William “Bill” Reddington Hewlett (1913–2001) was an American electrical engineer, entrepreneur, and businessman. He invented an audio oscillator and cofounded Hewlett-Packard. His philanthropic establishment, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is one of the world’s leading charities.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hewlett overcame his dyslexia by developing the ability to listen carefully and memorize his schoolwork. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and master’s degree from MIT, both in electrical engineering, Hewlett started a research fellowship at Stanford. He invented a resistance-capacity audio oscillator for testing sound equipment.
Hewlett and David Packard, who were classmates at Stanford, founded the Silicon Valley technology company Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) in 1939 with Hewlett’s audio oscillator as the anchor product. Starting in a Palo Alto, California, garage, the two men built a strong company that survived World War II and enjoyed continued success after government’s wartime contracts concluded.
Packard and Hewlett created the “HP Way”—a revolutionary ethical code of management practice that fostered company longevity and entrepreneurial spirit, while creating a sense of comradeship among employees. With their leadership, HP grew from a small testing-appliance manufacturer to the world’s second largest computer company. By the time Hewlett retired as chief executive officer in 1978, their company had 57,000 employees and $3 billion in annual revenues.
Packard’s autobiography The HP Way (1996) reveals the story how Hewlett and Packard built a company based on a framework of principles and the simplicity of their management methods. The culture that HP invented became the archetype of the high-tech industry; Packard and Hewlett came to be recognized as “Silicon Valley’s Founding Fathers.”
Managers have traditionally developed the skills in finance, planning, marketing and production techniques. Too often the relationships with their people have been assigned a secondary role. This is too important a subject not to receive first line attention.