John Chamber's And Cisco's Success Essay

5451 words - 22 pages

Suppose you were stranded on a deserted island and could own just one single stock. What would it be? Think about it for a minute. Would it be a stock that's been battered this spring and is down 20% from its high? A stock that trades at more than 100 times earnings? A stock that's already climbed around 100,000% since going public ten years ago, that's already enjoyed one of the greatest rides in stock market history? The stock of a company that now faces unprecedented challenges in tough new markets dominated by the likes of Lucent and Nortel, plus a posse of red-hot upstarts?Yup, that would be the stock. No matter how you cut it, you've got to own Cisco.Millions of investors around the world--Cisco now has 3,530,662 shareholders (including me, with my few hundred shares)--might well agree with you. Except for those who bought the stock in the past few weeks, we're probably talking about the happiest group of people on earth. How happy? Well, on March 27, Cisco overtook Microsoft as the most valuable business on earth, with a market cap of $531 billion. Yes, GE now holds the crown, but who are you going to bet on in this race? GE, growing 15% annually, or Cisco, growing more than twice as fast?Five years ago you might have looked at Cisco and said, "Well, sure, this is a great company, but really, how big can it get? All it does is connect computers. Microsoft, on the other hand, sells the operating system for every PC in the world. That is huge." How times have changed! As the Internet Revolution sweeps through civilization, networking--connecting computers--may well be the most critical, fastest-growing facet of the world's economy. Even Microsofties have to admit that the network has become the computer. And even though Sun coined that phrase, no company stands to benefit more than Cisco.Sure, Cisco has the greatest wind of our lifetime at its back (it's the Internet, stupid). But as its crusty billionaire-next-door chairman, John Morgridge, says over a bagel at a Palo Alto coffee shop, "Lots of companies had that wind at their back." The point is that Cisco, with CEO John Chambers at the helm, must now be considered one of America's truly outstanding companies, in the same league as Intel, Wal-Mart, and, yes, GE. Almost overnight--well, over Chambers' five-year tenure--Cisco has become the quintessential Internet Age corporate machine. Sure, it has its foibles. Its cult-like culture--in one training video a woman looked at the camera and said, "Working at Cisco is like being strapped to a rocket. It never stops"--might not make it a place you want to work. And in-the-know shareholders have a series of questions about Cisco, which we address throughout this story (starting with the box at right). But competitors who have battled that Cisco culture have lost. Investors who have bet against that stock have lost. You simply must admit that Cisco has taken it to a whole new level. How the company did that--and whether it can keep doing that--is...

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