Despite profiting $186 million on the first quarter (or 20 cents a share), Xerox Corp. took a dip on Wall St. today after it missed consensus expectations by a penny per share. But, while Wall St. was focused on Xerox's numbers, National Public Radio Marketplace's Kai Rysdaal was focused on the rising star of the company's CEO Anne Mulcahy. I heard the interview while driving around this past Friday.
Five years ago when Mulcahy It seems as though Mulcahy is saying she doesn't have a price. (now at the company for 30 years) took over the helm, Xerox was on the brink of bankruptcy. Today, even though Xerox isn't performing exactly up to the snuff of financial analysts, Mulcahy is in pretty rare company when it comes to people that have actually engineered a real turnaround at a high tech giant. Let's see. There was Lou Gerstner at IBM, Steve Jobs at Apple and, although not nearly on the scale of IBM and Apple, there was Carol Bartz at AutoDesk.
Mulcahy's membership in that club makes her a prime target for C-level headhunters and raises the question of how much longer someone with her track record can resist the helm of another company needing her talents and willing to pay for them. In his interview (the text version is more complete than the audio version), Rysdaal asked that and other questions. Here were the highlights
Regarding one of the primary reasons Xerox fell from grace:
Our customers loved our technology but our responsiveness was not what it needed to be.... We lost focus on our customer....This whole customer-centric culture is really the way to keep a company really at its best. And that's a very big deal. And when you're focused internally, you lose that, and, quite frankly, business goes to hell in a hand-basket.
Now, if only a lot of other companies would learn from this. It's easy to generate email on TalkBacks when ZDNet's audience members feel slighted. Let's take wireless carriers and phone companies. Via email, I still receive a number of horror stories that prove some of these companies have no clue how to focus on customers.
When pigs fly:
There's not a lot of appeal to doing it someplace else. This was more about Xerox than it was about being a CEO, so I'm just not sure that plays as well anyplace else or whether I'd like to - by the way, there's a lot more to be delivered here...We're not done. This company still has opportunity to really define itself as a great company again. We're in good shape, but we have aspirations that are a lot higher than that, so there's still work to be done. And I think this is kind of where I belong, and I think we'll play it out here.
Translated, it seems as though Mulcahy is saying she doesn't have a price. If she doesn't have a price, then that puts her in another club of people that needs only one hand for counting the members (Richard Stallman is at the top of the list). I'm not sure I buy it.
Mulcahy on being a woman CEO:
....this is a job where you truly do get rated on performance. There's not a lot of subjectivity in terms of share-price or P&L, so, from that perspective, is it a tough job? Yes. Is it any tougher for a woman than a man? I don't necessarily think so. I would say the one area that can be tough, occasionally an advantage, is that there's somewhat of an unnatural focus in the sense that it's still an anomaly, so when times are good, that's okay. ....When times aren't good, there's no shade, and I think that there is a degree of just this - and it's a curiosity, I think, from a media perspective; that overly plays, sometimes, the woman CEO. I live for the day when I'm not referred to as a woman CEO versus just a CEO. And we're still at a stage where that happens a lot.
For her candor, I really loved the "no shade" comment. For the reality it represents, I hated it.