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Marc Benioff isn't interested in profits. Not yet, anyway.
Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg News ahead of the Dreamforce customer conference in San Francisco this week, the salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) chief and co-founder said his aim is to win a war for market share.
"My job is to grow the company's top line," Benioff said. "I'm all about growth, growth, growth."
Eye-rollers will read that and point out that Benioff is a showman, well-known for a great line and a great story. And while he and his team have succeeded at delivering big revenue gains -- sales are up roughly 37% annually over the past five years -- returns on equity and capital have been declining since 2009.
Top managers such as Apple's Steve Jobs and Costco's Jim Sinegal tend to produce accelerating gains in both areas. Meanwhile, the stock has badly lagged both the Dow Jones (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) over the past year.
Yet I can see Benioff's point. His company may be 12 years old, but the cloud computing revolution is only now beginning to catch on, thanks in part to HTML5, CSS3, and other tools that allow a Web page to function much like a native app.
Neither Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) nor SAP (NYSE: SAP ) has shifted its business to leave install-and-manage software behind, and among online peers only NetSuite (NYSE: N ) is comparably positioned. An all-in bet on winning customer contracts makes sense in this regard, even if that means big capital investments, huge options giveaways to new sales staff, and other investments that wipe out near-term GAAP profits.
Do you agree, or is Benioff pursuing a losing strategy? You tell me. Please vote in the poll below and then leave a comment to tell us what you think about salesforce.com's business.