Ned Hooper, who graduated from Darden in 1994, says he’s now “12 years into a two-year commitment to Cisco.” Hooper has risen through a variety of leadership positions and now serves as Cisco’s chief strategy officer and senior vice president of consumer business. In a conversation with the Darden School of Business community on Tuesday, Feb. 23, sponsored by the Business Technology Club, Hooper shared leadership lessons and anecdotes about how this 25-year old company has grown and thrived.
Hooper is responsible for Cisco’s global growth strategy through business development activities including equity investment, the incubation of innovative technologies and acquisitions. He told the audience that Cisco has succeeded in the majority of its acquisitions, and it’s especially helpful if your first one succeeds.
“Retention of your team is essential to a good acquisition,” he said. “Keep the team together and leverage them. In any acquisition, there has to be a common culture, a common vision, or it won’t work.”
During his term as vice president of business development, he led the company’s acquisition of IronPort, Airspace, Linksys, Scientific Atlanta and Webex and has led Cisco’s expansion into new markets, resulting in over $5 million in additional annual revenue since 2002.
“Cisco has grown from $22 billion in revenue to nearly $40 billion in eight years,” Hooper told the audience. He says a company can’t grow without taking risks, but risk needs to be balanced.
“Companies die for taking too much risk or for not bringing new products to the market quickly enough,” he says. “At Cisco, we are constantly questioning our business model – by pushing people to rethink what a business is, you can get extraordinary results – and we are open to partnering and acquisitions.” Of the 135 companies Cisco has acquired, Hooper oversaw 80 of them.
Hooper says Cisco takes a broad approach to innovation by developing new technologies, partnering with other companies, starting new business models – “to be really global means to transform product development” – and pursuing acquisitions, while continuing to increase the relevance of its core business. The next phase for Cisco is in video communications, which he says could be the fastest growing business if it continues on its current trajectory. “This is a great, new business for us because it depends on our core competency.”
Founded in 1954, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is a professional school that improves society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.
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