Leading Women, Part 2: Advances in Technology cont.
If the tech industry were a boxing ring, Meg Whitman would arguably be its greatest cut man / woman. She accepted her role as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive officer at a time when the world’s second-largest tech company had suffered savage beatings in the market, bleeding both profits and stock value.1 Given that Whitman had a board member’s view to the turmoil that led HP’s previous CEO, Leo Apotheker, to the chopping block after just 11 months, one would think she might have thrown in the towel altogether. Too smart and too tough to walk away from the huge upside the daunting challenge offered, Whitman accepted the job and began stitching up HP’s overwhelming damage.
The company’s Rocky-esque battle wasn’t over, and Whitman recognized that if HP was to climb back toward its once-impeccable profits margin, she first had to reduce the swelling. The quickest way to do so, she decided, was to significantly reduce payroll. Whitman implemented a “restructuring program” that includes cutting roughly 50,000 jobs—34,000 of which she announced in 2013 and up to 16,000 additional cuts she announced in May.2 While obviously tough on HP’s employees, the layoffs seem to have improved the company’s standings in the market. Stock for HP is up significantly in 2014 and had risen 13.6% by the time Whitman announced the latest round of layoffs.3
Heading a multi-billion dollar corporation requires the guts to make tough decisions in the name of profitability, and Whitman has long been willing to shoulder the burden. After graduating Princeton and achieving her MBA at Harvard Business School, she served in leadership roles for various companies including Proctor & Gamble, Bain & Company, Disney, and Hasbro. Whitman’s first stint as a CEO was stunningly successful. She took the helm at eBay in 1998 and would take the company from 50 employees and $86 million in year one to 15,000 employees and $7.7 billion when she stepped down in 2007.4
Tasked with reshaping a loosely structured company—previously run by its young, software-writing creator—into a fully legit IPO, Whitman started with some business basics. For example, she had “to introduce some basic management tools—like desk calendars, so managers could schedule meetings.”4, 5 She remedied any lingering low expectations by insisting on a global strategy and then shocked the naysayers by taking eBay public to the tune of $2 billion on the first day! Under her leadership, the company doubled its worth in 6 months and doubled again 1 month later. That’s $8 billion in a mere 7 months on the stock market.4
Whitman has a history of quickly hitting goals for the companies she leads, and she’s at it still today. While HP wasn’t in position to perform nearly as heroically as eBay did with Whitman in its corner, the skilled cut woman has already stopped the bleeding and has HP headed toward recovery.
- “HP Axes CEO Apotheker, Meg Whitman Takes Over.” (Sept. 22, 2011). Preimesberger, Chris. eWeek website. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014, from eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/HP-Axes-CEO-Apotheker-Meg-Whitman-Takes-Over-172609/.
- “HP’s Whitman on PC Decline and Job Cuts.” (May 23, 2014). The New York Times, Bits blog. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014, from bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/hps-whitman-on-pc-decline-and-job-cuts/.
- “HP to Cut up to 16,000 more jobs.” (May 23, 2014). O’Toole, James. CNN Money website. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014, from money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/enterprise/hp-job-cuts/.
- “Going, Going, Gone: Meg Whitman Leaves eBay.” (Jan. 25, 2008). Cohen, Adam. The New York Times, The Board blog. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014, from theboard.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/going-going-gone-meg-whitman-leaves-ebay/.
- Margaret Cushing Whitman. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved Aug. 04, 2014, from biography.com/people/meg-whitman-20692533.
Drop back by the b!eep blog next week to learn a bit about Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox.