The economic downturn is now old enough that it's the subject of business books, not just business news articles. BusinessWeek magazine has a book excerpt on its Jan. 19 issue about how DuPont Co. CEO Charles Holliday Jr. reacted to the slump. The story gives him credit for rallying the troops and confronting the crisis decisively.
The first clear sign that the economic crisis was spreading globally came to DuPont CEO Chad Holliday in early October of last year, while he was visiting a major customer in Japan. The CEO of the Japanese company, among the largest and most highly regarded in its global industry, told Holliday he was worried about his company's cash position. The Japanese boss had ordered his executives to conserve cash in case the financial contagion affected his ability to raise capital. That conversation was a wake-up call. When Holliday's plane landed back in the U.S., he immediately summoned the six top leaders in his company to a meeting at 7 a.m. the next day. He asked them the following questions: How bad is it now? How bad could it get?So there's the time frame -- early October. Was your company holding similar meetings then? Were you taking the recession seriously? I'm sure quite a few blog readers can go back even farther, at least to this summer, when resin prices were skyrocketing without an accompanying increase in business. Holliday decided to invoke DuPont's Corporate Crisis Management plan, which "instantly brings together senior managers to appraise the cause of the crisis and put appropriate disaster control procedures in place." The story goes on to explain the steps that Holliday and DuPont managers took with all of the company's employees, to make sure they were making the right moves. It notes that each employee was asked to identify three things they could do immediately to help conserve cash and reduce costs. The excerpt is from the book "Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty: The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times," by management consultant Ram Charan. I'm looking forward to some good business books about the problems that the Big Three automakers are facing, leading up to the bailout. If anyone has a recommendation, please pass it along.