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Reinventing and the way we do business

Ed Whitacre in 2009 was asked by the White House to lead the bankrupt General Motors. In his book, "American Turnaround", he has many suggestions that we can learn from.

Ed came from humble roots from a small town in Texas where his father was a blacksmith. He felt he was to follow in the path of many of his relatives working as an engineer for the railway. Instead he became the CEO of AT&T and General Motors.

At the age of 67 he was contemplating retirement when the call came for him to help tens of thousands of workers whose livelihood dependent on the survival of GM.

Upon arriving at the head office in Detroit he wanted to know, " How could GM management allow this to happen?" The management had many reasons why: bad luck, bad timing, bad circumstances, the yen, the economy, price of gas etc. etc. etc.

By 2008 the unthinkable finally happened: Toyota bypassed GM to become the world’s largest car maker. Volkswagen, Nissan, Mercedes and Honda were doing quite well compared to GM.

The Management at GM had lost their focus producing inferior cars with little attention to what was needed to succeed.

To-day in the US there are fewer manufacturing employees. More then nine million jobs has been lost in the past decade alone.

In order to succeed the company had to have a vision and a plan to raise the morale of the employees.

Some of the managers who were bad fits were repotted, some needed a change of scenery and some had to be terminated. Executives were told that what happened to the company was 100% their problem.

Grass roots up philosophy of consulting the employees, customers and investors was to be encouraged. We have two ears and one mouth and thus we need to listen twice as much to learn . Keep it simple and treat people as you want to be treated was implemented.

Out of date models such as Pontiac, Hummer where discontinued or sold off.

We all can learn from the successful philosophy of Ed Whitacre. If you only take away one message from the book, please remember that people are the number one asset.

Because of the hard work of Ed and his team of leaders GM has survived bankruptcy and is doing quite well.

When you enter the corporate offices of 3M there is a large poster reminding the employees: "Some people think the purpose of business is to make money. Wrong. The purpose of business is to serve the needs of your customers and then you make money "

When we are faced with admitting failure we can offer up excuses of why we didn’t try to work a little harder to succeed. Too many people complain too much and do too little.

Many of our young people are way too comfortable hoping that they can live at home at the parent’s expense rather then moving to where there are lots of opportunities.

Check out the unemployment numbers in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta and you will find that they are in the single digit range for those who are willing to work.
To be successful our children have to be taught that they have to be ready to risk. Perhaps they will fail at first but in failure we can all learn from the mistakes and do better the next time around.

My parents were not well off and to be able to attend university I needed to pay for my own education. Towland Construction, pick and shovel, unloading box cars at the CN or working at Labatt’s Brewery on the line was hard work . I was very proud that I could work alongside those who made their living with the sweat of their brow. It is impossible for me to forget where I came from.

I hope you will take the time to visit your public library to reserve a copy of "American Turnaround".

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com