How To Execute
JOHN THOMPSON, CEO, Symantec
By Erick Schonfeld

(Business 2.0) – Your company has grown in good times and bad. Partly it's because you're selling something everyone needs—computer security—but it's also because you sell multiple products to consumers and enterprises alike, and you sell through multiple channels. How do you do it all so well?

We believe that through integration and execution, if we broaden our product portfolio, we will appeal to more buyers. We're in a market that is expected to grow 19 percent a year and will reach about $32 billion by 2007. That says we're focused on the right market—candidly, one of the highest-growth markets in the IT industry. And if our execution is as good as we can get it, then we should be able to grow at or better than the forecasted market growth rate.

Let's talk about that execution. How do you pull it off time and again?

When we acquire companies, we make it clear to the teams we're bringing on, and to the employees shepherding the integration, what our expectations are. When we look for more channels, we put a single leader in charge and say, "We want you to give us results we can be proud of." We spent $370 million for Brightmail, which had a terrific young leader in charge of that business. One of the things we considered was not just the success the company had with enterprise customers and service providers, but also the energy of this young leader as the company reemerged from the ashes of 2000 and 2001. So now we put him in charge of the gateway and perimeter business, in addition to network security and mail security. We'll see how well he does.

On the other hand, we decided we did not like the trajectory of our enterprise administration business, which was on a steady decline of 8 to 10 percent a quarter. We had accepted that decline because the business was a cash cow. But if we could make it plus 10 percent, the aggregate impact on profits would be significant. We put a new leader in charge, did two acquisitions, and expanded its focus to the underserved market need of helping customers simplify the management of PCs, servers, and storage. That business will make 30 percent growth or better this year with a long-term sustaining growth rate in the mid- to high teens.

Are you worried about Microsoft?

We've been at this for a long, long time, and we think we can outrun almost any large company that wants to play in this space. — E.S.