We posed the following question to readers this week: If eBay CEO elections were held today, who would you vote for? As we noted, the question is entirely hypothetical since CEOs are not elected by customers, but we were curious what readers thought.
We provided a list of options consisting of the current CEO, former CEOs, and founder Pierre Omidyar and let participants write in a candidate if they chose. Of the named eBay current and former leaders, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar received one-third of the "votes," while former CEO Meg Whitman got close to one-quarter.
"Take us back to our roots," wrote one seller who "voted" for Omidyar. Another seller wrote, "Founders don't typically fall for schemes like share buy backs with borrowed money. They have creative idea on how to best invest excess profits that, in the end, create the most shareholder value (see Amazon and Apple before Steve died)."
Some responses from those who voted for Whitman provide hints about what sellers may feel has been missing with later CEOs: attention to small sellers, and communication with users.
"Meg understood and promoted the small seller," wrote one seller. Another said, "She had respect for sellers and often conversed with us regarding site expansion and selling rules before implementing them. I recall one instance where she eliminated an already implemented change due to seller angst."
Current CEO Devin Wenig, who received only 3% of the vote, and his predecessor John Donahoe, who received zero votes, have pushed eBay in a different direction that makes it more like Amazon, with a greater emphasis on brands and less focus on the "community" aspect of eBay.
"Because eBay is not Amazon, should never be Amazon and needs to give up on Wenig's dream to be Amazon," wrote one seller - "Return to its roots with an outsider as CEO who understands selling."
Here are the results of the voting in our informal survey of readers:
Current CEO Devin Wenig: 3%
Former CEO John Donahoe: 0%
Former CEO Meg Whitman: 23%
Founder Pierre Omidyar: 33%
If not them, then who?
Forty-one percent is a big percentage for "other"! Here are some of the write-in candidates:
Current and former eBay executives:
Hal Lawton (former head of US eBay Marketplaces)
Laura Chambers, eBay SVP
Jeff Jordan (former eBay executive)
Other business leaders:
Readers also voted for their peers - one wanted a "seasoned eBay seller not tied to Wall Street" while another voted for Martin Adamo (eBay user name: clact). Some EcommerceBytes Blog commenters also got some votes: Ming the Merciless; RK Toys; Marie; Ric; and Rex. And one seller voted for him (or her) self.
One respondent voted for a "large experienced eBay seller and buyer"; and in explaining why, wrote "Someone who has walked the walk with fraud on both sides."
Rounding up the write-in candidates were: Judge Judith Sheindlin; Herman Cain; "an outsider"; The Tick (fictional superhero); "a monkey"; and "a dead skunk."
What Sellers Are Looking for in a CEO
We also asked readers, "What CEO (of any company) do you most admire, and why?" Some readers provided thoughtful responses to that question, included the following:
"Lee Iacocca. He created the legendary Ford Mustang, left Ford, and helped Chrysler with a US government loan come out of near bankruptcy to turn a profit, and pay back the government loan early. If only all those individuals today could work hard to pay off debt to start saving money."
"Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway). He is one of the few who truly understand economics. He is not one to experiment. He knows what works and what doesn't work."
"Steve Jobs has always been the CEO of two centuries as far as I'm concerned. He had a sixth sense about what would work and what wouldn't. Imagine any other CEO besides Steve order 10 Million iPhones before they had sold one. He commercialized technologies that were languishing in labs (xerox). Most of all, he was the perfect product person. He could go from fine hair detail to big picture in a single sentence and people would act on it."
"No one in particular but whoever has vision and courage and still listens to the workers in the company. One who creates their own following and doesn't try to just be a copycat of someone successful."
"Elon Musk. He may exaggerate and miss deadlines but he does respond to his customers (and with eBay the SELLERS are the customers)"
"Henry Ford because he took a benefit to himself (higher pay, less turnover of good employees) and made it also work for employees (could afford cars). So many CEOs present a zero sum view in their desire to take more for themselves at the expense of others that they will sabotage the business to avoid anybody else benefiting."
"Steve Case the former CEO of AOL. Case was always accessible to his users via a publicly posted email address and even implemented some suggestions offered by his customers. Once Case left AOL, his subsequent replacements focused solely on what would impress Wall Street analysts and subsequently drove the platform into the ground."
"Donald Trump. He has shown how the biggest company in the world can thrive when the CEO cuts the fat and fires the dead weight. eBay needs it desperately before I go under."
"Marc Benioff. He listens to his employees. He's not afraid to spend a little money to make changes. He's not afraid to admit when he's wrong."
From the responses left by sellers, we conclude that they wish to see a leader with the following characteristics: Vision. Listening to customers and employees. Experience in ecommerce. Financial management skills. Independence from Wall Street. Willingness to admit mistakes.
Are you surprised by the results of the survey - and do the results change your mind about the "vote" you cast?