SMITH: You mean one guy has to be in command? We’re back to West Point?
DUNLAP: We’re back to what I -- what I would call good
business practices. Someone has to take responsibility. Someone has to be willing to make the decision. And a lot of people don’t want to do that. They’ll say, “Well, this is the decision and we all made it.” Therefore,
no one’s accountable. No one can be wrong.
SMITH: And at Scott you said, when you came in, things were too congenial.
right. Here Scott had just lost two hundred seventy-seven million dollars. They were on credit watch. Marketing share was falling precipitously, and it was a very congenial -- uh -- type environment.
SMITH: I think you said one of the first things you did was to fire the morale officer. You said, “To hell with harmony”?
DUNLAP: Well, it was the most amazing thing.
I went to an operating committee meeting, and there was nothing, of course, but bad news. And there was one person sitting there. And I said, “What does that person do?” And they said, “Well, that’s the morale officer.”
I said, “Well, what does a morale officer do?” “Well, that’s to be sure that everyone is getting along.” I said, “That’s the last thing we need. We need everyone to be jumping up and down saying, ‘Let’s fix this
corporation, and let’s do the right thing.’”
SMITH: Now, I have to say, reading your book -- uh -- I couldn’t help but feel that -- that part of you was sort of deliberately
cultivating the tough guy image. I mean you said at one point, “I am a tough guy. I like tough guys.” At one point you said, “For Sir James, I was a sledgehammer.” -- uh -- you know, you do the Rambo -- uh -- stuff.
You’ve got the “Rambo in Pinstripes.” It’s the headline of another chapter. I mean why -- is that part of it? I mean, if people know in advance when you’re coming, you’re a tough guy -- I mean is that part of your
success story? Is that part of your strategy to cultivate the tough guy image?
DUNLAP: Well, I think they know I’m a no-nonsense person. I’m not coming there to listen to all the
excuses which they’ve been giving. That’s what got them into trouble to begin with. I’m not there to hear what can’t be done. I’m there to get results. I’m there to challenge people beyond what they’ve ever been
challenged before. And so, if that’s tough, then yes, I am tough.
SMITH: But it’s also imagery. I mean, you are tough, but -- but -- but -- um -- a lot of people are tough, but
they’re quiet about it. You’re tough, but you’re out front about it.
DUNLAP: Well, you know, I’m out front on just about everything. I have strong views on most things. I’m a
very passionate person, a person of deep ideology, and I’m normally willing to express my views on things.
SMITH: But there’s an advantage. I mean when -- whe-- I mean -- we
watch Wall Street. And you walk into a company and the stock price goes up. Why? I mean, part of it’s track record, but part of it, people know Al Dunlap’s the tough guy.
DUNLAP: Well, I think...
SMITH: Isn’t there a payoff?
DUNLAP: Well, I think that, when you looked at when I came to Sunbeam, the stock
went up fifty-nine percent the first day, and that’s, we’re led to believe, the highest, biggest increase in the stock price of a New York Stock Exchange traded company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. But
I think, why is that happening? That’s happening because people know what I’m gonna do. They know I’m gonna put together the best management team. They know I’m gonna dramatically cut the cost. They know I’m gonna focus
on the core business. And they know I’m gonna come up with a winning strategy, and that’s really what they’re betting on. And they know I’ll implement it.
SMITH: And you make
accessibility -- uh -- to you for the Wall Street analysts an absolutely critical element of your leadership. Isn’t that right?
DUNLAP: Oh, it’s -- it’s an element of my
leadership. I believe that the shareholders own the company. They take all the risks. No one ever gives them their money back. And they’re the people I work for. And the shareholders are the moms and pops of America. So
I have an obligation to be accessible when somebody asks me, “What are you doing? How are you gonna achieve results?” I have to tell them what I’m going to do and how I’m gonna do it ’cause they own the company.
SMITH: You told me you didn’t have any other common stock other than Kimberly Clark. I find that interesting. Do you have faith in the other corporate leaders?
DUNLAP: Well, I -- I own substantial amounts of Sunbeam stock. I have a small amount of -- of Kimberly’s stock. And then the rest of my investments are basically in treasuries and -- uh -- insured
bonds, things of that nature because I think an executive should invest very heavily in his own company, and he should be focused like a laser on running that company. If he sees other companies as a better investment,
that tells something about what he thinks about his own company.
SMITH: Sir James Goldsmith said at one point -- uh -- uh -- that he liked having you around not only because you
were tough and you were good and you bored in, but you were, as Sir James said, a barking dog. You made a lot of noise, and Wall Street paid a lot of attention.
you know, Sir James obviously is -- everyone has their heroes. Sir James is a great hero to me. Sir James really enhanced my business career. He opened up a whole global environment. He’s an -- he’s an outstanding
financier, and I have enormous respect for Jimmy. And I believe Jimmy -- uh -- believed that, if you’re running a business, you should do it with every fabric and fiber of your body. And I did that, and I think he was
impressed by that.
SMITH: And he liked the barking dog part.
DUNLAP: Sure. Sir James is -- i-- i-- is not a shy person. And I don’t
think he wants to be surrounded by people who will not stand up for things.
SMITH: You’re not a shy person either.
DUNLAP: No. And one
of the things I learned from Sir James -- he took an -- he took a position on most issues of his day, and many times he was criticized, but I never saw him back off.
mmhmm -- um -- in your book, again, I -- I was struck by your conversations and -- and -- and writing about Cary Packer. At one point you said about Cary Packer, “we’re two strong-willed, dominant animals who like to
hunt the prey.” I look around your office. I mean there are eagles. There are lions -- strong-willed dominant animals. I mean they fascinate you.
DUNLAP: Well, I think they do,
and I think part of it has to do with -- you look at various animals. They have to go out and get their own meal. They survive by their own wits. No one’s going out and getting room service for them. No one’s making
their life easy. They have to stand on their own wits, on their own cunning, on their own intellect, on their own instincts, and I think there’s something to be respected in that.
SMITH: The animals you’ve picked, though, are not ones that one would think would have to order room service. I mean lions, the -- the king beast, dragons at your pool, eagles. I mean these are -- these are
the most powerful predators in nature.
DUNLAP: Well, many of these animals also have dual symbolism to me. I’m a Leo, born in July, so that’s the lions. I tend to be very
nationalistic and very patriotic, and the eagle plays to that. And I -- as I say, I do appreciate animals that are strong and protect themselves and can provide for themselves...
SMITH: -- um -- and who are tough and who are winners.
DUNLAP: That’s right. There -- you know, I never apologize for being tough. I never apologize for winning. I didn’t
apologize when I was poor, and I’m certainly not gonna apologize when I’m successful.
I ASKED DUNLAP ABOUT THE NOTORIOUS NICKNAMES HE’S EARNED, FROM “RAMBO IN PINSTRIPES” TO
DUNLAP: You know, the interesting thing about most of the nicknames -- it’s really quite humorous when you think about it -- “Rambo in Pinstripes” was given to me by
Sir James Goldsmith. Sir James said, “You know, you’re like Rambo. You go into the most archaic situations. And, when the smoke clears, you’ve won the battle and saved the company.” -- meant to be a compliment. -- uh --
the -- uh -- “Chainsaw” was given to me by John Aspen, the famous British naturalist. He said, “You know, you’re like a chainsaw. You cut away all the fat and leave a great sculpture -- again, meant to be a compliment
by somebody I respect. But, you know, the media is in the business of -- of -- of selling print or selling time, and those original nicknames which are meant as compliments get taken a bit out of context. And, of
course, you resent it when it gets taken out of context.
SMITH: But there’s a part of you, Al, I mean -- you know, even today, there’s a part -- you like the confrontation. You
like the competition. You like the battle. That’s part of what gets your juices flowing. Isn’t that right?
DUNLAP: Well, I’m a very competitive person. I like to take on the
situations that no one else will take on. You know, when I went to Scott, they’d interviewed a person before me. I was just coming back from Australia. And he told the board three things. He said, “Number one, I’m not
taking the job. Number two, anyone who takes the job is a fool. And number three, by the way, you’re going bust.” And then they called on me. So I’ve gone into the most difficult of -- of situations, and I’ve also stood
up to the most difficult issues of our time.
SMITH: But most people would not like to walk into a board room unaccompanied and look at an eleven-member executive committee and
say, “You two I’m keeping. The rest of you are fired. Goodbye.” That is not typical behavior from leaders. What is it? I mean, why do you like to do that? What -- what is it that -- that -- that turns you on and -- and
-- and that makes it work for you?
DUNLAP: I don’t know that you’d say, “You like to do that.” But, when you go into a company that’s failing miserably, it all starts at the
top. And, when you go in, you know these are the people that created the problem, so you’re gonna have very little empathy for those people. They’re the people that have created the problem for the workers in the
factory, and so you get rid of those people. As long as they’re there, you’re not gonna be able to improve the company. Now, most people don’t do that because the minute you do that you create controversy.
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