All my life, I’ve loved fixing and improving things, whether I’m tinkering in the garage or revamping a company’s strategy. That love is what brought me to NCR in 2005, where I was tasked as CEO with fixing an unsustainable business model.
NCR was losing its market share and hemorrhaging revenue. The company’s most valuable asset was Teradata, a data warehousing software that had little to do with NCR’s business. And the company lacked the strategy or infrastructure to adapt to the technological changes sweeping the world. There was a lot to do.
Now, over a decade later, NCR has transformed itself into an industry leader with an eye to the future. To get there, we had to make several adjustments to the way things had been done for decades. It wasn’t easy, but we made the changes necessary to thrive. Here are three things I did that can help you fix your company.
Shift the culture.
When I started at NCR, the company culture was strong, but rigid. The team didn’t believe in NCR’s ability to change. If we were going to transform the company, I knew that I would have to make the case to our employees personally — not with an email or a phone call, but by looking them in the eye and telling them. That’s why I spent my first few years as CEO communicating a vision for where NCR was going.
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For more than a decade, I’ve backed up that message with action. Today, as part of NCR’s reinvention, we are focused on generating a majority of our revenue from software. Today our purpose is to power iNCRedible experiences that make life easier. We are building a team of iNCRedibles who live to move commerce forward through innovation.
That calls for hiring people with specialized knowledge and skills, and we knew that one surefire way to attract those people would be to go to where they’re located. So we decided to develop a state-of-the-art world headquarters that’s adjacent to the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Georgia Tech, as it’s better known, is one of the top universities in the country when it comes to preparing its students for a wide range of jobs in the tech sector. Our proximity to the school, and our partnership with it, sends a powerful message about our commitment to becoming a dynamic, software-driven technology company.
Shake up your line-up.
To reinvent an enterprise, you need the right team. When I arrived at NCR in 2005, I knew that if I wanted to prepare the company for the 21st century, I would need fellow fixers behind me. I turned to a number of the people who had helped me at Cisco and Symbol in the past, and together we built a new NCR lineup that was agile and forward-thinking.
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We were focused on empowering ordinary people to do extraordinary things and achieve extraordinary results. NCR’s progress since 2005, and our ability to create lasting and productive change, has been made possible by having the right talent in place.
Commit to seeing change through.
Strong leadership nearly always requires difficult decisions. I knew I’d have to make some to grow NCR. One of these decisions came early in my tenure.
In 2005, Teradata had dramatically higher revenues than NCR, but the businesses had little in common. There was little overlap in their end-markets, and there was always competition for internal resources between the two. This wasn’t a sustainable model, and so we made a bold choice: We sold Teradata.
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The real lesson here, however, isn’t just about making difficult decisions — it’s about seeing them through to the end. I’m a fix-it guy, and I knew I belonged at NCR to reach where we are today. And I’m going to continue working with my colleagues to ensure that NCR is one of the world’s most innovative technology companies.