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Intuit CEO Steve Bennett Talks Business

Think Intuit is just Quicken? Think again. In a presentation at HBS on December 3rd, Steve Bennett, Intuit’s President and CEO, talked about Intuit’s future not only as the provider of Quicken and TurboTax, but more significantly as a platform for small businesses, a space they see as nearly limitless in its opportunities. The event, co-sponsored by the High Tech & New Media Club and the Marketing Club, followed Bennett’s visit to Professor Sahlman’s Entrepreneurial Finance.

Bennett joined Intuit in January 2000, after 23 years at General Electric. Professor Sahlman joked in his introduction that Bennett had started at $8/hr at GE, and finished at around “$8 per second.” Bennett said he loved GE, but joined Intuit to challenge himself and learn from Scott Cook, John Doerr, and others. Since taking the helm of Intuit, Bennett has furthered the company’s focus on its mission to “revolutionize how people manage their financial lives and small businesses manage their businesses.”

In his hour-long presentation, Bennett emphasized Intuit’s core strengths, citing “customer-driven innovation” as its “heart” and “strategic and operational rigor” as its “brain.” Reflecting on Intuit’s remarkable success, Bennett credited its lifetime commitment to letting customers drive innovation, rather than being driven merely by technology improvements.

In addition to its customer-centric culture, Bennett noted that Intuit has had a long-time focus on employee satisfaction. Last year, Intuit ranked 45 in Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” survey. Intuit has instituted a “great place to work” survey (with an impressive 96% response rate from Intuit’s 6,000 employees) and also has a 360-degree feedback process, first piloted by Bennett himself.

Looking toward the future, Bennett sees five key growth areas for the company: TurboTax, Small Business Services, Professional Accountants, QuickBooks, and Vertical Business Management. The company will continue its current strategy of achieving approximately two-thirds of its growth through “organic” expansion of existing businesses combined and the other one-third through targeted acquisitions.

In response to questions around Intuit’s future direction, Bennett commented that he sees the company continuing to expand its role in the small business space, in addition to the tax realm. As an example of the type of growth opportunities Intuit is creating, Bennett noted that it has launched multiple versions of its popular “QuickBooks” program for small businesses, tailoring solutions to the needs of particular vertical segments.

When asked “what keeps you up at night?” Bennett remarked that his top concern is attracting and developing key talent at Intuit (good news for HBS job seekers). In addition, he mentioned possible wildcards such as “disruptive technology or a flat tax,” but reassured the audience that he “sleeps like a baby.”

Bennett closed his talk by reiterating what he described as the “heart and soul” of Intuit: “creating changes so profound people can’t imagine going back to the old way.”

December 9, 2002
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