Bill Gates: The Entrepreneur

Introduction

Enterprises are very common in the global field of business. Their survival and growth depend greatly on the entrepreneur. An entrepreneur can be one in a business or in a managerial position or in a personal perspective (Hisrich, 2005). He has a behaviour which has him taking initiatives, organizing and reorganizing the resources and situations so that the social and economic mechanisms contribute to the practical account. Accepting risks or failure in his stride, the entrepreneur is a different person in differing situations. The entrepreneur in the eyes of the economist is one who acquires labour, resources, materials and assets and sets them in appropriate combinations which enhance their value; the process involves changes, innovations and a new order (Hisrich, 2005). The entrepreneur appears as a threat and challenge and an aggressive competitor to one businessman. The same person may be having a different relationship with another businessman; he may be an ally who brings supplies or a customer or one who creates wealth. This entrepreneur may also help to find new methods to use resources, reduce waste and initiate new jobs for others (Hisrich, 2005). A successful entrepreneur has behavioural qualities which allow him to be a special person among many.

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“Entrepreneurship is the capacity and willingness to undertake conception, organization, and management of a productive venture with all attendant risks, while seeking profit as a reward. In economics, entrepreneurship is regarded as a factor of production together with land, labor, natural resources, and capital. Entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking, and an essential component of a nation’s ability to succeed in an ever changing and more competitive global marketplace “(Business Dictionary.com). It is a dynamic process whereby wealth is increased. Entrepreneurs usually think alike: their notions border on newness, organization, creation, wealth and risk-taking (Hisrich, 2005). They spend valuable time making concerted efforts in creating something new and valuable and attempting to overcome the financial, psychic and social risks simultaneously. The outcomes anticipated would be monetary rewards, personal satisfaction and freedom to do what one wishes (Hisrich, 2005).

Whichever the field of business four basic aspects are touched. The first to be considered is the creative task whereby a new product or service is offered, one which satisfies the customer and the entrepreneur (Hisrich, 2005). The market of organizational buyers for business innovation could be the audience. In a hospital environment the audience would be the administrative wing of the hospital for a new admissions procedure or software. In the event of a new course or college, prospective students could be the audience. When a new product is introduced in a community, the constituency is the audience (Hisrich, 2005).

Next the time and effort instilled in creating the project is significant: the creation of a new value-added service or product deeply ensconced in the mind all the time. The third aspect is the assumption of the risks which focus on the financial, social or psychological aspects. The rewards of being an entrepreneur and the independence from the fourth aspect (Hisrich, 2005). For entrepreneurs who work for profit, monetary wealth is the indicator for success. For a non-profit organization, the successful take-off of a new service may be the indicator for success.

Entrepreneurial efforts may be accompanied by enthusiasm, anxiety, hard work and negative aspects like frustration (Hisrich, 2005). Failure rates will be determined by the bad sales, tight competition, deficiency in capital or poor managerial performance. The risks could also be enhanced.

Characteristics of the entrepreneur determine the small and medium enterprises (Erikson, 2002); this is especially seen when the entrepreneur is a founder or dominant personality in the business (Daily et al, 2002). Performance has been attributed to the entrepreneur’s background and demographic particulars (Honjo, 2004). Education, age, gender and ethnicity may affect the performance. Some researchers have attributed success to psychological and behavioural characteristics (Sadler-Smith et al, 2003). Social factors and human capital could affect the success of an entrepreneur (Haber and Reicheil, 2007). The performance of a firm depends also on the contextual, organizational and strategic contingencies (Ensley, Pearce and Hmieleski, 2006). There is an absence of a comprehensive theory for the growth of small and medium enterprises (Gibbs and Davies, 1991 cited in Man et al, 2008). Future research must consider a well-developed theoretical framework. Contingency relationships must also be thought about. Characteristics which could play a role must be included. Performance measures or indicators must be selected (Man et al, 2008). Entrepreneurial characteristics may be studied using the concept of firm competitiveness (Man et al, 2002). The focus here is on the role of the entrepreneur in deciding the successful performance of the firm. Entrepreneurial features are explored based on competencies (Schmitt-Rodermund, 2004). Observable behavioural characteristics are more related to competency than personality traits (Bird, 1995, cited in Man et al, 2008).

Corporate entrepreneurship is how individuals working within an organization use their enterprising abilities to provide innovative changes while remaining within the organization. Renewal of key ideas can change the company’s outlook and initiate new corporate ventures (Ferreira, 2002). The abilities of the employees will be enhanced. Corporate entrepreneurship is the renewal of the organization with innovation and strategic stress evolving into new business ventures which also involve technological and administrative innovations (Ferreira, 2002).

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I have read about Bill Gates and followed the progress of the Microsoft Corporation. William Henry Gates or Bill Gates as he is popularly known is the entrepreneur being spoken about in this paper. He has been described in several ways. The “billionaire computer tycoon” has been considered a “ruthless competitor and astute predictor of future technology” (Lesinski, 2007). The founder of Microsoft Corporation, his legacy makes him the richest man in the world but he also is the most generous. This American business executive works from Seattle, Washington (Gates, 2009). He founded the Microsoft Corporation in 1974 at the age of nineteen when youths of his age were hardly thinking of a business or seriously settling down with an income. Paul Allen and Bill Gates began their life by purchasing the rights to convert a software package which they had (Gates, 2009). The revenues of Microsoft come to a total of US 36.84 billion and there are 55000 employees in 85 countries. This paper elaborates on the performance of Bill Gates as the pillar of strength behind the Microsoft Corporation. A picture of his life, his personality and behaviour, how he leads his company and the strategies he adopts for keeping Microsoft with the larger part of the global market are provided. The qualities of a good entrepreneur are also described.

Bill Gates’ background

His father, William Gates II, was a lawyer who married Mary Maxwell, and settled down in Seattle. William Henry Gates was the second born among the three siblings, birthday being the 28th of October 1955 (Lesinski, 2007). Sporting a sense of humour right from childhood, he loved riding the rocking horse which was the impetus to thinking a great deal. Small-sized and a little clumsy, he shone in his academics. Voracious reading was an intense pastime. Finishing reading his textbooks in the first few days was another behaviour noticed. The World Book Encyclopaedia was a favourite. Thinking was a preoccupation of Bill’s which always surprised his mother. Grandmother or “Gam ” was an important personality or peer figure in his life as his mother was busy (Lesinski, 2007). The Gates had their own house rules; television was not allowed during the week nights. He was “Trey” to Gam as he was the third William Gates. The family gathered together on Sundays and had serious game playing. Trey never liked to lose.

School was boring generally to Bill Gates as the only subjects that he loved were mathematics and reading (Lesinksi, 2007). Like most geniuses, Bill was left handed. Helping out in the library was another job I liked job. Being sharp for details, he was able to sort out wrongly placed books well and would persevere without nourishment in between. Bill’s ambition was to become a scientist. Hardly interested in team sports, he preferred skating, tennis and skiing (Lesinski, 2007). In summer, it was swimming, diving and sailing. Lake Washington was his favourite spot. The family indulged in picnics, games and campfires with friends. The craving for adventure was thus satisfied. Religion had a strong place in the family. Regular church-goers, the family was surprised when Bill once recited a passage from the Bible at the pastor’s challenge and won a free dinner (Lesinski).

Bill was a little untidy and had not yet found a focus for his intellect. His leadership qualities were exhibited on the school playground where he formed groups of youths who enjoyed humorous moments with him. They had the Century Club which had educational trips and allowed other activities (Lesinski, 2007). The parents were concerned over his small physical size and shy nature. In the hope of inculcating in him good study habits and preparing him for college and a career, Bill was sent to an exclusive all- boys’ school at Lakeside. He worked hard but was still a B student. He shone only in honours algebra (Lesinksi, 2007). His friends included those who loved mathematics and science.

At this juncture, Bill and his friends discovered a Teletype machine which communicated with the computer at the General Electric office. It had a “keyboard, a printer and a paper-tape punch and a reader” (Lesinksi, 2007). Personal computers were not yet invented then. The companies were using computers which were as big as a refrigerator. The computers were used to solve mathematical problems, and for analyzing data. These primitive computers were shared by many organizations. Bill took the computer as a challenge; he had found his focus. The languages were basic for beginners and FORTRAN for scientists. Bill started creating software for games at his thirteenth year. He was using the computer so much that the other students complained (Lesinksi, 2007). His next achievement was when he suddenly became a “straight A student”. His untidy habits worried his mother; his room was usually a mess with paper computer tapes, reading material and clothes.

The Lakeside students were charged for using the computer. Interested students lost a lot of money this way. When Bill’s parents wanted him to pay the computer fees himself, he was unknowingly introduced to the commercial side of the business (Lesinski, 2007). His best friend, Kent Evans, was a computer buff and interested in business too. Together they started reading the business magazine “Fortune” together.

As there were so few people who really could use the computer, the Computer Center Corporation which was set up in Seattle, used the Lakeside school students. Bill used to go there at night (Lesinski, 2007). When the company broke up, the students began doing work for others. Bill and Allen got free computer time by writing codes for companies. Bill got a job of analyzing traffic patterns. When the Lakeside school merged with an all-girls school, the teachers got Bill and Evans to write a programme to make a schedule for classes. The boys struggled and worked hard. Before they reached success, Evans had an accidental death. Bill could not believe it. He stopped work totally for two weeks. Paul Allen joined him and they finished the work Later both joined the TRW, an engineering firm in Vancouver. Bill was permitted by his school to work for the company (Lesinski, 2007). There was no looking back for Bill and Allen after that.

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Bill Gates was awarded a National Merit Scholarship and joined Harvard University. The 18 year old became an intellectual. The humbling experience that Bill had at Harvard where he was not the best helped Bill in his further pursuits (Lesinski, 2007). Then he found Steve Balmer who was his next mate for continuing the computer craze. Bill Gates has come very far from the Harvard days. He is now a renowned entrepreneur all raring to go further.

Organisational life cycles have been described as having 5 phases (Greiner, 1972). Microsoft Corporation went through these stages of development over the course of time as all businesses do. Business firms are believed to simulate biological living organisms with a recognisable life cycle. Greiner describes the growth of an organization at various stages of progress by the evolutionary and revolutionary phases in each stage. In the former phase, a steady period of growth is seen without any upheavals and it lasts about four years (Greiner, 1972). The revolutionary phase will see plenty of crises and these occur at the ends of the stages. The continuing growth of the organisation will be decided by how well the crises are handled.

In phase 1, growth through creativity is seen. It ends with a crisis for leadership (Greiner, 1972). This phase of creativity saw Bill Gates and his friends trying out software packages with various buyers. They produced BASIC for Altair, the first PC in the world (DiskBASIC(Microsoft, Net Industries). Managerial practices were well-defined. A management program was also created by Gates. A major innovation was the first legal contract with the hardware developer whereby the developer would use the software by Microsoft (Microsoft, Net Industries). Companies where the founders could not be at the helm of affairs, had to appoint an able CEO or some other manager to guide the organization. In Microsoft, however the founding leaders have remained on top. The products that Microsoft has developed are Cobol 80 and FORTRAN. The FORTRAN was for a chip that could handle enhanced memory. When Radio Shack, Apple Computers, Sirius, Zenith Computers, Sharp and Texas Instruments began to use Microsoft products, Microsoft became the largest distributor of microcomputer languages (Microsoft, Net Industries). The business expanded into other cities from New Mexico to Bellevue where the headquarters was established (1979) and Europe (1982). In 1981 IBM began selling its computers having the MS-DOS operating system by Microsoft. The Multiplan Electronic Worksheet was unveiled and it was described as the Software product of the year. Mini applications like the clock, calendar and the calculator among others were added to the PC.

Phase 2 sees a growth in direction. The crisis faced will be that of autonomy. Delegation of authority to lower level managers is a necessity. Microsoft has expanded with this phase. Phase 3 has a growth through delegation. The crisis would be one of control. When the number of employees increases, the same commitment may not be present (Greiner, 1972). Some of them would like to be in control instead of following the organizational pattern. This would mean that the men at the helm are afraid of losing their control. Phase 4 sees growth through coordination. The crisis would be one of red tape. Coordination techniques have to be applied. Product groups, planning processes, and corporate staff which constitute the techniques for coordination all grow into a bureaucratic system which produces the delay in implementation and a slow rate of innovation (Greiner, 1972). Phase 5 shows growth through collaboration. Teams, reduction in corporate staff, formal systems simplified, enhancement of educational programmes and sophisticated reforms are used in this phase. Here a specific crisis has not been pointed out. However problems could arise due to the employees who have reached “psychological saturation” and are exhausted due to the heavy work and pressure for innovations. If this continues, the firm will be plummeting to failure (Greiner, 1972). Reversing such declines is what every firm must be able to do. Entrepreneurs would find their firms at some stage in the life cycle. Anticipating problems and dealing with them would help.

Corporate social responsibility is the firm’s responsibility towards the society (Carroll, 1991). Much earlier, the financial return of the firm just had to be maximum. Social activists have clamoured for the responsibility of firms which make money in a society to return part of what they made back to the society. The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have all come out of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of firms to the society (Carroll, 1991). The national public policy now assumes that the environment, employees and consumers are all stakeholders of business. CSR has economic components and legal components for the responsibility. The firm can make all the money it wants but it has to abide by the rules of government and the law. Economic responsibilities allow the firm to be committed to profitability and competitiveness and be able to maintain a superior level of operating efficiency. The legal responsibilities require it to function within the relevant legislation (Carroll, 1991). Goods and services must meet the minimum requirements. The pyramid of social responsibility includes economic, legal, ethnic and philanthropic responsibilities (Carroll, 1991).

How Bill Gates has steered his company

The attitude of Bill Gates is the one main reason for his catapulted success with his Microsoft Corporation. The drive to succeed has been evident in him right from his horse-rocking days. His personal qualities have positively made him a successful entrepreneur. The massive goals that he started setting at the young age of nineteen are obvious from his comment of conquering the world with the knowledge available. At an age of little seriousness in life, Bill Gates made his stamp right from the day he learnt to use the computer. Life has helped him in that he studied at Lakeside school which had a computer connection and he was requested to work for an engineering company which hired schoolboys. His excellence in mathematics is another of his strong points. The inner drive to succeed has helped him to remain committed whatever obstacles arose. The healthy opinion that he has of himself with his strong personality contributed to his remaining committed to his company. He was double sure of himself whatever he aimed for and knew exactly how to move to succeed. This strong belief is another plus point. Microsoft under Bill Gates has grown through the continuous and repeated innovative ideas to keep charming the computer buffs of the world. The personal computer is a landmark achievement. Gate’s foresight has helped the PC to be on everybody’s desk. Gate’s leadership has helped Microsoft to keep innovating the computer software technology. The passionate desire with which Gates views his company is what helps the frequent changes. Always managing to remain number one, it is his openness to change and competitiveness that steered the company to be at the top. Bill Gates is always highly energetic and on the move. Accepting constructive criticism has been the policy of the company.

Reading his biography, we find that it has been Dame Luck that has been the reason for the launching of his career. When the Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) made a microcomputer, Gates and Allen informed them that they had a programming language for it when actually they did not (Bill Gates, 2006). Speedily they put one together and just escaped detection. Gates left Harvard to look after Microsoft. Shrewdly he struck a deal with IBM which was extremely profitable. Later Windows was produced and it was pre-installed in all new computers. The Microsoft became the largest software company with 95% of the global market.

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Bill Gates kept his systems behind codes so that no one could enter or steal his technology. However he has been reported of sabotaging rivals (Bill Gates, 2006). Microsoft has faced “antitrust” prosecutions. The European Union has fined him for $700 million which was the largest penalty in history. Gates’ confidence and timely moves saved the company from decline. Microsoft uses the Trade Related Intellectual Property Agreements, which the World Trade Organisation promotes, for its sustenance. Its new product, Microsoft Vista has taken a long time to come out and is not considered a great product; Google has a better system (Bill Gates, 2006). The US Justice Department had an anti-trust case against Microsoft (Gates, 2009). The Windows 95 needed the Microsoft Internet browser which was a practice of monopoly over other browsers. The Judge decided that the company needed to be separated into two. The appeal by Microsoft overturned the decision. However the Judge commented that Microsoft had stifled competition (Gates, 2009). Later Microsoft came to a compromise with the government but it still had the advantage of the monopoly.

Philanthropy has become very much a part of the Microsoft Corporation and Bill Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest endowment in history being more than $28.8 billion in January 2005 (Bill Gates, 2006). This is for global health and learning. Apart from the supply of Microsoft computer-related products, finance for research into vaccines, AIDS and malnutrition is being provided. Corporate social responsibility has been exhibited by Gates and Microsoft Corporation towards the global society. The pyramid of social responsibility including the economic, legal, ethnic and philanthropic responsibilities is demonstrated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is an endowment providing support for many ventures significant to mankind and posterity.

Conclusion

Bill Gates is a successful entrepreneur and the richest man in the world. His company Microsoft Corporation has flourished as a company selling computer software technology. The personal computer is a great achievement for mankind; Gates has revolutionized personal computing. Many of the software packages like MS-DOS, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows that Microsoft prepared for the world have transformed it. The key qualities of Gates and his shrewd business acumen have moulded a strong entrepreneur. His family background, behaviour and taste for mathematics have combined to contribute to the success. His unbelievable inventions are still a wonder. The Tablet PC was an amazing transition. The Surface is a new invention whereby a table can become a tabletop computer. A Touch wall is a touch-based multimedia whiteboard, a method of participating in live discussions in a business meeting or getting involved in a spreadsheet. Gates is never out of ideas. The founder leader will soon be moving out though he is still the Chairman and on the Board of Directors and a way would be made for new leaders. Gates and his entrepreneurship may never be replaced.

References:

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