Almost since its founding as a small business in a Palo Alto garage that has since been designated a historic landmark, the name Hewlett-Packard (HP) has been synonymous with high-tech innovation. Moreover, the visionary management style of William Hewlett and David Packard, known simply as “The HP Way,” created a company culture that has made HP one of the most admired and successful companies in America.

Hence, a profile of HP’s founders and their management style on is well worth reading by small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking ideas to help them manage their business and perhaps some day achieve the same level of success.

In case you are not familiar with the HP story, Hewlett and Packard were encouraged by a Stanford professor and mentor to become entrepreneurs in 1939. They then raised US$538 in start-up capital and set up shop in a one-car garage behind Packard’s Palo Alto house. After flipping a coin to decide the order of the company’s name, Hewlett-Packard was born.

It was during World War II when the company was inundated with orders that HP began to develop the so-called “HP Way.” This included:

  • Offering generous employee benefits, including medical insurance to cover catastrophic health problems.
  • Offering other innovative employee benefits such as flexible working hours, profit-sharing and open offices.
  • Giving managers wide latitude to develop their own plans and to make their own decisions.

This type of management philosophy broke down the traditional barriers between management and employees and thus encouraged the creativity and innovation necessary to create a technology business along with employee respect and trust. Hence and despite the fact that the number of employees grew from just Hewlett and Packard to hundreds then into the thousands, the company was able to maintain a small-business atmosphere and culture.

Moreover and as the business grew and both Hewlett and Packard aged, they began a careful withdrawal from active management. However, they would briefly return to active management to overhaul and right the business during a particularly difficult period in the early 1990s.