Some things change and some things stay the same. Just think that 65 years ago in 1954, a film called Executive Suite focused on the boardroom battles of Tredway Corporation, a furniture company, after the founder suddenly died without a succession plan. That former president changed the culture of the company by walking the factory floor and tossing badly made furniture. Now, furniture is certainly not as exciting as tech or social media or search, but for those of you into history, manufacturing was the norm post World War 2.
The movie and its themes, however, are as relevant then as they are today. Check out https://youtu.be/vcEOsGvT0qA which shows William Holden's final climactic boardroom scene where he talks about innovation vs. cost reduction and pride that the workers feel in building good products. Think about today and how corporations act to improve current earnings so the street is appeased. And think about the company for which you want to work. This movie was an expose on the machinations of big business. It showed power struggles, behind the scenes scheming for power and leadership, and the reluctance of one person to compromise his ideals for the good of the company. Interestingly, all the executives felt that they had the best interests of the company at heart.
It came down to is Loren Shaw (played by Frederic March) vs Don Walling (played by William Holden) in the battle between cost savings and accounting vs product quality and innovation. Shaw used short-term accounting gains and cost reductions to satisfy the stockholders. Walling was more concerned about the quality of the company's products, better manufacturing processes, and new products to grow the company and infuse passion into the workers.
Walling's enthusiasm, vision, and his stirring boardroom speech won over the entire board in the end. But you have to watch this stirring performance to appreciate the battle and the climax.
A good movie, to me, has some great memorable quotes and this movie certain has them as well. Here are four memorable quotes as relevant today as they were nearly 65 years ago:
Ø Stop growing and you die.
Ø Grabbing for the quick and easy is the sure thing that is just a lack of faith in the future.
Ø The force behind a great company has to be more than the pride of one man; it has to be the pride of thousands.
Ø Never ask a man to do anything that will poison his pride or work.
I know I can relate to these concepts and hold the belief that you cannot shrink yourself into greatness by cost reduction and a focus on the present. Being afraid to innovate is the kiss of death. Think about Blockbuster, Kodak, Toys R Us, Radio Shack, Sports Authority, and Borders among others. Some imploded because their business models were obsolete while others did not take advantage of new technology. Yet, others failed to appreciate the seriousness of the competition and failed to react to it.
The themes in the movie from 65 years ago are relevant today. Here are a few takeaways.
- Stay true to yourself. If you don’t like politics in business, start your own company. If you want to stay in corporate America, you have to learn to play the game.
- Build relationships around you- in the company for which you work, in your office area, and with suppliers. I used to believe that being the smartest person in the room was the key to success. A lot of people are equally smart. But it is the combination of innate intelligence (IQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and Business Intelligence (BQ) built on a platform of relationships with people that will enable success.
- Innovation is the heartbeat of business. Innovation can be in products, in processes or even the way people are treated and led.
- Passion is critical to building a strong company. Every worker should have passion in what they are doing and feel that they can contribute to the success of their company. An engaged workforce where each employee believes they are part owner of the company- and get compensated accordingly- will help a company grow.
- Always look to the future. Craft a vision on where you want to be and get aligned to your vision and cause.
C-Level Partners has been established to help executives build value for their companies. Whether the company needs to increase value because the owner wants to retire, or whether the company needs to change because their growth curve has flattened, we can help. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 949 439-4503 for a free 45 minute consultation of how we can help your company grow. As Satchel Paige said: don’t look back: someone may be gaining on you.