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Bill and Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company [Hardcover]

Michael S. Malone
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (9 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841526
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841524
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 859,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

A history of Hewlett-Packard chronicles the efforts of its Stanford graduate founders to build their first product in a small California garage through its rise to a legendary Silicon Valley company, in an account that credits the company's objectives, employee trust, and firm self-appraisals with enabling its successes.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is a book about the ability of corporate culture to preserve a company through hard times and periods of transition. The case in point is Hewlett-Packard. Michael S. Malone's solid corporate biography skirts hagiography as he covers the business that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard built, and why and how they built it. Malone only touches upon their personal lives in relation to the company's development. He doesn't deal much with the nitty-gritty of their problems, but he does set out the broad picture of where they succeeded (often) and tripped up (rarely). A nice feature of the book is the use of stars in the text that refer you to a section in the back of the book that summarizes the lessons illustrated by that part of the story. At times Malone brings up object lessons maybe once too often (for example, the buyout and hiring of Tektronic's sales reps). Still, we find that his many valid, interesting insights counteract that issue, and recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of technology.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once upon a time, in a garage.... 6 Jun 2007
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Most (if not all) of the "Fortune 100" companies began as very small operations and that is certainly true of Hewlett-Packard which William Hewlett and David Packard co-founded with $538 in 1938, literally in a garage in Palo Alto, California. Their first product was an audio oscillator and one of their first customers was Walt Disney Studios which purchased eight of them to use during the creation of Fantasia. The company's subsequent growth is largely explained by sales of H-P's testing equipment during World War II (revenue grew from $34,000 in 1940 to almost $1-million in 1943) and expansion accelerated 50-100% throughout the 1950s.

What we have in Michael S. Malone's biography, Bill & Dave, includes a thorough (at times obsequious) account of how Hewlett and Packard led their company's growth until their successor, John Young, became president in 1977 and CEO the following year. In later chapters, Malone shifts his attention to events which resulted in Carleton S. ("Carly") Fiorina's appointment as president and CEO in 1999 and then as chairman in 2000. She was forced to resign in 2000.

Although I greatly admire what William Hewlett and David Packer accomplished throughout the establishment and development of the company whose name properly honors them, I do not share other reviewers' high regard for Malone's discussion of them. Before I even began to read this book, I was put off by the subtitle's assertion that Hewlett and Packard "built the world's greatest company." To the best of my knowledge, neither ever made that claim and it seems to me (one man's opinion) that it is both presumptuous and incorrect for Malone or anyone else to do so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book 17 Jan 2014
By me
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that you can go back to every year. Just wish todays management read it and took some of the values from it and put it to good use..
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Admired Leaders 7 April 2007
By Charles H. House - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The best book, by far, about the founders of the Hewlett-Packard company. Malone, with an insider's emotional connection and a polished journalistic style, has produced a warm, empathetic portrait of two remarkable men that will likely never be equaled. Malone embeds their story remarkably well in the context of the times, over a fifty-five year business span of twentieth-century America. Working with hitherto unavailable resources, both from the families and the Hewlett-Packard archives, this book dissects the character of the two men (all the harder for the very private, very shy dyslexic Hewlett) and establishes their worth and contribution in a way that, I suspect, many HP alumni will find incredibly accurate and compelling.

This is not a hagiography - in places, Malone observes that they did some things on occasion that they later would not tolerate in their employees, avowedly exhibiting a fake product at a trade show, for example. He chronicles some near-misses - learning the lessons of cash flow or ethical behavior or pricing strategies the hard way. And he puts their life evolution into context as well, noting that they did far more than "simply" build a great company - they became business statesmen, national statesmen, and valuable world scene philanthropy, learning all the while throughout long and productive lifetimes.

Importantly, Malone interprets Packard's own autobiography for the serious student of HP. Packard wrote a laconic austere account near the end of his life - Malone analyzes many passages and gives them far more liveliness than did Dave himself. Purists might quibble about a number of factual dates and places, but this is not intended as a definitive history - it is instead a monumental offering about a philosophy of business for which the details are better left somewhat sketchy in order to appreciate the tapestry that was composed.

At a time that HP has just become the largest (in revenue) high-tech player in the world, and it has been besmirched by a wayward CEO and a sad Board debacle over pretexting, this book will help restore the HP pride factor. It certainly has done so for me.

Maybe most importantly, Malone re-sets the bar for corporation leadership today to consider longer term perspective - including the distinct possibility that the bedrock tenets of this duo, with their belief in the worth, dignity, and innate creativity of individuals, are more apropos for the 21st century with its offshored, outsourced virtual teams than ever before.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book! 12 April 2007
By S. Witten - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am an HP retiree so I have a particular bias here... I am also a great admirer of Mike Malone's writing and television work. You are free to take everything I say with a grain of salt...

I liked this book very much. It puts more meat on the bones of Packard's book "The HP Way". It rambles in places (HP "rambled" in places and at times... ex-HPers will understand that) but it's all in all very interesting. The book focuses on Bill and Dave -- the people and their years of building/managing HP from the days at Stanford to their deaths in the 1990's. Above all, Malone never forgets that the story of Bill & Dave and HP is the story of HP people -- as Malone as described in other places, "a company of den mothers and little league coaches."

If you are looking for a history of HP's memorable products and technical discussions about them, this is not the book for you. There are some stories about products but they are woven into the context of the bigger picture of HP at the time of the product's introduction or to illustrate the contribution to society the product made (e.g., the HP-35 calculator).

I especially enjoyed the beginning sections about Bill & Dave's childhoods and the early years at Stanford. I didn't know Bill was dyslexic and that was the source of both his genius and his shyness. I wish Malone had provided some more information about Lucille Packard and Flora Hewlett (both of whom were very important to HP -- especially during the early years) and their family lives.

Malone leaves out some things though... John Minck (who's quoted several times in the book) once sent me a version of the HP Corporate Objectives dated prior to 1966. That version that has "Contribution" as #1 and "Profit" as #2. He told me that Dave put the squash on this right away and elevated "Profit" to #1 resulting in the version we know and love today. One more proof of the point that Bill & Dave were businessmen not fishers of men. Enlightened though they were; they were tough and I personally witnessed one instance of Dave firing someone on the spot.

Malone also doesn't mention Dave's "Eleven Simple Rules" anywhere in the book. To me, the three documents that define the HP Way are "The HP Way" (it begins "We have trust and respect for individuals" ... not Dave's book with the same title), the HP Corporate Objectives (1966 - 1990) and Dave's "Eleven Simple Rules". I sent an email about this to Malone and he has promised to rectify this oversight by writing an article about them for either the Wall Street Journal or his regular ABC News column.

"Bill and Dave" is a fine book and you will learn much from it. The book describes the HP Way as an imprecise roadmap but also places it in a context with the life and times of it's two progenitors. Malone doesn't make the HP Way any more precise but he certainly makes it much better

understood. I'm glad he took the time to write "Bill and Dave" -- it's a story that needs telling and is worth preserving.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must read" for business leaders and technologists 8 Jan 2008
By John Erisman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating account of what is (or at least was) one of the most admired and respected companies, not just for its product reputation, but for its corporate culture and management style that was unique in its day, and copied by many others since.

The book chronicles how Hewlett and Packard started a bare-bones company in a one-car garage with a single product and grew it into a multi-billion dollar global corporation. Malone looks at their childhood years and how their unique life experiences shaped their personal characters and values, as well as the culture of the company that bears their name. It was most interesting to see how these men, friends from their Stanford years, but with very different, though complementary, personal styles, learned to work together in an attitude of complete trust, and to instill in their company a set of values known popularly as the HP Way. Malone, thankfully, does not view Bill and Dave through rose-colored glasses, but is realistic about their personal foibles as well. Numerous examples are provided to show how they learned from their mistakes and went on to re-invent themselves several times over in response to issues of growth, to changing product needs and to the business climate - all while keeping the core set of guiding values in tact. And it was encouraging to be reminded, that despite the enormous fame and wealth that came to them, they never forgot their beginnings, but became almost as well-known for their philanthropic efforts.

Although the majority of the book is devoted to the glory days of Hewlett and Packard, Malone also discusses HP under the subsequent leadership of John Young, Lew Platt, the recent disastrous six years under Carly Fiorina in which the HP culture was almost destroyed, and attempts to "fix" things under its current president, Mark Hurd.

This book was of particular interest to me, an HP employee from 1980 - 2000 in both its instrument and printer businesses, and provided a trip down nostalgia lane since I knew many of the players from the earlier days. Though not without its frustrations, HP was a great experience for me, especially in marked contrast to my earlier career in the aerospace industry.

If I could wish for something more, it would be to include a little more about Agilent, the 1999 spin-off instrument business which was, after all, HP's core business during the first few decades. But overall, the book is eminently readable and highly recommended to anyone interested in business, technology or ethics.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn about how Bill & Dave built HP, but also about the role of personal character in long term success 23 July 2007
By Craig Matteson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent biography of the Hewlett-Packard Company. Obviously, it is impossible to tell that story without telling something of the William Hewlett and David Packard, but it does not delve into every aspect of their personal lives. The author keeps things squarely focused on the founding and building of the company and the character of that company.

Michael S. Malone does a fine job of showing us how the character of the Hewlett-Packard company flowed directly from the personal character of Bill & Dave. This is a great lesson for today's business men and women. The old saying about bad businesses is that a fish rots from the head. It is absolutely true. It is not possible to have a long term organization this is simultaneously financially successful, competitive to dominant in its market space, with a great workforce, and is widely admired, on a long term basis without a strong example from its leaders. The organization always takes on the characteristics of its leaders, for good or ill. The fact that so many people talk about the experience of working at Hewlett-Packard under Bill & Dave as a privilege speaks libraries of volumes about what they achieved and why.

We get a brief treatment of their youth and how they each met Fred Terman at Stanford. This was a pivotal relationship for all three men. The relationship that Bill & Dave kept with Terman and Stanford is also a testament to their character. Yes, the great company did have its origins in that dirt floor garage on Addison Avenue, but rather than simply retell that myth, Malone shows us what the physical reality of the garage meant to Bill & Dave (nothing) versus the use they made of the myth to build their corporate culture (everything). Malone also shows us what the post-Bill & Dave leaders did in restoring the garage as a symbol of a corporate heritage they paid lip service to while they were actively throwing away.

I loved learning about the product development discussed in the book. Obviously, only a few of the major products could be discussed because HP did so many hundreds of great products over the year. The whimsical reasons chosen for some of the names is great. For example the HP 35 calculator was given the number based on the number of keys it had.

Malone is at his very best in showing us how the culture of HP developed at its founding, what put stresses on it as they company grew, and how Bill & Dave successfully adapted it during their tenure as it became a public and global organization. Frankly, few entrepreneurs have managed to take a startup to successful global enterprise. Where Bill & Dave ran into some difficulties was in handing over the leadership of the company to others. Not that they weren't good people, but the HP Way is such a part of the character of Bill & Dave that it is hard to have that same mix in anyone else. Even they required the pair of them to have it.

This book makes no apologies about considering the Fiorina years a disaster and Malone shows why he believes this. She considered the HP Way anachronistic and was bringing her dot-com CEO as rock star credentials to this venerable firm. Luckily, the culture resisted her efforts. While she won a major battle in the Compaq acquisition, she ended up losing the war because she could generate almost no internal support. And Bill & Dave had used the employee stock purchase program to put a large chunk of the company in the hands of those who had made the company a global success.

I hope that more of today's business people can learn from these legends of business and learn the real lessons of what makes a company great. Of course, boards will have to set aside the sensationalists, the fabulists, and look for men and women of real substance and character to run their corporations. Maybe more of them should go back to being private if being public is what puts pressure on companies to do the Enron, Adelphia, WorldCom, and Tyco stupidities. Remember, stressful situations don't test character, they reveal it. Start with character and you will always do better than finding out about the lack of it when disaster strikes.

This should be considered a business classic.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I feel fortunate that I could experience a glimpse of the HP Way 7 May 2007
By Fernando Gomez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was a Hewlett Packard employee from 1998 to 2004 (from 1998 to 2000 at their Madrid, Spain offices, from 2000 to 2004 in the Bay Area). Right now I am pursuing my PhD full time at Stanford University, at the Departement of Electrical Engineering headquartered at David Packard's builing.

For several reasons that it would take me too long to explain, I have been reflecting lately on how instrumental Hewlett Packard, and The HP Way, have been to my life successes.

A 30 year HP veteran, who had worked in the same offices as Bill and Dave when the company employed only several thousand employees, recommended me this book.

I was hesitant at first to buy it because on one hand, I had already read many books about HP, including Dave Packard's own. On the other, I thought I needed to put this part of my life behind me. Anyway, I ended up buying it. Not only that, I ended up devouring it over this weekend :D. It has been a very rewarding experience and has left me feeling very fortunate that I could live the last stages of Bill and Dave's masterpiece. For once, the fact that I was hired in Spain, made me able to experience the good HP Way longer (since changes always take time to spread outside the Bay Area and at the time I was hired HP Spain was still the jewel of the crown in business over there; Carly's hiring didn't have much impact in HP Spain's policies while I was there). There is also the fact that things didn't get really bad until the merger was closed in 2002 (although I still remember Carly's betrayal of the "take vacation but I will lay you off anyway in June 2001").

I was so touched by the book that I ended up visiting Dave and Lucille's Packard graves, which are located at a cemetery nearby my home. And there I found the final surprise. Just as these men led very productive, but unostentatious, lives, so did when the left this world (at least for Dave Packard). Humble, unpretentious and barely identifiable among others, Dave and Lucille remains final destination is a testament of the exemplary life led by one of the greatest business titans of all time. Bill's remains are interred further south; I will have to visit them at another time.

I deeply recommend this book to aspiring entrepreneurs. The HP Way not only worked, but, as with many other excellent things that one encounters in life, once you have experienced something like that at its best, it's very difficult to settle for less.
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