Saturday 2011-05-07

The Turnaround Kid by Steve Miller

Miller comes across as a pretty good corporate ninja; dropping into failing companies, he comes up with good solutions that depend heavily on the circumstances and relative power of those involved.

During the Delphi bankruptcy, he lost the public perception game versus the United Auto Workers union. This shows up as one of the few defensive passages in the book.

Regardless, Miller shows the problems of downwardly sticky input prices (read union wages) and pension obligations in 2005-2007 Detroit that foretold its woes during the Great Recession of 2008.

The talks took several hours, but eventually Ian (Anderson from VW) and I got close to the point where we were $5 million apart. After hours and hours I finally said, "I'll flip you for it." He gave me a look that said, "You're kidding," and I gave him one that said, "No, I'm not." He took the challenge, and I pulled a quarter out of my pocket. He flipped and I called heads. the coin landed with George Washington's profile facing the sky adn Chrysler saved $5 million. Ian kept the quarter.
-- A Reluctant Bean Counter
Tell everyone the truth, especially if the truth hurts.
Don't study things to death. Most of the choices you need to make are clear, and decisiveness breeds confidence.
Listen to your customers. they know more about wht's wrong with your company, and what's right, than anyone.
Listen to your people. consult everryone, from the boiler room at the plant to the executive suite so you become fully informed. Invite everyone to send e-mails, and answer them.
Do a wardrobe check. If people proudly wear caps and shirts with the company logo, morale is good. If no one wants to be identified as your employee when they go to the mall, you're in trouble.
Practice calm realism. The key here is to stay balanced. Truth-telling can be scary, but if you let people know that there are solutions for most problems, they'll be less discouraged.
You don't need all new players to make a team into a winner. Even at companies in crisis you'll find lots of people who know their jobs and do them well. Try to hold on to them.
-- A Long, Slow Recovery
In face-to-face meetings he (Carl Icahn) gave everyone whiplash. One moment he'd bellow, "That's the stupidest goddamn thing I ever heard," and the next he'd put his arm around you. He's effective, I think, because people become so traumatized that they wind up suffering from Stockholm syncrome and will do anything to please him.
-- A Long, Slow Recovery
Philosophers can speculate about fairness, but we have to deal with reality.
-- Motown Maelstrom
I am sure Gettlefinger (UAW chief) understood the rules of bankruptcy, but in his remarks he ignored teh details in favor of transferring blame. One benefit of being a labor leader is that you are not subject to securities laws that limit what an executive can say.
-- Motown Maelstrom