Spurred on by an intriguing reference in Good to Great about the founding minutes of Hewlett Packard, I sent a request to the HP archive asking if I could get hold of a copy. Not only did Anna Mancini e-mail me a scan of the original August 23rd 1937 minutes, but she also kindly agreed to post an excerpt for everybody to see on her blog:
I find these interesting for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it's clear that Bill Hewlett, Ed Porter and Dave Packard wanted to work together, but didn't know what they wanted to do. This is a common theme across many different companies, including Red Gate.
Secondly, although HP is now "recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley", just imagine how their spawn – today's venture capitalists and investors – would have thumbed their noses at Hewlett and Packard's lack of ambition. Think how the elevator pitch would have gone. No paradigm-shifting, market-busting billion dollar vision, just something along the lines of:
"well, erm, we just thought we'd do some stuff. Maybe amplifiers or radio transmitters. Medical equipment, welding equipment and air conditioning controllers might be interesting too. Probably not public address systems, or selling other people's radios though. Who are our customers? Good question. We'd probably sell it to manufacturers. Not sure though – we haven't thought about it much. We might sell some services too if we have to."
Yet, despite a frankly rubbish business plan, no clear idea of what they wanted to do, and appalling timing (in the tail-end of the great depression, just before the second world war), Hewlett and Packard managed to create what would turn out to be a formidable institution. It would last some 70 years and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. Until Carly Fiorina screwed it all up, at least.
Here's the link again:
What other lessons can you see in this fascinating excerpt? I'll send a copy of The HP way by Dave Packard to the best comment …