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Bill McDermott is Named “Manager of the Year” in Germany

Feature Article | December 22, 2016 by Camille Bui-Nguyen

Titling their story “Fighter with a Heart,” the business daily “Handelsblatt” selected SAP’s CEO for taking SAP to the pinnacle of German business.

SAP was recently lauded by Germany’s Handelsblatt for its almost covert ascension in becoming the most valuable DAX-listed company. More notably, however, were the parallels drawn between SAP’s success and the success of Bill McDermott, who the business daily distinguished with “Manager of the Year” for 2016.

Curtly describing himself as a fighter, it’s clear that Bill isn’t keen on talking about his accident from nearly 18 months ago. Instead, he has plans of discussing the incident and his bounce back into seeming normality in a new book. This is not Bill’s first foray into writing, with the SAP CEO having penned Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office in 2014 and spending his free time furiously tapping on the keys of his laptop.

His favorite subject to write about? Success.

Under Bill, SAP has seen an overhaul of its traditional license software business. Additionally, it has made cloud computing a desirable and profitable business area. According to the original Handelsblatt article, SAP currently generates approximately 15% of its revenues from the cloud – with this number expected to increase.

How SAP Became the Most Valuable DAX Company

Thanks to this new strategy, SAP has become the most valuable company in the German stock exchange, DAX. By the end of 2016, SAP expects to make next gains of €3.6 billion– a new company record and an increase of 16.5% over 2015’s 3 billion euros. Much of this success can be attributed to Bill’s innovative vision, with the company’s stock price rising by 47% since he became CEO in May 2014. It’s no surprise, then, that SAP renewed its CEO’s contract this year.

Starting out as the CEO of SAP America, where he was in charge of business in the US, Canada, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region, it didn’t take long for top management in Wallfdorf to notice Bill’s sales talent and promote him to the SAP Executive Board as head of global sales in 2008. Two years later, he took the title of co-CEO with Jim Hagemann Snabe, a title and responsibility he absorbed completely in 2014. The rest, you could say, is history, as Bill ensured the viability and creativity of SAP against competitors Microsoft and Oracle.

Bill’s business acumen and savvy can be attributed to his upbringing. Born into a working class family in Long Island, New York, his father worked as a maintenance electrician at New York energy company ConEdison. From his father, he learned self-confidence and to trust in his own abilities – lessons he took to heart when he opened his first business, a delicatessen, while still in college. Using the profits to fund his college career, it was apparent even then that independence, financial freedom and business success drove Bill even as a young man.

Since becoming CEO of SAP, he has not forgotten his home country. “I always say to the American that they should become a bit more German,” he told Handelsblatt. “And I tell my German friends that they should embrace a bit of American culture.” Combined, he said, the efficiency of German engineers and the tact of American marketers make quite a powerful mixture.

Believing the American Dream

Considering his own experiences, it’s not surprising that Bill continues to believe in the “American Dream.” However, the growth of populism in the West does cause him concern, as does increasing unemployment in many countries.

“Governments need to develop concepts for integrating everyone into the modern economy,” he said. “For this, we need to strongly invest in training and education, and this is where companies can play a big part.”

Most of all, however, Bill believes in supporting the next generation as they enter the workforce. It pains him to see the dissolution of the American middle class and the limited opportunity granted to children whose parents aren’t top earners as the income gap widens. It’s this sort of passion for not only the future but for the welfare for entire communities and peoples that some of his friends predict a future in politics for the CEO.

In spite of the troubles facing today’s world, Bill remains optimistic, preferring to see chances rather than risks. It’s this hope that differentiates him from his management peers and makes his story one worth telling.

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