Windows To The World

Act Like A Leader

A saying you'll hear a lot at Microsoft is "Take the high road." It means act like a leader. Don't bash the competition. Stay humble. Avoid being cocky. You can still get your message across, but customers, press people and even the competition will respect you more if you take the high road.

An example of taking the high road is the ad run for Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet in 1990. It stated, "Nine out of 10 Excel users are very satisfied. What are we doing wrong?" The ad included a form to fill out and send to Microsoft with product suggestions. Excel got their point across, that users were extremely happy with the product, but it did it in a way that focused on customers and making even more improvements, rather than bragging.

When Windows 95 shipped, Apple ran expensive ads in The Wall Street Journal and on the sides of city buses that read, "C:ongratultns.win95." Folks well-versed in the software industry knew Apple was trying to make fun of the fact that Windows still used complicated commands and file names. However, most of America did not understand the subtle slam by rival Apple. They just saw one more group congratulating Microsoft on a new product, and Microsoft saw some free advertising.

Taking the high road also includes your personal actions. If you're at an industry conference or on a panel of speakers, be gracious when asked about the competition. It's also important to "go meet your competitors," group vice president Jeff Raikes advises. "Stop by their booth at the trade show. Get to know them, and let them see you're a regular person." They'll be less likely to make deprecating comments if they've got a friendly face associated with your company. And you may even discover areas where you can cooperate.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Windows To The World.

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