Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, bought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. For today’s featured guest we’re going to roll back to January of 2007 when we had Carly Fiorina on the show. She had just been let go of Hewlett Packard and had just published her book called Tough Choices. Today she’s a leading GOP candidate for President of the United States. Check this one out. How do you spend your days here in January 2007?
Carly: Well, you know, one of the great gifts I have right now is the gift of freedom and so I spend my days doing things that are interesting to me. Just, for example, today I was in Syracuse, NY giving a speech, then I’m talking with you and later this afternoon I’m going to a board meeting of a technology company that I’m on the board of. I’m engaged with a lot of causes that are important to me so, for example the Initiative for Global Development which is about focusing business people and policy makers on the alleviation of extreme poverty around the world, Vital Voices which is an organization focused on empowering women in developing economies around the world, Freedom House which is a long standing organization that tracks the progress of Democracy around the world. These are just examples of things that I spend my time doing; causes that are important to me where I feel that I can learn something and make a positive difference at the same time.
Russ: Sounds like it’s a fulfilling day. My homework tells me that you are the first woman to be a CEO of a Fortune 20 company, is that correct?
Carly: That is correct, yes.
Russ: Okay and you mentioned your interest in women’s business initiatives; what you recommend to a young lady in 2007 to prepare for the future?
Carly: Well you know my history is perhaps not all that helpful. I studied Mediaeval History and Philosophy in college, I went to law school and dropped out and my first exposure to business was as a Secretary/Receptionist. I had no plan to become an entrepreneur or business woman but what I would say is this; I think people need to find what they love. Success requires passion, success requires courage and risk taking and tons of hard work, but I guess I didn’t have a plan to become a CEO. I did throw myself into every challenge that came my way and I wasn’t afraid to answer the door when opportunity knocked.
But the first and toughest choice for me as an adult was to figure out that I hated law school and to spend the time to find what I really loved which turned out to be business. And by the time I had come to HP I had been considered and had considered myself other CEO opportunities, so by that time I knew that it was certainly possible, if not probable, that I would be a CEO one day. The Hewlett Packard opportunity was so challenging and I happen to be a person who loves challenge, I run to challenge. I spent a lot of time talking with the Hewlett Packard board before they and I made the decision so by the time I arrived there I felt like I had done my homework, I knew why I said yes and I was ready to jump in with both feet.
Russ: Well I know that a lot of that story ends in the story in your book, so tell us about your book Tough Choices.
Carly: Well I wrote the book because I wanted to tell the story of business as I see it, which is really the story of people. Business is all about people; of course it’s about products and profits, but if you want to change products and profits you have to understand what people are doing and then you have to change what they’re doing to something different to produce different results.
Russ: Makes sense.
Carly: Because perhaps of my unique experiences and my unique life I think I know a lot about people. When you start as a secretary and go all the way up you see a lot of stuff. I think I know a lot about change and I wanted to write a book about all of that. And finally I guess I would say I wanted to write an authentic book. It is why I wrote it myself; there is no ghost writer, there is no collaborator and I wanted to tell authentic stories in an authentic way. Whether that was the story of my getting fired – which I tell in the first two pages – or whether that was the story of how I learned some of my most important lesson in life from my mother and father or whether that’s the story of what it took to transform a tradition bound company like Hewlett Packard into a leader in the 21st century.
Russ: Well I have to tell you I think it’s great.
Carly: Thanks Russ.
Russ: About a month and a half ago we interviewed Web Golinkin, the CEO of Redi Clinic, and I know for a fact that one of Redi Clinic’s very large investors is the Revolution Health Group of which you are part of, correct?
Carly: Yes, I’m a board member.
Russ: Okay, tell us about the Revolution Health Group.
Carly: Well, Revolution Health starts with 2 fundamental premises. The first premise is that the healthcare industry desperately needs transformation; that the healthcare industry is beset by problems of cost and quality and I think we are all familiar with some of those problems. The second fundamental premise is that consumers are part of that transformation and in particular if you can give consumers more control over their own health and their healthcare through information, through convenience, through access to technology, then the consumer can not only have a better healthcare experience, a better life, but they can also be a change agent in the industry and that’s really the strategic logic behind the formation of Revolution Health Group.
Russ: Great. As you know, on The BusinessMakers Show we champion entrepreneurship; what’s your perspective on American entrepreneurship in 2007?
Carly: Well first I would say that entrepreneurship is of course the driving force behind our economy and it is not simply about maintain a standard of living; economic power is at the foundation of political power. And so if we want the United States of America to continue to be a leading political power we have to do what’s necessary to continue to be an economic power and that’s all about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship at its core is about risk taking; it’s about taking a chance on a new idea, on an innovation. And I think it’s really important that as a nation we continue to celebrate risk taking.
Sometimes we discourage risk taking in this country I worry a bit; we need to focus on and invest in innovation and risk taking. I think as well that 2007, like a couple years before it, is a year in which things are being changed so rapidly by technology and so rapidly by globalization that the courage to start a new business is really to be celebrated and supported. Risk taking is an easy thing to talk about but it’s a much tougher thing to do and so I hope that in our communities as well as in our policies we celebrate those people who take risks, we support those people who take risks, and we make heroes out of those people who take risks.
Russ: Cool. Well you passed The BusinessMakers test for sure. You have obviously had a very successful career and I want you to share with our audience what you attribute your success to and there’s one rule, no modesty allowed on this answer.
Carly: Well I will start as I do in my book with my mother and father because it was mother and father who taught me that value comes from the inside; that value is all about character, integrity, authenticity and it’s not about position or power or title. That fundamental lesson about the importance of authenticity and integrity and character has allowed me frankly to keep my feet on the ground, it’s allowed me to make tough choices, it’s allowed me to keep my soul during difficult times. My parents also taught me the value of hard work and there is no substitute for hard work. The truth is that success requires you to work as hard as is necessary to achieve the goal. I think other things that have been important in my success – the willingness to set high goals, aspirational goals; goals that require you to try something new, think differently about an old problem.
A lot of teamwork, a lot of collaboration; some of my best ideas have come from other people and I think I have always learned to seek out other people and other ideas.
So teamwork and collaboration are just as important as very hard work. The willingness to take risks, the ability to run to a problem instead of running away from a problem; the willingness to always learn something new, to never kind of rest on your laurels and think well I’ve done it all, learned it all, know it all. To always be trying something new, thinking of new things, all those things I think have been important.
Russ: Well when you talked about hard work and risk I couldn’t help but think of many of the guests that have been on The BusinessMakers Show in talking about how they built their company and achieved success would always sort of home in on this perseverance, this determination thing; this relentless effort never, ever, ever to give up even when there’s just tough, tough times and everything looks pretty bleak. In your career do you have any of those instances that you could share with us that you were up against a real tough situation and through sheer determination you made it through?
Carly: Well sure, you know Compaq in Houston – the merger – it’s hard for people to remember now because the merger is sort of universally acclaimed as a resounding success now, but the truth is when we announced that merger it was incredible controversial and there were many, many, many people who advised me to give it up and so I certainly do not want to suggest that I was the only person who persevered and was determined; many, many, many others did as well – a lot of them in Houston – but I also had to persevere. And in fact most of the burden to sell the merger fell on me, rightfully so. I was the Chief Executive. I had to ignore a lot of advice to give it up. And I knew we were doing the right thing, I knew we could execute it, but there were days when I would tell employees as well as tell myself that famous quote of Winston Churchill’s that you just mentioned which was “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.”
Russ: What is in the future for you Carly? I mean there’s always been speculation; there was a speculation years ago that you’d leave HP to go into public office, there’s lots of speculation since you left. Tell us what a perfect future is for you.
Carly: Well I can’t the perfect future and I never have done that in my life, but I’ve always known the opportunities that appealed to me when they came along. So I guess what I would say is today I’m spending my time on a variety of activities that I think matter. Let me just give you one example; making government work better us one of my passions so there was an announcement recently in USA Today that I am advising the CIA as an example. Political office – I wouldn’t rule it out. I feel very passionately about some issues, particularly the competitiveness of this nation and how it relates to our political power around the world, but I’m not here making an announcement; I’m not trying to be coy. I would say that today I spend my time working with policy makers, working with government administrations and as well working with businesses.
Russ: Speaking of businesses, talk to us a little bit about Compaq; about what you saw there, what you liked and how that sort of fit in your vision.
Carly: Well first, Houston is a great city. I was born in Texas so I feel some native pride. And Compaq was a great company and the addition of Compaq to the traditional HP is a huge part of why Hewlett Packard today is the leading technology company in the world; a goal we established way back in 2002 and people laughed at me and told me I was crazy but it was clear it could happen and Compaq was a big part of that. What Compaq brought to Hewlett Packard way back in 2001 when we first announced that merger to great controversy at the time was a high-end systems and services business, a PC business that was very strong in the commercial space and it gave us lots of volume and the ability to build a competitive cost structure. It gave us greater global presence.
All of that was important, it strengthened businesses that we were already in, it strengthened markets that we were already in; it gave us a customer set that the traditional Hewlett Packard really hadn’t been very strong in. So, for example, Compaq was very strong in the education market, Compaq was very strong in the government market; so when you put those two companies together successfully integrating them – which was a very heavy lift and tens of thousands of people worked incredibly hard to get that done – you ended up with a company that clearly is leading in its product lines, leading in its markets and is now the largest technology company in the world. I take great pride in that and thank all of the many employees who are still in Houston, Texas for all the hard work they did then and continue to do.
Russ: Carly, you’re so well-versed on so many topics I just want to throw a couple out for you and just hear your perspective; topic number one, the present political climate in the United States of America.
Carly: You know, all of my experience says that the only way to make real progress on real problems is for people to find common ground. Change is always difficult, it’s always controversial, but the paradox is that successful change always requires people to find common ground. And so we have to find a way to climb off the soapbox – and I’m talking to our political figures right now – to resist the facile sound bite and actually have intelligent conversations that lead us to common ground.
Russ: Okay, next one; the world is flat – the whole offshore outsourcing phenomenon.
Carly: Well globalization is a trend that is inexorable and inevitable; we cannot stop it. And so the only way for us to deal effectively with the realities of globalization are to do what Americans have always done – innovate. The way you compete when competition is intense is to innovate. And that is why I believe our competitiveness in a global century requires us to recognize that we must invest over the long haul in education, in innovation and we have to continue to encourage in my judgment immigration because this is a country that has always been built on the labors of people who want to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Russ: Well and that’s a perfect segue into the next topic on our present immigration problem.
Carly: Well this is a classic case where we must find common ground through intelligent conversation. I personally am against fences along the border just because I believe that people will always find a way to get around barriers if it means building a better life for themselves. I of course support that we need to have security in our country, but on the other hand this is a nation that has been built through immigration. I worry not about people coming to this country to be educated and to work here, I worry about people choosing to leave here because they think this is not an economy or a country that welcomes them. So I don’t have the answer to every aspect of the problem, but I think we must begin by acknowledging that America has always been a beacon of hope for people who want to work hard. I think that’s a good thing.
Russ: Okay and the last question, let’s just assume that it’s a given that you have to run for public office.
Carly: My husband would argue with you by the way.
Russ: Okay. But if – and since you have to – what office would be of interest to you?
Carly: Well that’s one of those darned if you do and darned if you don’t questions. You know, I have great respect for people who put themselves out there and run for public office, I really do. And I also have great respect for people who are willing to accept appointed positions because public service is a contribution to a community and to a nation. I suspect that one day public service will be a part of my life, but you know I honestly can’t predict when the right opportunity will present itself. I appreciate very much the compliment that I think was in your question and I do hope that whether I run for public office or not, I do hope that I will always be in a position to contribute to the national dialog and contribute to making our communities better.
Russ: Carly, thank you so much for giving us some of your time.
Carly: It’s my great pleasure, great to see you again.
Russ: All right, and that wraps up our interview with Carly Fiorina from January of 2007. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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