The One-Year Report Card of Yahoo’s Carol Bartz–Moxie: B+
You were expecting an A+, right?
Because of all the cursing and tough talk and uber-sassy assistant and loyal sidekick, Judy.
And especially, the use of elaborate barnyard metaphors from Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s growing up in Wisconsin to describe the Internet giant’s current state of affairs.
That includes the priceless bon mots from an earnings call last year: “This is not a company that needs to be pulled apart and left for the chickens.”
Not unless Farmer Bartz says it needs to be, that is!
I began handing out marks to Bartz recently, after she gave herself a B- for overall performance for the year since she took over the troubled Internet giant.
But I decided to be more specific, splitting the grades for Yahoo in 2009 into five categories.
I awarded Bartz an A- for management, a C+ for financials, a C- for product innovation and an incomplete for deal-making so far.
And, indeed all signs should point to A+ on the fifth, moxie, especially when you are talking about Bartz, one of the more colorful of Internet CEOs on the scene these days.
While AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong has those Don Draper cheekbones, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer that whole sweaty energy thing, Amazon (AMZN) Jeff Bezos the borderline maniacal vibe and Google (GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt the big-brained alien act, Bartz is still 110 percent more entertaining on any given day.
But if you really think about it, she has been much more systematic in her tenure, making no dramatic, swing-for-the-fences moves, despite displaying a great deal of style.
More Taylor Swift than Lady Gaga, if you get my drift.
Like the deeply calculated Swift, Carol Bartz is a careful fixer–cutting costs at the Silicon Valley icon, finally making the inevitable search and online advertising deal with Microsoft, doing a lot of obvious internal rejiggering of systems, prettying up the front page and starting a much needed marketing campaign.
And while this all meets one definition of moxie–energy and pep–it’s still not that kind of fizzy riskiness (no wacky outfits for Yahoo!) that perhaps is still coming.
According to various definitions, the word’s etymology is from Moxie, a soft drink from the early 20th century that was one of the first mass-produced carbonated beverages in the U.S.
Per Wikipedia, its origins are as “a panacea, it was supposed to be especially effective against ‘paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness and insomnia.’”
Would that Yahoo could be that to consumers!
Sadly for Moxie, while it still survives in New England, it got knocked out of the soda race by Coca Cola (KO), much as the ubiquitous Google knocked Yahoo out of the search business.
But Bartz, who just completed an executive offsite at Half Moon Bay, Calif., might be ready to trot out her act more dramatically in the months to come and, therefore, up the moxie stakes.
At the end of Yahoo’s recent conference call for its fourth-quarter earnings, she noted firmly that, “We’re done looking inward.”
Indeed, sources tell me Bartz has decided to start bringing all kinds of outside thoughts and influences into Yahoo next to try to shake up the often self-absorbed culture.
Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah! Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Now that would show some real moxie.
Until that happens, here is video of the bizarre singer at the Grammy Awards a few days ago, as well as the dreadfully off-pitch Swift (what is up with that?):