Former Motorola CEO Chris Galvin opens Sunday’s Page Conference with provocative remarks entitled “Choices Have Consequences.” I thought a little background on this speaker might help set the stage for his presentation, so here’s my 30-thousand-foot view of why this is a significant topic to open a conference about the importance of values in stressful times.
Few CEOs have the lineage of Chris Galvin. More than 80 years ago, Paul Galvin, Chris’ grandfather, began manufacturing car radios after discovering a way to make them operate without static caused by automobile engines. Slowly, Paul Galvin ventured into other logical product extensions before Chris’ father, Robert Galvin, moved into the C-suite and launched innovations that positioned the company in the forefront of electronics and technology. Robert formalized operating disciplines and human resources practices that established Motorola as one of the premier corporations in the world. Acknowledgement and respect for the company’s history and values became the cornerstone of the Galvin legacy as Chris’ tenure as CEO began in 1997.
A confluence of events—both economic and competitive—forced Chris to embark on a major refocus of the corporation in the late 1990s. By 2003, he saw positive signs of recovery and a return to product superiority with innovations such as the Razr cell phone. Unfortunately, guided by recent history and not weighing promising developments, the Motorola board ran out of patience and pushed Chris into “retirement.” Colorful Ed Zander, ex-COO and president of Sun Microsystems, brashly moved into the CEO chair at Motorola, and proclaimed he’d only focus on the future—not allowing the company to be bogged down by its rich history and culture-driving values of the past.
Sure enough, within six months of Zander’s arrival, internal struggles and cultural conflicts were rampant. Yet the company reported positive earnings and growth. In the first six months of 2004, sales were up more than 40%, operating earnings jumped 454% and nearly $2 billion cash was added to the balance sheet. As a few observers noted, the Galvin-led changes were working. But the board mandate for change and Zander’s approach to management set the company on a new course. Today, Zander is gone, Motorola is led by co-CEOs and the company is struggling for relevancy in a world filled with smarter competitors with more innovative products. The company literally lost its edge.
Meanwhile, Chris Galvin has re-invented himself. He co-founded Harrison Street Capital, a fast-growing real estate private equity firm named after the Chicago street where his grandfather first started making car radios. While being an globally recognized leader in Six Sigma principles, Chris also is recognized for his value-driven beliefs.
Chris promises an open and candid presentation, and is eager to engage us in a conversation about values. Please pass along questions in advance or raise them after his remarks. We’re in store for a frank and thoughtful keynote presentation.
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