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Winning the Right Way at SAP

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Apr 20, 2016


Business leaders need to win to advance their careers, but SAP CEO Bill McDermott says they must never lose sight of the need to play fairly.

“You gotta win, but you gotta win the right way,” he told an audience of more than 250 people crowded into Frank Auditorium in Van Munching Hall on Feb. 11, 2016. “Winning the wrong way is losing in the end, and your character will reveal itself. Keep that in mind as you climb the ladder.”

McDermott, who visited campus as part of the school’s CEO @ Smith series, enthralled an audience of students, alumni, faculty and staff. From tales of his first entrepreneurial venture, to his most memorable sale, to an overhaul of the worst branch at Xerox, to what he learned from a terrible accident, McDermott had audience members on the edge of their seats.

“The one thing I talk a lot about is always having dreams, goals and wanting to be the absolute best at what you do for a living,” he said. “Pushing to be the best at what you do is so invigorating.”

SAP is the largest enterprise cloud company in the world with business networks that transact nearly $1 trillion in commerce annually. Under McDermott’s leadership, SAP unveiled a strategy in 2014 to help businesses of all sizes run simple in the digital economy.

McDermott said bought a delicatessen on Long Island to put himself through college, give back to his family and have some financial independence. He talked about how he had to go after markets that larger stores ignored, including senior citizens and teenagers.

“The most important thing I learned early on is that the little ones have to do what the big ones can’t do or choose not to do,” he said.

As CEO of SAP, McDermott has focused on building an enduring mission. “Companies don’t want to buy software, they want to buy an outcome,” he said. “We were just talking about the technology. We had to change that. So we created a customer focus for SAP and completely changed the culture.” /JS/