The Business 2.0 Dream Team 2004 IMAGINE WHAT A COMPANY COULD DO WITH THESE ALL-STARS RUNNING THE SHOW.
By Interviews by Jeanette Borzo, Elizabeth Esfahani, Ellen Neuborne, and Tom Stein

(Business 2.0) – During the boom of the 1990s, it seemed that any idiot could run a company--and, in fact, too many did, as we learned once the bubble burst. Now the economy is brewing up another boom, and this one won't be kind to fools in high places. Competition is as fierce as it was during the recession, and managers are still being asked to do more with less. If you're hiring leaders today, you have to set the bar extremely high.

That, we hope, is what we did in choosing Business 2.0's Executive Dream Team for 2004. This is the second year we've performed this exercise, but the question we asked is the same: Suppose you were staffing the top ranks of a young tech company with a cool product in a fast-growing but fiercely competitive market. Who would you hire right now?

We put the question to the smartest executive recruiters and talent judges we know. We asked our panel to select leaders with the sophistication to thrive on a global stage and the toughness to handle an economy full of potential pitfalls, from rising interest rates to inflating costs to a tightening labor market.

A tall order, to be sure. But we think the team you'll meet on these pages is perfect for the job. Our proposed CEO hails from one of the oldest names in technology, where she played a key role in the company's turnaround. As her lieutenant, we picked a prodigy who has brought entrepreneurial verve to a once-stodgy software giant. Throughout our lineup, we strove for a balance between original thinkers and masters of operational efficiency. That seems like just the formula for this market.

The sad part, of course, is that the executives noted here will never actually work together. But no matter. All of them are destined for greatness wherever they end up.

A LINEUP OF HEAVY HITTERS

To qualify for the Business 2.0 Dream Team, an executive had to notch significant, tangible achievements and still have many years remaining in his or her career. Most of the dozen we chose earned their stripes at established companies like Apple, Sun, and Xerox--proof that they're team players--but several got their start as entrepreneurs. All told, the 2004 Dream Team accounts for half a dozen companies launched, scores of patents awarded, and billions upon billions of dollars in wealth created. Remember their names. What they've already accomplished is nothing compared with the possibilities that lie ahead.

URSULA BURNS, 45, PRESIDENT, BUSINESS GROUP OPERATIONS, XEROX

--BORN: New York --EDUCATION: BS, Polytechnic Institute of N.Y.; MS, Columbia

Burns runs Xerox's $12 billion Business Group Operations, whose turnaround was the key to leading the company back to profitability.

SCOUTING REPORT

--READY FOR THE TOP JOB: Burns is a go-to leader who has been mentioned as heir apparent to Xerox's CEO (not that 51-year-old Anne Mulcahy is going anywhere soon). Her group accounts for more than 75 percent of the company's revenue. "Ursula has a reputation as an inspiring leader who balances strong strategic skills, operational excellence, and a laser focus on customers," says James Citrin, senior director of executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart. "Those are precisely the factors we look for in candidates for CEO and other top positions."

--LEAN OPERATOR: She saved her division $1.8 billion in 18 months by outsourcing half of its manufacturing, while adding 24 competitively priced products, including top-selling multifunctional digital printers.

--VERSATILE: After starting out as a summer intern in 1980, she has held more than a dozen positions at Xerox, ranging from mechanical engineer to VP for manufacturing.

* Burns was raised by a single mom in a housing project: "With very little, my mother gave me the world. It was up to me to run with it."

SHAI AGASSI, 37, EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER, SAP

--BORN: Ramat Gan, Israel --EDUCATION: BS, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

The youngest of the seven executives who run SAP, Agassi is the force behind NetWeaver, an integration and application platform seen by many as central to SAP's future.

SCOUTING REPORT

--ENTREPRENEURIAL BREEDING: Agassi wrote his first software program at age 7 and co-founded the first of his four companies as a teenager. He sold the most recent one, corporate-portal maker TopTier Software, to SAP three years ago for $400 million.

--CHANGES THE GAME: "He's turned a staid German company into a technology innovator, and that is an operational miracle," says Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley. "He's a big visionary, a future master of the universe."

--PLAYS ALL POSITIONS: Agassi can switch effortlessly from high-concept discourse with tech researchers to high-level strategizing with the board to a high-energy pep rally with programmers. "I never see him under stress," says SAP chairman and CEO Henning Kagermann.

* Agassi on leadership: "I am responsible to all the people who work for me. I am at their service."

STEVEN SORDELLO, 35, CFO, ASK JEEVES

--BORN: San Jose --EDUCATION: BA and MA, Santa Clara University

Sordello revolutionized finance for Ask Jeeves at a do-or-die moment in the dotcom's history. His efforts allowed it to become a strong contender in the red-hot search market.

SCOUTING REPORT

--WORLD-CLASS DEALMAKER: In 2000, Sordello negotiated a deal with a Japanese joint venture, Trans Cosmos, in which Ask Jeeves traded technology rights for the cash that kept it afloat. A year later, Sordello masterminded the buyout of Ask Jeeves's British venture partners, Carlton Communications and Granada Media Group. The wholly owned subsidiary Ask.co.uk now contributes approximately 33 percent of Ask Jeeves's revenue.

--FORWARD-LOOKING: "Before Sordello arrived four years ago, Ask Jeeves had no financial planning infrastructure," says an insider who asked to remain anonymous. "The company couldn't forecast what it was going to do tomorrow."

--DARLING OF BIG INVESTORS: During Sordello's tenure as CFO, the shareholder base has gone from less than 15 percent institutional ownership to more than 90 percent. Two years ago the stock traded around $1. In late May it was in the high 30s.

* The first guy at the office many days, Sordello acquired his prodigious work ethic in his parents' apricot, prune, and walnut orchards.

ANU SHUKLA, 44, FOUNDER AND CEO, RUBICONSOFT

--BORN: Ambala, India --EDUCATION: BA, St. Stephen's College, New Delhi

A blend of entrepreneur and marketing maven, Shukla pioneered marketing-automation software, earning herself and investors $366 million.

SCOUTING REPORT

--SALESPERSON PAR EXCELLENCE: While Shukla was marketing VP at Uniface, a maker of software development tools (since bought by Compuware), she increased sales from $10 million to more than $85 million in five years.

--INNOVATOR: With $13.6 million raised through venture capital, Shukla launched Rubric Software in 1997, making products that manage electronic marketing campaigns and measure their success. Three years later she sold it for $366 million to Broadbase Software (since merged with Kana Software).

--STRATEGIC THINKER: At Versata, another software development toolmaker, she foresaw the success of Java and persuaded the company to focus on that platform before competitors caught on. Her latest company, RubiconSoft, makes software tools that help companies forecast their revenue. Says Hal Steger, one of the co-founders of Rubric and now SVP for worldwide marketing at software firm Oblicore, "Anu is like a chess master, always thinking five or 10 moves ahead, to how an industry will evolve."

* To earn some extra cash while in college, Shukla modeled for industrial ads, appearing in calendars for tractor and tire companies.

JONATHAN IVE, 37, VP, INDUSTRIAL DESIGN, APPLE COMPUTER

--BORN: London --EDUCATION: BA, Newcastle Polytechnic

Designer of Apple products that have become cultural icons--the iPod, iMac, and G5 Power Mac--Ive was recently named "the most influential person on British culture" by the BBC.

SCOUTING REPORT

--GAME CHANGER: Ive elevated industrial design from an afterthought to a competitive advantage, a first in the tech world. Says Guy Kawasaki, author of The Macintosh Way and founder of VC firm Garage Technology Ventures, "Jonathan's work has been as critical to Apple's success as the Macintosh user interface."

--HARDWORKING: Ive the perfectionist is said to put in 70-hour weeks in order to get everything down to the last detail absolutely flawless.

--TEAM PLAYER: Reluctant to take personal credit for his accomplishments, Ive attributes the success of the iMac and iPod to the group of Apple designers with whom he's worked for 10 years.

* Ive reportedly commutes to work in a very nicely designed car--a $160,000 Aston Martin DB7.

SHEUELING CHANG, 46, DISTINGUISHED ENGINEER, SUN

--BORN: Taipei, Taiwan --EDUCATION: MA, business management, Stanford; Ph.D., Caltech

Holder of 12 patents, mostly in the field of cryptographic technology, Chang is blessed with mathematical brilliance on a scale that awes even the other brainiacs at Sun Microsystems.

SCOUTING REPORT

--MATH GENIUS: Chang is passionate about algorithms the way other people might be about golf or gardening. It is said that no scientist at Sun dares to take her on in a mathematical argument.

--ENTREPRENEURIAL BENT: For all her formidable theoretical skills, Chang has no trouble envisioning real-world applications for the technology she develops. "I run my team like a startup," she says.

--LEADING-EDGE DEVELOPER: Lately her team of nine engineers has focused on wireless Internet security. (Fully half of her patents are in this field.) In 2004 she won Sun's "chairman's award for innovation" for creating next-generation cryptographic technologies capable of securing blazingly fast communications between servers and small devices such as cell phones and PDAs. "This innovation is key to our success," says Scott McNealy, chairman and CEO of Sun.

* Around Sun, legend has it that Java creator James Gosling sends her the math problems he can't solve.

THERESA METTY, 52, SENIOR VP AND CHIEF PROCUREMENT OFFICER, MOTOROLA

--BORN: Ann Arbor, Mich. --EDUCATION: AS, University of Hartford School of Business

Since arriving at Motorola in November 2000, Metty has saved the company $2.5 billion in operating and materials costs. She's aiming to save $1 billion more in 2005.

SCOUTING REPORT

--PROVEN ACHIEVER: As vice president for global procurement at IBM, Metty was responsible for a $40 billion spending budget. "Theresa was a key player on the IBM supply management team, which helped IBM turn from $8.1 billion in losses to $8 billion in profits," says R. David Nelson, vice president for global supply management at Delphi Corp. "She is simply amazing."

--WOMAN WITH A PLAN: Metty sees her job as waging what she calls "a war on complexity," which she regards as the main obstacle to improved supply-chain performance. While at Motorola's PCS division, she reduced the number of suppliers by two-thirds and cell-phone models by more than half.

--STRATEGIC THINKER: A simplified, standards-oriented supply chain doesn't only save costs, Metty says. It gives a company flexibility, room to innovate, and--most important in today's cutthroat climate--reduced time to market.

* Last summer Metty set multiple land speed records on her 1967 250cc Harley-Davidson Sprint, nicknamed Moto-Roller.

THADDEUS ARROYO, 40, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, CINGULAR

--BORN: San Francisco --EDUCATION: MBA, Southern Methodist University

When SBC and BellSouth jointly launched Cingular, Arroyo integrated the two sponsors' monstrously complex and incompatible systems.

SCOUTING REPORT

--IT MIRACLE WORKER: In combining SBC and BellSouth systems, Arroyo had to cut back from four enterprise resource planning systems to one, eight payroll systems to one, 11 billing systems to two, and 60 specialized call centers to 20 multifunctional centers. Management gave him the impossible deadline of 36 months; he finished in 24.

--GREAT MOTIVATOR: Arroyo has drilled into his 3,000 IT workers that they're a "thought center" rather than a "cost center."

--PLAYS ALL POSITIONS: He is very effective at bridging the communication gap between MBAs and technologists. And he confines IT efforts to what really makes financial sense. Says Ninan Chacko, a former colleague and now SVP for e-commerce and product planning at Worldspan, "He has a robust understanding of the business side of things."

* The son of a Spanish-born ranch hand and a Latina mother, Arroyo is part of the first generation in his family to attend college.

BILL BASS, 41, VP AND GENERAL MANAGER, SEARS CUSTOMER DIRECT; SVP, E-COMMERCE, LANDS' END

--BORN: Lawrence, Kan. --EDUCATION: BA, Princeton; MA and MBA, Stanford

After buying Lands' End in 2002, Sears promptly put him in charge of its entire online business, which is thriving despite the company's recent woes (see page 66).

SCOUTING REPORT

--PROVEN ACHIEVER: When Bass arrived at Lands' End in 1999, the company's annual online sales totaled $151 million; its 2003 figures topped half a billion. "Bill is wildly focused on getting results," says Mindy Meads, president and CEO of Lands' End.

--INCREDIBLY WELL-ROUNDED: At Princeton, Bass was a football player who finished one course shy of a certificate in dance. Back in 1995, before joining Lands' End, he co-founded the Boston Globe's website, Boston.com, then went on to become group director of research for both media and e-commerce at Forrester Research. As if that weren't enough, after college he also served for six years as an Army helicopter gunship pilot.

--STERN TASKMASTER: "I don't want the best redesigned website," Bass says. "I want the best redesigned website on budget and on schedule."

* Bass is quick to credit his colleagues--a lesson he learned in the elite 82nd Airborne Division, where teamwork was literally a matter of life or death.

AN ALL-STAR COACHING STAFF

CHARLES PHILLIPS, 45, PRESIDENT, ORACLE

--BORN: Little Rock, Ark. --EDUCATION: MBA, Hampton University; JD, N.Y. Law School

A diplomat and dealmaker, Phillips has one of the industry's fattest Rolodexes.

SCOUTING REPORT

--FINANCIAL SAVVY: Before joining Oracle, Phillips was an enterprise software analyst at Morgan Stanley (and was consistently ranked No. 1 in the category by Institutional Investor).

--GREAT COMMUNICATOR: Dubbed "Mr. Outside," Phillips has become the public face of Oracle's attempted takeover of PeopleSoft. In contrast to his frequently abrasive boss, CEO Larry Ellison, Phillips is known as a consensus builder.

--READY FOR THE JOB: According to Beverly Behan, a partner with Mercer Delta Consulting and an expert in corporate governance, great board members need to bring to the table at least one of three skill sets: financial expertise, knowledge of capital markets, and CEO-level experience. Phillips already has two.

* Phillips reportedly started his career in technology by building PCs for his friends while still in high school.

LORRIE NORRINGTON, 44, EXECUTIVE VP, INTUIT

--BORN: Cheverly, Md. --EDUCATION: MBA, Harvard

Norrington is leading Intuit's successful expansion in the enterprise software market for small businesses.

SCOUTING REPORT

--STRATEGIST: To diversify Intuit's QuickBooks small-business accounting software, Norrington discarded the company's one-size-fits-all approach and created more than 20 different "flavors," each catering to a different industry. Last year, QuickBooks revenue was up 26 percent.

--NURTURER OF TALENT: Norrington spent 20 years at General Electric, legendary as an incubator of corporate leaders. Says Kara Helander, a vice president at Catalyst, a research organization advancing women in business, "She makes sure her organization taps into the potential of all of its employees."

--HIGH ACHIEVER: Norrington is constantly looking for ways to push Intuit's performance to the next level. "I am never satisfied with the way things are," she says.

* Norrington worked a number of jobs, including lumberjacking, before becoming the first woman in her family to graduate from college.

IRVING WLADAWSKY-BERGER, 59, VP, TECHNOLOGY AND STRATEGY, IBM

--BORN: Havana, Cuba --EDUCATION: BS, MS, and Ph.D., University of Chicago

Wladawsky-Berger has an impressive record of recognizing the next big thing and getting Big Blue out in front.

SCOUTING REPORT

--FORWARD-LOOKING: Wladawsky-Berger was behind a number of IBM's most daring software initiatives, including its embrace of Linux and other open-source programming tools. His latest passion is "on-demand computing," IBM's attempt to make corporate information technology into an ultraflexible utility-like operation.

--ORGANIZATIONAL MOBILIZER: His enthusiasm and the respect he engenders inside IBM enable him to spearhead innovations that otherwise might never emerge from the company's famous bureaucracy.

--GREAT MOTIVATOR: Says Gartner analyst and IBM alumnus Thomas Bittman, "He has an innate ability to communicate complex ideas in a way that gets other people excited."

* Wladawsky-Berger hasn't let brainpower go to his head: Colleagues say he's a regular Joe who loves pizza, the New York Mets, and TiVo.