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Revealed: The true horror of being a big CEO

Pity the poor reporter who had to shadow Mark Hurd

By John Oates, 28 Sep 2016

Our attention has been drawn to the work of a plucky reporter Julie Bort from Business Insider, who spent a day shadowing Oracle CEO at its OpenWorld jamboree in San Francisco. Finally – a chance to see the real glamour behind the scenes with a top flight chief exec.

The day started with coffee at 8am although we were reassured that Hurd had been up doing important things since 4.30am.

Hurd travels without an entourage and is able to remember his own schedule. Kindly, he’d warned Bort to avoid the heels – keeping up would require comfortable shoes.

Early on we’re told:

Meeting with customers is clearly one of Hurd's favorite things to do. He was in high spirits, happy and joking with me and others all day. He was funny. He's also a singularly focused guy: sales and operations. He's so oriented toward that, that at one point, I mentioned the singer Adele, and he quipped, "Now that's productivity! She had one bad breakup and she turned it into a dozen songs."

One of the highlights of an already pretty brilliant day came early on:

One of the funniest moments of the day came early. The room filled with about 150 Leaders Circle participants, and Hurd, ever punctual, started his keynote right on time. He noticed a row of empty seats reserved for Oracle employees and commented on the missing employees. In his best CEO voice, he said: "Don't worry, we'll find them." The room of managers laughed. Shortly after, those seats were dutifully filled.

Helpfully Bort included a picture of the empty chairs.

This was followed by Hurd’s keynote which many thought actually contained the funniest moment of the day – when live polling of the audience revealed rather more AWS fans than Oracle supporters.

Next the duo, and PR, "literally ran" to the next event – "an invitational roundtable breakfast for human-resources executives" - even typing that out was exhausting and poor Julie Bort had to run there while taking photos.

But the day was not all about running: “At one point, we were whisked to an event at another venue by hired chauffeured cars. I didn't ride with Hurd; the PR rep and I rode in a second car.”

By this stage we’re only halfway through the article. You begin to feel sorry for everyone involved.

Life as CEO of a big company really does seem as bad as you imagine it. The days of two-bottle lunches and meetings with whisky and cigars are long gone.

There is no lunch break, instead our intrepid reporter has to resort to snaffling bits of chicken destined for some analysts. She notes: “I'm lucky I haven't been drinking too much coffee, so I don't need my own bio break.”

There’s more of this – we get a tour of backstage where you won’t be surprised to learn Larry Ellison gets his own dressing room.

But we’re also told that Ellison: “Despite his industrywide reputation for being hard-nosed, he never loses his cool, never yells — even during sensitive conversations like executive compensation — and is always calm and respectful.” He’s also a great listener.

The only other shock in the lengthy piece is that Billy Joel had the audacity to cancel two weeks before the event. Luckily he got hold of his mate Sting to fill in, with help from Gwen Stefani.

Bort gets 20 minutes to actually interview Hurd: “We mostly talked about how he revamped the sales force with the Class of program.”

At five o’clock it's a wine-and-cheese thing but Hurd neither eats nor drinks – this could be why he’s lasted all day without needing a bio break.

This ended at seven o’clock, after which Hurd had a steak dinner with a member of staff and, we imagine, a massive shit.

You can read the entire detailed piece here. ®

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