The Modern CEO

Dean Geoff Garrett speaks with Marshall alumnus Marc Benioff, CEO and Chair of Salesforce, about the great post-pandemic reset and new ways of managing—for all stakeholders.
Marc Benioff
Marc Benioff is the CEO and Chair of Salesforce.

USC Marshall Dean Geoff Garrett sat down to speak (virtually) with Marc Benioff, chair, co-founder, and co-CEO of Salesforce, in the latest of a series of Dean’s Dialogues, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.

Garrett and Benioff held a lively and wide-ranging discussion touching on equality in the workplace, the positive changes wrought on the workforce by the pandemic shutdown,…and planting trees, one of Benioff’s many philanthropic passions.

Benioff graduated from USC’s business school in 1986. He worked for Oracle for 13 years and became the youngest vice president in the company’s history before branching out on his own to launch Salesforce in 1999. Today Salesforce is a Fortune 150 company and San Francisco’s largest private employer with a total of some 65,000 employees. It is the No. 1 provider of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

In discussing what it meant to be a modern CEO, Benioff pointed out that managing for today meant managing for all stakeholders, all workers, of all genders and races. Stakeholders of today demand much more of a business than in the past.

Garrett posed a question: “Are we ready to be actionable on stakeholder capitalism, or is that aspirational?”

“I believe the only way you can have success in today’s world is to manage for all stakeholders,” said Benioff.

After a wide-ranging conversation, Benioff concluded with a story about change. When he arrived at USC, his future roommate looked at his box of computer floppy discs and asked if they were some kind of record albums. The young man had never seen such objects before. It was the early '80s. The story illustrated a point.

“Innovation marches forward,” said Benioff. “Business is the best platform for change.”