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Chambers' Bold Experiment

Stocks in this article: CSCO

John Chambers is an excited man. Of course if you've followed the CEO and chairman of Cisco (CSCO) very long, you also know he is an excitable man.

When things were heading south back in August of 2001, it was Chambers who said that technology sales were falling off a cliff due to a 100-year flood. In August of 2009, Chambers stated that he felt the economy may have reached its "tipping point." Just last week, Chambers announced that he could see "tangible results that the recovery, at least the initial phase of the recovery, is gaining momentum."

Even with a simultaneous announcement of a first quarter profit loss of 19% and a revenue fall of 12%, Chambers was as optimistic as ever. While you can't claim he was solely responsible for a surge in the stock market the next day, he was certainly part of the reason for the sentiment.

Chambers has a credibility that many CEOs dream of. Leaving the senior VP of U.S. Operations position for Wang Laboratories, he joined Cisco in 1991 as senior vice-president of worldwide sales and operations. He became CEO in 1995. In that time, revenues at Cisco have multiplied exponentially from a little over $1 billion annually to over $40 billion. He clearly has the technical background to be seen as understanding his business. More importantly, he has technical savvy combined with vision and guts.

While it may be difficult to grow a business as successfully as Chambers has managed, it is even more difficult to grow a culture that is both innovative and unique. In his August address, Chambers also announced the replacement of Cisco's traditional, top-down decision making with a truly team-oriented system.

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