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Welch has ‘Winning’ message

Matt Lozar | Thursday, April 14, 2005

Whatever the case may be, Notre Dame students are obsessed with winning.

Couple that obsession with one of the most successful businessmen of all time, and that is why the Jordan Auditorium was filled to capacity just minutes after its doors opened Wednesday afternoon.

Former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch visited the Mendoza College of Business for a question-and-answer session and for promotion his new book “Winning.”

“The biggest thing I got out of winning in business was seeing others succeed,” Welch said.

Welch said one part he enjoys about seeing others succeed is when he observes employees of winning businesses who give back to the community.

“[There are] a lot of altruism acts that came from winning companies,” Welch said. “No dot-coms that blew up gave [back]. Only winning companies give back.”

The session started with a number of questions to Welch by College of Business dean Carolyn Woo, followed by several asked by the large audience. Welch spoke on many topics.

His very pro-business attitude became apparent through the session. When one student asked Welch if legislation should be written to force companies to give back to society, she was met with an emphatic, “No.” Welch called business the “engine of the economy.”

“Without business, there is nothing,” he said. “The Mendoza College of Business is just dust without people donating. Business is the only thing that creates in this society.

“It’s so fundamental. Don’t let anyone tell you anything else.”

Welch and GE grew extremely quickly during his reign at the top of the company, and a major reason for Welch’s success came from his ability to deal with his employees. He did so quantitatively by having his employees graded but never surprised employees with a firing. Welch stressed the need to inform employees about their job performance.

“[Great] CEOs really understand people are what matters,” he said. “Every day you evaluate them and try to make them grow. It’s insane that people don’t know how they’re doing. Why do grades stop when we become adults?

“In the ninth, 10th or 11th grade, we don’t have a problem flunking kids out.”

Interestingly, when asked later in the 75-minute session, Welch said the top thing he sees missing in today’s college graduates is their human resources skills.

“What you will always have is relationships,” he said. “How to evaluate, motivate, excite, lay someone off the right way.”

Concerning his advice for up-and-coming business leaders, Welch emphasized the need for young workers to always provide bosses with more than they are expecting.

“If you over-deliver, your career will take care of itself,” he said. “If you have a career path [now], you will get nailed.”

As for running GE for 20 years and increasing the company’s worth from $13 billion to several hundred billion dollars, Welch said he really did not feel like it was work at all.

“I never felt like I had a job,” he said. “If you get the right job, you never work a day in your life.”