4 Business Lessons You Can Learn from Larry Ellison

When one talks of a “flamboyant billionaire,” the biggest name that springs to mind is that of Oracle founder Larry Ellison. Ellison is no longer the young playboy billionaire he used to be.

He is 70, and has led a rich, fruitful and productive life and is no longer actively involved in the running of Oracle - a software company he founded in 1977 as young man who had been written off by virtually everyone he met, even by an ex-wife.

Oracle is today worth $186 billion in market capitalization and Ellison himself is worth $54 billion, which makes him the fifth richest man in the world.


Ellison has been a highly combative man and he has taken over several powerful enemies in his time, including the likes of Bill Gates and IBM. And yet, he survived and thrived. What makes Ellison so great and what are the business lessons you can learn from his life?

Lesson #1. Never Promise Something That You Cannot Deliver

Ellison always had one rule in business – offer the customer what they are looking for, no more and no less. Ellison never over promised with his software products, and so there was never a complaint about Oracle not delivering what was promised.

Oracle products were never the greatest, but they were fully functional and satisfied the immediate customer requirements. Later, further iterations were made on the software and the products were improved with time.

Oracle grew fast by keeping expectations about their products reasonable. There were many other companies that promised too much, only to leave customers disappointed with what they could actually achieve.

Lesson #2. Expect Professionalism from Your Employees

In the Silicon Valley, people normally wear jeans and T-shirts to work, some even come in shorts. But in Oracle, all programmers dress professionally and sharply in formal clothes. You know as soon as you step into an Oracle office that you are expected to be professional in your conduct – if not, that would be it for your future in the company.

Ellison offered more incentives to his employees than any other company, but with the expectation that they would conduct themselves professionally as long as they were employed with Oracle. This professional behavior has led to Oracle being seen as a classy, professional company by clients, and inspired a strong trust in them – which are important factors behind its great success.

Lesson #3. Fire Anyone Who Doesn’t Measure Up

Ellison always overpays his employees, whether they are high level managers or junior executives. In return, he expects them to perform according to the demanding standards set by him. Anyone who fails to perform will be out of a job soon, as slackers are not allowed at Oracle. When you join Oracle, it really is perform or perish.

Lesson #4. Focus on What You Are Good At; Don’t Be Obsessed with the Competition

Ellison has a vision, which was to see “a copy of Oracle software running on every brand of computer in every business.” This led him to focus on what Oracle was good at, which was creating high quality business application software and databases. Ellison was never worried much about what his competitors such as SAP were up to. His focus was on Oracle and Oracle’s great strengths. He was one of the earliest Silicon Valley executives to see the enormous potential for cloud computing and was one of the first to recognize that the days of the old location based client-server model were numbered.


This blog post is a part of our series on Learning Business Lessons from the Greatest Businessmen in history. The business lessons you learn here will certainly help you stay ahead of the curve, establish a profitable business and achieve lasting success in both life and career. It’s equally important to find company partner who shares your vision. We encourage you to stick around here on this website, have a look at some of our blog posts, perhaps you’ll find some of the golden nuggets of information that interest you and arouse your curiosity. Ciao!

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