Brain Food: Decisions - Bruce Chizen Adobe Systems, CEO of The Global Software Company


Staying with Adobe despite having decided to leave. I joined Adobe in 1994 and stayed because of the environment, the culture and the people.

Then in 1997/98 the company started getting ugly: there was infighting, it wasn't moving ahead, the explosion was happening around us and Adobe was dying.

In my own mind, I had decided to leave, but then the two founders asked me to take on marketing, engineering and products. I agreed, though I didn't think I was capable of doing it. I didn't know how to let the two founders down because they were such nice individuals. So it was that moral obligation; it was the right thing to do.

But I questioned it, until I became president in 2000. By then things were finally coming together, the company was working well. So it took a good two years for me to realise that I really did know what I was doing.

In retrospect, I hadn't known I could be that capable. It was a great personal decision. The lesson I learnt is to have a little more confidence in myself.


Not making changes to my executive team as quickly as I should have.

When I became Adobe president/CEO, there was a sales executive who worked really hard, who was really smart, a really nice guy, but I knew he wasn't going to take the company to the next level. But I didn't want to deal with it. And every day that I didn't make the decision was another day lost in terms of bringing the sales to a new level. And that had an impact on Adobe.

The sales organisation didn't evolve as quickly as it should have and as good as topline revenue turnover has been, it might have been better if I'd made that decision more quickly. It took us at least a year longer to get to where we did. I should have made the move in January 2001, but I didn't do so until the autumn.

It's easy to rationalise away the problem and defend it. But if I had been truer to myself, I would have moved more quickly. To this day it's something I struggle with; it's hard for me to fire somebody who works hard, and is smart and loyal.

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