I don't personally know Carol Bartz, the newly appointed CEO of Yahoo, but I have known about her for many years. I also personally know executives who worked with her closely at AutoDesk. One of them, an attorney, worked with her constantly. He had lots of fascinating insights to Carol and her CEO skills at AutoDesk.
Because she's a CEO, I have always had an interest in watching her, just as I keep an eye on the big name Texas CEOs like Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Michael Dell. No, I haven't met either one of them personally but I also know executives who know Mark and Michael and have had lots of interesting stories to tell.
Do I have personal likes or dislikes about Carol Bartz, Mark Cuban or Michael Dell? Not at all, I watch and study what they're up to because even though I am in a different sized (much smaller) pond, I'm also a CEO. Unlike Carol its unlikely I will be worried about search technologies or the Google cloud but I do also worry about SEO and how to max any online advertising I invest in. For a smaller company like HairBoutique.com, every penny counts.
I also find Mark Cuban fascinating because I do personally know people who knew him when he had his very first company (a computer store) and when he worked part time as a bartender to help fund his growing business. I know a business editor who has interviewed him and his blog seemed true to Mark. I do read his blog infrequently to see what he's up to and have a lot of respect for the man and what he has accomplished with his life.
I also knew a CEO here in Dallas who literally bumped into Michael Dell at a Washington DC event and once he realized he knew her, hung on for dear life. Apparently Michael does not enjoy big social gatherings and is on the shy side. Not something you would ever hear about Mark Cuban who is known for his outgoing networking skills.
How do I personally feel about Carol Bartz being appointed the new CEO of troubled Yahoo?
I think she has her work cut out for her. It will be very interesting to see how she fares jumping into the shark infested waters. Am I more interested in Carol because she's a woman? No, not at all. In some ways I believe that may give her slightly more of a disadvantage in her new role. The reality is that anyone - man or woman - stepping in as the new CEO of Yahoo at this point in time is in for very hard ride.
No matter what she does, she will be judged harshly.
Right now being a CEO is not the best job to have in any industry. With all the current bailout scandals the public is fed up with CEOs who only fly on private jets and appear to mismanage investor funds.
Carol has already come under attack at the news she takes a private limo to work. Supposedly she takes a limo so she can work uninterrupted during her long compute times (traffic is horrible in her part of California), which I can understand, if that's her true motivation for the limo. Can you only imagine what would be said if she took a helicopter to save time?
I personally hate wasting any precious working time during traveling from here to there. I even Twitter when I am riding in a car with someone else. No, I would never text message or Twitter while I was driving, but have no problem doing it when someone else is at the wheel.
Regardless of all the Prima Donna CEO talk, stepping into a troubled company or a troubled position can be total hell. What I want to know is why a respected (and partially retired) CEO would step into such a quagmire of controversy? That's the first question I would ask her, if I ever had the chance to chat with her personally.
Taking this all down to a tiny pond sized example, years ago when I was offered a high level managerial position at a well-known public telecom company. I must admit at the time I was a little suspicious of the sudden promotion. The increased salary was very attractive and the position would look good on my resume.
I pondered the new opportunity for a week, talked to my two most trusted mentors at the telecom company and decided to take the position. What the heck? How bad could it be? Little did I know.
My first week on the job I was told that as the new Senior Level Management person I had 60 days to completely clean house and in essence terminate the vast majority of the people in the group, replacing them with outsourced consultants. Basically I had been promoted to clean house and eliminate (fire) many long term employees.
In retrospect it was a good business decision to clean house since the group in question was bleeding money and was completely unproductive, but I spent the next few weeks terminating virtually the entire staff. My direct boss was squeamish and had decided to bring in a senior level manager to "handle the mess". Which I did.
For weeks on end the HR person and I sat in a conference room and had "the talk" with a long line of employees. No, my bosses were not there at the meetings because that was why I had been promoted.
It was a horrible situation and looking back on my career, one of the most challenging times to be tasked with cleaning up a major quagmire. Even more troubling was my boss and his boss. They didn't want to deal with anything remotely unpleasant which is virtually everything in business at some point.
Ironically some of the closed door speeches my former VP at the telecom company gave me about various business "value propositions" (I did not agree at the time) came back to haunt me at HairBoutique.com. The first time it happened it was like a very weird deja vu and a little unnerving. The second time I stopped and had a good laugh at the irony of it all. And yes, several other things he lectured me about business have happened to me at HairBoutique.com over the past 12 years.
At least as the CEO of HairBoutique.com my current bosses are the daily sales numbers in the Marketplace, the ongoing rise and fall of the site's traffic statistics, even the number of visitors reading or commenting on my blog. I definitely now answer to a very different set of critics than a room full of screaming investors or other high level executives, which is what Carol Bartz may be facing in the upcoming weeks or months.
Of course, I will be doing an Andy Rooney (60 Minutes) and watching from the sidelines hoping to pick up a few CEO dos and don'ts along the way. As far as Carol Bartz goes, I wish her well. She definitely has a interesting road ahead of her.
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