Mary Jo Foley:

When Microsoft co-founder and then-chief executive Bill Gates hired Ballmer from Procter & Gamble in 1980, it was to be “the business guy, whatever that meant,” Ballmer says. Since that day, his rallying cry has always been “How do you make money? How do you make money? How do you make money?” (Imagine him chanting this in the same way he hollered “Developers, developers, developers!” at a now-famous company summit in 2000. Now picture him doing so, calmly, as he kicks back in an upholstered chair in his office in Building 34 on the company’s Redmond campus.)

"That doesn’t mean nobody else ever thought about it, but ‘How do you make money?’ was what I got hired to do," Ballmer says. "I’ve always thought that way."

As CEO, Ballmer brought a new level of business rigor to Microsoft. Instead of allowing hundreds of products to bloom because they sounded potentially interesting or trendy, Ballmer required of business justification, often in excruciating detail. Only then would he give new businesses his stamp of approval.

"I would say that it has been a hallmark of mine since arrival," Ballmer says. "I’ve always had the unique, valuable perspective of being on the front line selling, working with our partners, because in some senses your ability to understand how to make money is heavily shaped by what you think people will pay for, in addition to what it costs to get things done."

You can certainly argue that this “How do you make money?” mantra (rule of three, intact!) has led to a lack of innovation (or at least, a lack of innovation that has seen the light of day) at Microsoft. But you cannot argue that Ballmer did not do what he set out to do: make a shit-ton of money for Microsoft.

Overall, a very solid and insightful interview.

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