Who is he?
Robert F. Smith is a lot of things. CEO & Chairman of Vista Equity Partners (an investment firm valued at over $73 billion). Philanthropist (you may remember his 2019 pledge to eliminate the student debt of an entire graduating class at Morehouse College). One of Forbes’s “100 Greatest Living Business Minds”. One of Time’s “100 Most Influential People of 2020”. An engineer, a technologist, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, the list of his credentials goes on and on.
To put it simply, and quote Black Buck’s Mateo Askaripour: Robert F. Smith is a black salesman on a mission. That mission seems to be building strong software companies and enriching the lives of his network and stakeholders. He’s blazed a trail from a middle-class upbringing to a net worth of over a billion dollars, and influence at the global scale. A trail that many can and will follow to build their own generational wealth.
Why is he important to society or what impact did he make as an individual?
As an investor, Smith and his firm have funded and supported hundreds of businesses that employ thousands of people worldwide. A look at the firm’s portfolio shows investments in technology providers across every industry you can think of. He quite literally can be credited as one of the founders of the Silicon Valley investment boom as Goldman Sachs’s first Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) banker in the region.
Throughout his investment career, Robert Smith has built a reputation as a trusted partner and advisor to his portfolio. “Private Equity’s Philosopher” as he was called in a Columbia Business School profile helped bring Steve Jobs back to Apple and oversaw mergers and acquisitions with Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay, Hewlett Packard, Yahoo, and more. He’s an absolute titan in the enterprise technology industry and takes a different approach than the typical private equity firm. In Robert’s own words: “We exclusively focus on enterprise software and are re-facing private equity from being transactional to being patient and transformational.”
What’s one thing that early-careers sales folks and sales leaders should take away from the impact that this individual made?
One of our main takeaways from Robert’s story concerns the beginning of his career. He applied to a prestigious internship at Bell Labs while still in High School and his application was denied. Why? Because those internship spots were reserved for college students.
Robert didn’t give up. He showed the persistence and grit that all salespeople need to succeed and called Bell Labs every week for five months. The internship had someone drop out last minute, and that spot went to him. The rest is history. Two decades before Vista Equity Partners was even founded. Robert F. Smith pushed forward through the no’s until he got a yes.
He’d be a great SDR.