Microsoft’s bid to unseat Apple as the most valuable U.S. company has been a huge story all week, but there’s one important group that isn’t following the situation at all: the people actually running those companies.
“This is a metric that nobody on the senior leadership team is tracking,” Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela said during a talk about marketing at Seattle-based Pioneer Square Labs this week. “We really aren’t looking at, are we five today, are we four today.”
In the 45 seconds he spent addressing the company’s market capitalization, Capossela said “I’ve already spent way more time talking about this tonight than I’ve ever spent talking about it at the company.”
Same goes for the competition: “Believe me, Apple’s not doing anything differently tomorrow if they happen to fall a spot. Google’s not wringing their hands like, ‘oh my God we’re only No. 4.’ Those things don’t change the behavior inside the companies.”
The horse race between two of the world’s most notable tech giants is fun to watch, but whether Microsoft is the most-valuable U.S. company or the second most-valuable doesn’t really matter that much in the long run. But the situation itself represents the larger story of Microsoft’s resurgence under CEO Satya Nadella, something that Capossela spent a lot more time talking about. Capossela thinks the outside perception of the company has changed because of the clear-eyed focus Microsoft maintains on its core priorities.
“Those notions of showing a view of growth that isn’t Windows and Office,” have played into a shift in perception of the company. “We love Windows and Office, they’re huge, and they’re growing. But there’s a different mindset; it’s an intelligent edge and intelligent cloud mindset. So people have seen a much bigger total addressable market that we now get to play in, because of this worldview, and the mission and the culture.”
Focusing on the cloud and the billions of devices out there that connect to it represents Microsoft’s worldview. The mission is repeated by Nadella and parroted by pretty much every executive at public events: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” And then the cultural shift has seen the company take a more collaborative approach, embracing open-source tools, partnering with rivals like Amazon and trying to fix internal issues by promoting more diversity and inclusion.
Those “three tiers of the cake,” as Capossela called them, have helped rehabilitate Microsoft’s image among not just observers but current and potential employees and prospective partners. Focusing on what it does best and cutting out areas that haven’t worked has played a role as well.
“Our batting average has been decent enough that employees are like, ‘wow this feels like a different place.’ Partners are like ‘wow, I’m a startup and I actually might want to do business with you. I might actually even consider you, whereas before you were a joke.”
If Microsoft does finish ahead of Apple in market cap at closing for the first time today, don’t expect the company’s senior leadership team, which holds long meetings every Friday, to stop what they’re doing and bust out the champagne.
“Nobody is sitting around high-fiving when the stock hits some new high,” Capossela said. “We are like ‘wow, the bar just went up dramatically.’ So it’s a very humble tone; there’s not a lot of, ‘woo, we’re killing it.'”
He continued: “Whatever we did before, great that the trend is good, but we have so much more progress to make. Our competitors are excellent, and we have so much that we still have to get done, and I think that helps. And employees sense that.”