Sequoia Capital’s Eschenbach On The Four C’s That CEOs Must Overcome

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Carl Eschenbach sits down with longtime Sports Illustrated Associate Editor Don Yaeger to discuss how sports shaped his leadership journey.

In the world of high tech, Carl Eschenbach’s is a name synonymous with explosive growth. As the longtime president and chief operating officer of VMware, he helped the company go from 200 employees and $30 million in revenue to 20,000 employees and $7 billion. During that sometimes challenging uphill ride to success, Eschenbach developed what he affectionately calls his 4 C’s that he counsels any executive to manage.

1. Cockiness: It is important to always remain humble and grounded. “No matter how great the company is doing, just make sure you’re humble and grounded and that you have two feet firmly planted on the ground at all times.” Eschenbach reminded listeners that no matter how successful they might become, “we will have problems, that is inevitable, so it’s important to not be cocky.”

2. Complacency: “Complacency kills. It can kill great companies.” Eschenbach used the example of when people become complacent in life, their minds and their bodies stop working. “It is important to remain active and continue to push ourselves to get better and better.”

3. Competition: It is the time in sports and the competition that helped shape Eschenbach into the person he would become. “You have to be aware of your competition, but the one thing I’m not a fan of is talking down about your competition,” Eschenbach noted. “Always be competitive, but respect and value your opponent.”

4. Compliance: One question Eschenbach continuously asks himself as he is making a decision, forming a partnership or engaging with customers is “Are you ok with what you’re doing if it is printed on the front page of the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal? If you cannot answer yes to that, do not do it.” The ability to be seen as a company with a highly respected culture and values system can be ruined overnight without compliance.

A true competitor both in business and as a lifelong athlete, Eschenbach left VMWare to become a partner at Sequoia Capital, regarded as Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firm. On the podcast, he shared that his time in athletics helped shape those philosophies that took him to the C-Suite.

The recipient of five Most Valuable Athlete Awards, ten varsity letters and captain of the football, baseball, and wrestling team, Eschenbach was recently honored as an inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “In sports, I often tell people, you have to learn to lose before you can learn to win,” he said. “It’s very unlikely you’re going to go undefeated in anything you do for your entire life, so learning how to lose when you’re an athlete and competing, it teaches us so much about how to have endurance and perseverance in life.”


4:00   The importance of “learning how to lose” because it is unlikely we will go undefeated in life.

11:00  The difference between motivation and inspiration, and how to balance both techniques in your leadership.

19:00  How Carl views getting older, and the fun goal he sets to resist complacency.

30:00  The nightly routine Carl has with his son to set him up for success.

32:00  Four things that threaten to stunt your team’s growth.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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