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Billion or Bust! Growing a Tech Company in Texas

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The case

whoWho – the protagonist

Lanham Napier, CEO of Rackspace.

What?

Rackspace is a cloud hosting provider, growing from $5 million in revenues to nearly $2 billion under Lanham's leadership.

whatLanham helped created thousands of jobs and led the company’s IPO.

Why?

Problems arose for Rackspace when Microsoft, Amazon and Google entered the cloud hosting industry in force, with many billions of dollars of cash.

Lanham identified three strategic options for competing against the trio, and pursued one. But disagreement among executives, board directors, and Lanham ensued.

When?

Lanham joined as Chief Financial Officer in 1999, took Rackspace public in 2008, reached $1 billion in revenues in 2011, and left in 2014, after two years of disagreement among executives and the board.

whereWhere?

Rackspace is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, and the book is also a story of Lanham’s love for Texas.

Key quote

“The partnership among Graham, Lew, and me was wonderful for about ten years, static for a couple years, and then crummy after that. For me, the biggest lesson about how I handled our partnership is that there are many possible right paths, but at some point, someone needs to be the decider and decide.” – Lanham Napier.

What next?

With Lanham pursuing an unexpected option ('Option 4') and leaving the company, how should he think about the growth he led? Of the three options Lanham envisions, what happens to Rackspace?

 
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The publisher

author

Becca Braun

Becca discusses the advantages of having more room to play with in a book-length case, how multimedia helps bring these cases to life, and the importance of an open and willing protagonist.

Power of a book-length case

Rebecca said: “When I was a linguistics major, one of the first things I learned, in Linguistics 101, was ‘a language is a dialect with an army’. As a comment about the systemic weight we put into things, it really stuck with me.

“Similarly, I believe that ‘capitalism is a capitalist with a narrative.’ I think a narrative needs to have enough heft to it that it offers up good information about motivations, tactics, adventures, mistakes, successes, background and more.

“Our books are short and can be read in two to three hours. They offer as much information about the leader who is making varied decisions – and their many considerations and stresses as relates to the decision – as on the decision itself. Some people say that business consists of decisions. But that’s not accurate. Business consists of people making decisions. Trees don’t make decisions. Lollipops don’t make decisions. People do. And so, understanding varied aspects of people who make decisions is important. Capitalism is a capitalist with a narrative.”

Multi media element

Multimedia element

Rebecca continued: “One of the best parts of our books is that educators can add the live video visit from the author-CEO. So, our True Business Adventure Tales case studies should be taught with that in mind – they are multimedia and engaging.

“Our ‘complex cases’ (another term for the True Business Adventure Tales) are great at supporting and illustrating the interplay of Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Leadership, General Management, and Finance. Our books show leaders in the trenches, raising capital, conducting IPOs, disagreeing with board directors, licensing new innovations, introducing products to market, conducting recalls, hiring and conducting layoffs, and much more.

“I have found that teaching these narratives as case studies that support specific courses takes a willingness to experiment, but the reward of engaged students developing new skills is well worth it. I recommend this route for professors of Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Leadership, General Management, and Finance who want to add a True Business Adventure Tale to the syllabus.”

Greater flexibility

She commented: “I think the CEOs who tell their story as a 30-35,000 word Braun Collection book have more freedom than with a shorter case .

“However, with increased freedom comes increased responsibility...for the author-CEO and me as a strong partner in the effort. (I am a very involved collaborator in the writing of the story – I am a developmental and content editor, and my company is the publisher). Trying to convey business leader concerns, interests, and situations in a way that is not overly biased, for instance, can be hard.”

An open protagonistAn open protagonist

Becca concluded: “Lanham is high energy, funny, adventurous, interested, curious, interesting, smart, a little off the wall, supportive, and a very good decision maker. He’s totally open about what he’s thinking or what’s going on with him. He opened up his life for this case.

“For instance, we connected with his wife, Dacia, in order to write the book. I interviewed her so that I could get accurate information about her views on his ‘workaholism’ and the effect it had on her and Napier family life. I was more involved than I might otherwise be in developing those sections, since Lanham might not be able to write this with quite as much objectivity as he hoped.”

About the authors

Becca Braun is President of Braun Ink and Publisher of the Braun Collection.
e beccab@braunink.com
tw @BraunInk

 

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