Is this an awesome example of true business acumen or am I just falling for Ford’s spin?
As everyone knows, last Tuesday Bill Ford Jr. stepped down as CEO of the troubled automaker. (Quick aside: I can’t take credit for that descriptor. I read it in an article while talking with an associate. We both agreed that it’s never a good sign to be in the car business and have the press refer to you as “the troubled automaker.”)
Ford pulled in former-Boening exec Alan Mulally to lead the family business through what may be its darkest hour. Sounds like Mulally is a good find. Primarily because he’s been through what Ford is currently going through with Boening in the post 9/11 days. During that period he managed to keep the company in the black through improvements in productivity and product development. Conveniently both are key areas where Ford’s North American ops are hurting.
But ‘so what’ you say. You could have read that in any number of business articles that have offered their take on this changing of the guard over the past week. I point this out because on the same day that the announcement was made, Newsweek subscribers like myself were being delivered an ironic and newly out-of-date interview with Bill Ford Jr. himself.
In it he talks about talent. “I’ll always be looking to bring talented people in who can help us.” When asked if he would consider replacing himself he replied “I’m looking to make sure this company is stocked with talent … right now I’m focused on getting the North American operations back on track.”
My personal take — if Ford is on the up and up, he is to be commended for stepping aside and ushering in someone more talented to fill the CEO’s office. I think it also makes him an impressive steward to a great American company. What would you do in the same situation? Would you be brave enough to replace yourself with someone more qualified if it guaranteed the survival of your business. “In that regard, I’m not a traditional CEO,” Ford said about his quest for talent.
Just to show you all that I’m not Pollyanna, I can recognize that this could all be a marvelously executed PR campaign to protect the very public heir of a very historic business and I could be falling for it hook, line, and sinker. As a marketer, I believe in the power of persuasion and recognize it could be at work here.
Once during The West Wing, someone said something like “I love speech writers. They have to have the capacity to doubt and dream at the same time.” I’ve always thought that the same holds true for marketers. Doubt and dream. Right now, though, I’m in Ford’s corner believing in the dream that a major business today is smart enough to replace any key player with someone with more talent who could be doing the job better and add greater value to the company as a whole.
How committed are you to your quest to bring new talent into your company?