How Bret Taylor's Product Vision Led to a Meteoric Rise at Salesforce – Business Insider

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Salesforce took its annual Dreamforce mega-conference, held in San Francisco and virtually last week, to explain its strategy for the rest of the year and beyond. 
The premiere product announcement of the event was a slew of new integrations between workplace chat app Slack and the broader Salesforce platform, furthering what the company has called the “digital HQ.” When Salesforce bought Slack for $27.7 billion, in a deal that only closed in July, the company pitched it as a way to bring all of a company’s documents, productivity tools, and other kinds of information into a single place — an especially appealing vision for the modern remote working world. 
That vision has been overseen by Salesforce chief operating officer Bret Taylor, credited by chief exec Marc Benioff himself as the mastermind of the Slack deal. To many close to the company, that’s no surprise: Since his appointment to Salesforce’s C-Suite in 2017, Taylor has been the behind-the-scenes force behind many of the $280 billion cloud giant’s most major product initiatives. 
Taylor was already a seasoned tech exec with a storied career even before arriving at Salesforce: He co-created Google Maps in 2005 and later succeeded Dustin Moskovitz as Facebook’s chief technology officer. In 2012, Taylor cofounded Quip, a competitor to Google Docs, which was ultimately acquired by Salesforce in 2016. In 2017, Taylor was named chief product officer; in 2019, he became COO. 
As chief product officer, he spearheaded the company’s “Customer 360” vision to bring all of its products into a unified, connected platform. The goal, as suggested by the name, was to give companies a single view of their customers across all departments. 
When he became product chief, the teams building each of Salesforce’s products worked largely independently. Taylor became known as a bridge-builder, insiders say, pushing for more cohesion among its various product teams, and then between the larger product organization and the sales division in turn.
A former senior Salesforce executive describes an instance where Taylor found out that Sales Cloud, the company’s flagship division, was building a workflow automation tool but it wouldn’t work with Service Cloud, Salesforce’s own customer service software product. Taylor quickly handed ownership of the tool to a newly-formed team tasked with making sure it worked across all Salesforce products, the executive said.
He also made sure the product teams were working more closely with their counterparts in sales, another former senior executive told Insider. “If he’s going to go do a Sales Cloud review, for example, he wants the engineers working on Sales Cloud in there, the product people, the salespeople, the customer success people,” that former executive said. 
In fact, those who have worked with Taylor say he is the kind of leader who welcomes feedback and wants to hear the opinions of everyone around the table. That’s a big part of his success in rising through Salesforce’s leadership ranks so quickly, say some who work closely with him.
“In teams, sometimes the person who’s got the solution is not the obvious one. You’ve just got to make sure you ask the right questions and sometimes great insight comes out and he has that knack,” said Salesforce’s chief revenue officer Gavin Patterson in an interview arranged by Salesforce. 
Taylor also embraces Salesforce’s culture of transparency and listens to employees, several current and past colleagues said. That’s something Benioff values, a former senior Salesforce executive said. “Bret is that type of leader where he embraces the feedback, and he executes around what Marc is asking,” the former executive said.
For one early example: Not long after the acquisition, Quip quickly became mandated as the new default word processor across Salesforce — alienating many employees, some of whom would complain about the app right in front of Taylor, its cofounder. In response, Taylor took time to meet with some of Quip’s loudest critics at Salesforce, telling Insider that getting the honest feedback helped improve the product quickly.
Moreover, his peers say Taylor makes an effort to be more inclusive in his actions and apologize when he falls short. For example, if he accidentally interrupts someone during a meeting, he will make it a point to apologize on the spot, said Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other — certainly any other male executive do that in my whole career,” Butterfield said in an interview arranged by Salesforce.
Taylor also had a big role in integrating Salesforce’s previous two large acquisitions, MuleSoft and Tableau. Taylor himself recently told Insider that he considers his “big part” in major acquisitions like Slack, Tableau, and MuleSoft as among his greatest achievements at Salesforce.
In addition to Slack, last year he spearheaded the company’s “Hyperforce” initiative, which allows customers to run its platform on any public-cloud vendor. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for customers to connect their business tools and access all of their data in one place.
People who know Taylor say this is indicative of something that has been true for the executive throughout his career: He’s always looking for the next thing. He’s known for taking time on the weekend to learn new technologies, like Google’s AI framework TensorFlow.
A former Facebook executive who worked with Taylor said he was known for his love of building from the ground up. “He is a serial entrepreneur. He never stops with one thing,” the person said.
Do you have insight to share? Contact reporters Paayal Zaveri via Signal (925-364-4258) or email ([email protected]) and Ashley Stewart via the encrypted-messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).

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