Jeff Immelt On Managing In A Downturn

I found an excellent discussion with GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt about how GE’s top managers should deal with the downturn. Here’s some of his advice:

Keep your company safe but keep building the future… Leadership is an intense journey into yourself. It’s about how much you want to learn. It’s about how much you want to give. It’s about personal change and just being ready to renew yourself every day.

Other valuable tidbits from Immelt:

  • While cost-cutting will be a priority in some businesses (e.g., financial services), GE plans to “pour it on” in other areas (e.g., renewable energy, clean water technologies, and fuel-efficient jet engines and locomotives).
  • Invest in the future to keep employees motivated. Rather than creating a sense of hopelessness, give people a sense that they can create a brighter future.
  • Immelt gave these specific words of advice to his leadership group:
    • Be decisive
    • Be accountable
    • Be transparent
    • Be a unifier
    • Be willing to change yourself

My take: I really like Immelt’s thoughts about the downturn; maybe because they’re similar to what I’ve said in previous posts :-). The one thing that I’d add to his list of advice is: “Be listening.” During a recession there’s more need than ever to listen to customers (to stay in tuned with their shifting needs and priorities) and employees (to address their needs and concerns).  

The bottom line: You can manage your way through a recession or lead your company out of it. You decide.

Gen Y Brands Gain, Financial Brands Lose

Interbrand just published its annual ranking of the 100 best global brands. Here are the top 10 brands on the list:

  1. Coca Cola
  2. IBM
  3. Microsoft
  4. GE
  5. Nokia
  6. Totota
  7. Intel
  8. McDonald’s
  9. Disney
  10. Google

Here’s some of the other interesting details from the rankings:

  • Google is the only new entry to the top 10; it was 20th last year. Which company dropped out? Mercedes-Benz was 10th last year and is 11th this year.
  • The listing also provides the change in value of the brands since last year. Here are the biggest changes in brand value:
    • Top gainers: Google (+43%), Apple (+24%), Amazon (+19%), ZARA (+15%), SAP (+13%), and Nintendo (+13%)
    • Top losers: Merrill Lynch (-21%), Gap (-20%), Morgan Stanley (-16%), Citi (-15%), Ford (-12%), and UBS (-11%).
    • The top gainers are what I call “Gen Y brands,” they came to age during the early adulthood of 20 year-olds, while the losers are dominated by large financial institutions.
  • There were 7 new brands on the top 100 list this year: H&M (#22), Blackberry (#73), Ferrari (#93), Giorgio Armani (#94), Marriott (#96), FedEx (#99), and Visa (#100).
  • The highest ranked company on last year’s list that did not make this year’s top 100 was Kodak (#82 in 2007).
  • For fun, I went back and looked at the top 10 brands from 2001. Here they are:
    1. Coca Cola
    2. Microsoft
    3. IBM
    4. GE
    5. Nokia
    6. Intel
    7. Disney
    8. Ford
    9. McDonald’s
    10. AT&T

The bottom line: Just about everyone recognizes this: