Companies as large as Autodesk have to be run, to a substantial extent, by analysis and manipulation of financial aggregates. A CEO is doomed to fail if he doesn't understand how to do this. He must not only be able to see problems and solutions in the numbers, but know what numbers are needed to reveal what's really going on, and how to obtain them. The CEO need not have a financial background but must understand the kinds of financial controls, reporting, and diagnostics that are required to run a company like Autodesk and be able to put them in place, manage them as the company grows, and use them day to day to run the company. I believe it is essential that any candidate be conversant with such matters, and to be able to cite, limited only by confidentiality, the financial characteristics of the organisation he currently runs to an extent that demonstrates this ability.
We will never find a candidate who is an expert in the CAD business, a marketing genius, a super salesman, a financial whiz, a superb motivator of people, a born leader, a compelling communicator, and a visionary with a talent for spotting new opportunities for the company, all at the same time. That would require a super-hero. Yet, when the door closes and Autodesk's senior management sits down to decide what they are going to do with our company, every one of those talents must be present in the room; otherwise an essential component of wise and informed business decision making will be absent, and the decisions will be taken in ignorance and will imperil the company.
It is essential that a new CEO have demonstrated success in recruiting, operating, and managing a complex process with such a multidisciplinary team. It goes without saying that the candidate must have earned and retained the respect of the individuals with whom he works closely, and with subordinates anywhere within his organisation. A candidate must have demonstrated success in developing plans and strategies of his own and managing their implementation and eventual success by others.
This is so fundamental a part of the job of CEO that it cannot be delegated, not even to another member of the senior management team. Any candidate's background must convincingly demonstrate success in this essential qualification for any executive position.
Most initially-successful companies screw up because they've lost the will to do their best, or a belief that it's even possible. The CEO must set the standard for the company and manage the company to meet it. Sustained success in business comes not from superhuman effort or super genius, but from building and running an organisation that does extraordinary things with ordinary people. Any candidate must understand this and have consistently demonstrated such success in his career. Each candidate will have a background in one specific operating field or another: sales, marketing, finance, technology, whatever. They must personally excel in that field, and be able to persuade those with the same expertise that they do.
The candidate must understand the nature and size of the opportunity Autodesk has and be excited about realising it and not approach the job as presiding over a ready-built money machine. I believe Autodesk has a genuine chance to grow into a business as large as IBM or Boeing. We need a CEO who's interested in making that happen.
Editor: John Walker