Clicks and Mortar

by
Lew Platt
,
former Chairman & CEO of Hewlett Packard Company

When Dave and Terry first asked me to write this Foreword, I was in week one of being the official "former-CEO" of Hewlett Packard.

For three consecutive days, I had gone to an office of relative calm; I was beginning to feel as though the remaining four months of daily activity at the company would stretch into an eternity of reflection and pencil-tapping. Looking back, I concluded that I was fated to read this book, because as soon as I agreed, the phone began to ring as though the four months would be only four minutes. I immediately wondered why I had consented to take on such an important role with regard to a publication I really hadn’t reviewed.

I soon found out.

'Clicks and Mortar: Passion-Driven Growth in an Internet-Driven World' discusses the most important business transformation I have encountered in thirty-three years of experience. The Internet and its companion technologies are changing the very boundaries of a company….they are causing us to literally re-define what it means to be a company.

The revolution affects every area of commerce: financial models, leadership, measurement and marketing. The network is changing the relationship of a company with all of the actors: suppliers, stockholders, employees and most of all, customers. I had worked with these realizations every day for nearly ten years. Dave and Terry have captured the essence of these changes and given us a primer on how established companies in established businesses can move into the new millennium successfully.

This is a comprehensive book, yet it is written in a style that presents vitally important ideas in easy-to-understand language. There are two voices in the narrative, one of a considered and practiced consultant and teacher, and the other of a proven, successful operator of a major American corporation. The combination allows us to understand the concepts mentally, and then to appreciate them emotionally and practically through real-life examples.

We don’t have to wonder whether the ideas work; they are already working at one of the most successful financial services companies in the world, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. The authors have not only worked at the Internet’s transformation of business, they have codified it for others to critique and apply as they might.

'Clicks and Mortar' looks at the three most significant aspects of this business transformation in what I consider to be their order of importance.

First is the building and sustaining of a culture based on strong values. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard believed in this idea so strongly that they wrote down our values and practiced them every day. Those values became the foundation of a culture now known as "The HP Way." I’m convinced that sustaining that culture was the single most important enabler of Hewlett Packard’s ability to change so easily and so frequently throughout our sixty-year history.

It is unusual, in today’s world, to find a book with such an emphasis on character as the way to build passion. Yet I know that strong values allow everything else to change, they unleash passion because people care about them, want to be associated with them. In 'Clicks and Mortar', we see how to build and sustain such a values-based culture, through story, ritual and image.

The Internet makes everyone who is interested aware of anything they want to know. That fact puts tremendous responsibility on the leadership of the company and the company itself. Integrity has new meaning when your customers and employees can see everything you do. In the second section of the book, Dave and Terry explain what this means in terms of day-to-day personal conduct and day-to-day business decision-making. The change required from pre-Internet times is profound.

Then, in the third section, the authors look at some fundamental business practices and give us some guidance in adapting traditional business concepts to the Internet world. They chose the practices of measurement, marketing and the management of technology as the disciplines that would be the most important in the next decades. I agree with them. Measurement will change dramatically because we are so much more aware of relationships…..of how everything affects everything else. Marketing will move from mass-merchandising back to one-to-one relationship building. As for the management of technology, it is hard not to agree that we will either shape it or it will shape us. It presents marvelous opportunities and perhaps equally daunting dangers. Dave and Terry discuss both possibilities.

There are several ideas in 'Clicks and Mortar' that I will shamelessly use in my transition at Hewlett-Packard and in my later work. Here are just a few:
In the same way that a strong culture holds a leader’s feet to the fire, the Internet holds a brand to the fire. What you purport to be….you had better be. Otherwise, you will be discovered as a fraud and punished for it.

A truly visionary company survives its founders. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard knew this early, and started to build, in the fabric of the company, the values and practices necessary to make it possible for others to lead. That idea is inherent in this book.

Building culture on purpose is more difficult than "letting it happen." It may be a surprise, but in the long-run, established companies could have a distinct advantage over start-ups that don’t pay attention to values. Start-ups might have the edge in technology, but established companies might have an edge in what really matters.

Finally, there is an idea in the introduction to chapter nine that I believed in long before Dave and Terry asked me to write this Foreword. Their synopsis reminded me of its importance.

"Passion is built…by making good promises, making good on those promises; by giving people a chance to collectively and individually respond to their impulse to serve, to make a difference for others…."

This was a good idea before the Internet-World. In the Internet-World, it is an operational imperative.

My daughter, Hillary, is, right now, helping to set up "cyber-cafes" in Africa. What is a cyber-café? It is a place where people who otherwise could not have access to ideas beyond their small communities will have access to all ideas, from all parts of the world. People can come in off of the street, get on the ‘Net, and converse with anyone they wish, access any information they want. Will this have an impact on that society? Of course….in the same way that information technology had an impact on the Iron Curtain. In a real way, people will find the truth on the Internet and the truth will, over time, set them free. In the meantime, there might be a struggle or two.

In the last chapter of this book, I get a chance to have a dialogue about the future and these same topics with Dave, Terry, and eight of my most distinguished colleagues. But before you read that last chapter, you have a treat in store. Enjoy.

Lew Platt
October, 1999
Palo Alto, California.

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