As we took Altos Computer public, co-founder David Jackson and I sat down to reflect on how we had managed to build what at the time was one of the fastest-growing companies in America. We did it because we formed personal relationships with our customers. He started using the phrase "It's not what you know, but who you know." Since then I've always believed that everything in business is about relationships, and you should never take them lightly. We got to know our customers. We got to know their families. The biggest deal we ever signed was with a company called Control Data Corp. We took the CEO to dinner, we took him to ball games, we truly became friends. I am still friends with these people.
I still use David's advice. My investing is based on having one of the biggest networks in Silicon Valley. When we solve a big problem for one of our portfolio companies, I say to the CEO, "It's not what you know. It's who you know."
We went through our archives for nearly a decade of collected wisdom that still holds up.