and politicians inform our position, we’ll simply let the science be our guide. Because once we stop fighting one another and start working together, change can happen. It’s our civic duty and our corporate responsibility.”

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