It is interesting to watch how different companies operate, how they grow and succeed, how they stumble and sometimes recover … yet sometimes not!
I worked for Andersen Consulting, which today is called Accenture. It is a company I greatly admire and part of that admiration is their determination to always push themselves. They know what business they are in, they are a market leader and they are very successful … but don’t rest on their laurels! YET … they have had their “stumbles”, in fact the name change was probably one of them. Even though they had a brand recognition problem and a certain amount of scepticism about the new name they remained true to their business and today are at the top of their game.
IBM are another good example. Love them or hate them they are one of the best in the world at what they do … they have had stumbles along the way, as they transformed to a more services based company, even divesting themselves of their PC business, yet today they are as successful as ever … and their brand must be amongst the most famous in the world. They also just announced a new CEO, a home grown female executive who will join the rare ranks of female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies … good on them!
HP are an interesting to company to watch just now … one of the most successful companies in the world, it too has evolved from its “mini computer” roots to a more diverse hardware company and more recently a growing services business (with the acquisition of EDS a couple of years ago). Yet they are in the middle of some stumbles … their EDS integration was not flawless, their announced exit and now “non-exit” from the PC business was confusing to the market and the debacle of firing a CEO, then firing a second CEO 11 months later and bringing in a “high profile” (but different industry) executive as CEO leaves them struggling. I have my money on their recovery, but I’m not sure they have finished stumbling yet and they need to turn the ship around!
Other very high profile companies currently struggling, yet with abundant ability to come back even stronger, include Sony (security issues amongst other things), RIM (lack of focus and poor entry into tablet space), Nokia (former high flyer struggling for market share), many of the car companies (including Honda and Toyota).
As CEO of my own little company I try to learn from these “giants” … and it appears to me that companies get into trouble when they lose their focus, and that focus comes from a strong vision. If your company doesn’t know what business it is in, what business it wants to be in and what it wants to look like down the road then that is a sign of trouble brewing. If the top executives understand it but it is not communicated to the “sharp end of the ship’ then trouble is brewing too … and the bigger the company the harder that is.
Once a clear and compelling vision is articulated AND the appropriate plans in place to meet that vision, then they will be OK. Until then they will have an uphill battle.
Good luck to Meg Whitman at HP, (another female Fortune 500 CEO) and those other CEOs … it is going to be a tough journey but others have done it. I’ll watch from the relative safety of my little company … and learn!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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