Larry Page is now the CEO of Google, again. He’s back in his familiar spot before “professional management” came in by the way of Eric Schmidt. I’m not saying Google didn’t need it in their early years. In fact, it was under Eric they became the powerhouse they are today. What will Google look like under an older, more seasoned, Larry Page at the helm? Here are a few thoughts:
• Top-down management – In Larry Page’s first go around in being CEO, it was a bottom-up style of management. Engineers had all of the freedom in the world to play, experiment, and create and, if one of the ideas caught on, Google would pursue it to see if their users would use it. It didn’t matter if it made money or if they afford to spend the resources. Management didn’t dictate what was going to be worked on and what wasn’t. Today, Larry Page has eluded that Google will be more focused and strategic on what projects it will put their engineers and resources to and that direction will come from the top, not the rank and file engineers.
• More user driven, less profit driven – This is one of the core beliefs that Page and Brin had since the beginning. Under Eric, Google has become a profit machine, minting billions. Under Larry, this could be reversed where profits are secondary to user needs. Before, that was okay since Google was still privately owned by the founders, but now, with it fully entrenched in Wall Street, they no longer have the luxury to say, “to hell with the profits, let’s just create cool things.” There could be a lack of discipline that may creep in that may take them too far back to their college-mindset. If Larry has gained any business wisdom over the last decade from Eric and others, that will serve him well to keep the balancing act of doing what you want and doing what is profitable.
• A more flat organization – This will be a good thing. Larry and Brin don’t like corporate bureaucracy. It slows a company down. Larry will probably try to recapture the feeling of a start-up again when Google was at it’s height in creativity. Beyond search, not much of what Google has worked on ever became successful. This is why they have been buying companies. It could be a flatter organization may help spark more successful innovation, but then they may not care about a project being financially successful as long as users like it.
• Advertising is not evil – This may be wishful thinking on my part, but Larry Page and Google may be better off releasing their old fashioned idea that advertising is evil, especially since they are in the advertising business and make 90% of their money there. It looks like Google is slowly opening up to advertising more. They’ve always advertised heavily in the B2B market, but being seen in the general public is starting to become more frequent. (i.e. Super Bowl ads, business magazine ads, Larry Page on the cover of Fortune, etc.) Also, with other sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. beginning to advertise, Google may feel that it is now okay to advertise and market yourself. Instead of leading, Google is a follower in this category.
Overall, my guess is you’ll see a Google that moves closer to it’s start-up culture with a few exceptions like management will be in more control, not the rank and file engineers. If they go too far back to the beginning, Google stock will take a hit because investors will not like profits taking a back seat to cool projects just for its own sake. The chicken-and-egg relationship they have with Wall Street is if they ignore investors too much, their disposable cash will shrink and give them less freedom to “do what ever they want to do” with little regard to profits, but Larry is going to stay true to their core of users are everything, even at the expense of investors.
It will be interesting to watch.