Did a sabbatical help build a US$140 billion company?

Salesforce founder says the power of extended time off helped him create a global software giant.
By: | November 26, 2019
Topics: Leadership | News | US

There aren’t many plaudits in the business world that haven’t been steeped on Marc Benioff. The founder of Salesforce has been named the decade’s top innovator by Forbes, one of the best-performing chief executives by Harvard Business Review and one of the world’s greatest leaders by Fortune.

But was it a three-month sabbatical recommended to him by his then boss (Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison) that set Benioff on his way to the birth of Salesforce, billion dollar fortunes and corporate adulation?

In his new autobiography Trailblazer, Benioff reveals how he followed Ellison’s advice, flew off to India and subsequently came up with the idea for Salesforce during the sabbatical.

Benioff is not alone. Many successful CEOs and leaders have taken sabbaticals in the middle of their careers, to recharge their batteries, get inspired and, in Benioff’s case, plant the seeds for their own company.

In fact, sabbaticals can be productive for both the company and the employee. Which begs the question why so few companies offer them, since they were first suggested by fast food chain McDonald’s back in the 1970s.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only about 15% of US employers offer sabbatical leave, and most of these are unpaid. Figures are lower for other developed countries.