18 Jun

Small Business Owners Can Thank Bill Gates

Last week Bill Gates announced he would be leaving his full-time leadership role at Microsoft in two years.  (Read his email to employees here.) 

Reactions have been mixed and cover a wide range, from raising questions about how Microsoft will fare post-Gates, all the way to this bit of black humor on Slashdot:   “This man has performed an illegal operation and has been shut down.”  See TechMeme for more reactions.

I thought the most interesting reaction from the small business perspective came from Ramon Ray at Smallbiztechnology.com.  He notes in an open letter to Bill Gates:

“As you step down from your day-to-day responsibilities as chief software architect of Microsoft and gradually become a part time employee while remaining chairman of the board I wanted to say thanks.

Small businesses all over the world (if I can speak for them in some way) are grateful for the software you and your team have created namely Microsoft Office, Windows and Windows Server, amongst others.


Not only do non-technology small businesses owe a lot of their success to the Microsoft software that powers their businesses but also the thousands and thousands of small business focused consultants and software developers who have built businesses consulting and selling third party software around Windows operating system, server software and office suites.”

I think Ramon is right on.  While some love to hate Microsoft, deep down most of us know that we could not run our businesses nearly as efficiently and keep our costs nearly as low, without the benefit of Microsoft Windows and the Office software.

In addition to the points Ramon makes, one of the key benefits is that the majority of the business world uses Microsoft products, especially the Office products.  This standardization on one software package saves businesses much time and money.  New employees are likely to already know how to use these software packages when they come on board.  They can hit the ground running.  In many cases, small businesses do not have to spend additional money training new hires to use the company’s desktop software. 

A lot less time is spent dealing with incompatibility issues, trying to get one document to convert properly to another software package.  Incompatibility challenges were a major headache in the early days of word processing software and something that would be a much larger factor today if usage were not standardized. 

Standardized software is one of the key reasons that small businesses can compete on a more equal footing with larger businesses.  In the end we are all using much the same software to do our office work — large company and small.  What’s more, Microsoft has kept the cost within reach of small businesses.

I believe many other small business owners — if caught in an honest moment — would join Ramon in saying, “thank you Bill Gates.” 

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