Out-Executing the Competition: A book review by Bob Morris

Out-ExecutingOut-Executing the Competition: Building and Growing a Financial Services Company in Any Economy
Irv Rothman
John S. Wiley & Sons (2012)

How and why most (if not all) organizations get the results they are designed to produce, 12 Nov 2013

Years ago, I realized that out-executing the competition was a key to success. My role models for that had been Vince Lombardi and John Wooden when I coached football and basketball; later, my role models were Alfred Sloan and Jack Welch when I held a series of C-level positions. I also realized along the way the most formidable competitor is what you do and how you do it. Marshall Goldsmith expressed it well when asserting that “what you got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, what got you here won’t even keep you here, no matter where “here” may be.

This seems to be what Irv Rothman has in mind as he reviews his own career and his efforts to achieve and then sustain continuous improvement. What he offers a hybrid: autobiography/memoir/business commentary. I think its material will be of special interest and value to those now preparing for a business career or who have only recently embarked upon one.

Roth is currently president and CEO of HP Financial Services. Previously, he was the first president and chief executive officer of Compaq Financial Services Corporation (CFS). He led CFS from its founding in 1997, growing the business to greater than $3.7 billion in total assets prior to the HP-Compaq merger. His prior positions were with U.S. Leasing International and Thomson McKinnon Securities before joining AT&T in 1985. As a group president of AT&T Capital Corporation, he helped build an organization that ultimately grew to be the second largest leasing company in the country.

I need to stress, at this point, that Roth draws upon his wide and deep experiences to provide information (context) as well as insights (lessons he learned), and counsel (how his reader can benefit from his mistakes as well as failures). Yes, as the book’s subtitle promises, he explains how to “build and grow a financial services company in any economy” and much of the material will be of substantial benefit to CFOs and their direct reports. However, I think his book can also be of substantial value to executives in the C-suite in other companies, those that do not offer financial services.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Rothman’s coverage.

o Rothman’s youth in Bayonne, NJ (Pages 13-27)
o Ben Maushardt (48-51)
o Development of AT&T Capital (57-58)
o Tom Wajnert and management shift (59-60)
o Wealth creation model (79-80)
o Recruitment for Compaq Financial Services (84-92)
o Recruitment by COMPAQ (93-94)
0 Global business: Poland (104-105, 107, 108)
o Eckhardt Pfeiffer (109-110)
o Changes at Hewlett-Packard (146-147)
o Effective communication of message (171-182)

Thirty years ago, Peter Drucker observed, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” More recently, in that same vein, Michael Porter observed, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Presumably Rothman agrees with both of them and cites dozens of examples when he had to formulate or revise strategy, decide what to do and (especially) what not to do, drive profitable growth rather than permit growth for growth’s sake, and in countless other ways ensure that the given company for which he was responsible competed successfully, not only against other financial services firms but, more importantly, against its own status quo.

I am grateful to Irv Rothman for what he so generously and (yes) candidly shares in this book. I also appreciate the pleasure of his company. Perhaps one day I’ll have the pleasure of his company.

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