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How to Re-Invent a 60-Year-Old Company

Replacing a founder-entrepreneur and transforming the business at the same time is no small matter.

With so many problems facing you in your first days as CEO, how did you know where to start?
My first days on the job were spent in Germany because our business there was about to go up in smoke. I showed up there asking to understand the nature of the problems. That first week, I did five town hall meetings and visited all four German customers. I was declared dead on arrival. They said KKR was coming in and would take everything away from us, including R&D. I said, “No, no, no, you don’t understand. That’s not me. Give me a fighting chance.”

“That’s not me. Give me a fighting chance.”

I was in Germany twice every month. I would come home basically to sleep. We had two headquarters; one in Washington, D.C. and one in L.A. Both were political, Washington was for Sidney and L.A. was for his wife, Jane Harman (the former U.S. Representative for California’s 36th congressional district). I told Henry [Travis of KKR] that neither made sense. Either we do it in New York or somewhere in Connecticut, where the cost base was lower but access to Europe was good.

So we started here [in Stamford] with one person, my secretary, at first, because no one from D.C. or L.A. wanted to move. We built a corporate team from scratch—a brand new chief of tax, treasurer, head of internal audit, CFO. You had to reinvent the company from the ground up.

No kidding. This may surprise you, but my first hire was a chief human resource officer (John Stacey), We had no human resources, so I said, ‘You and I have to do a lot of heavy lifting in creating, first of all, the top team, and then the bench.’


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    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
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    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

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    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

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    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

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