American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM and the Way We Do Business in the USA

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Ed Whitacre is credited with taking over the corporate reins at General Motors (GM) when the automotive manufacturer was on the brink of bankruptcy during 2009 and turned the company around in magnificent fashion. In this business memoir, the native Texan explores his unique management style, business acumen and patriotism.

It was President Obama who reached out to Ed Whitacre to come out of retirement and take over GM in 2009. A down-to-earth, no-nonsense Texas native with a ...

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American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM and the Way We Do Business in the USA

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Ed Whitacre is credited with taking over the corporate reins at General Motors (GM) when the automotive manufacturer was on the brink of bankruptcy during 2009 and turned the company around in magnificent fashion. In this business memoir, the native Texan explores his unique management style, business acumen and patriotism.

It was President Obama who reached out to Ed Whitacre to come out of retirement and take over GM in 2009. A down-to-earth, no-nonsense Texas native with a distinctive Texas twang in his voice, Whitacre was reluctant to come out of retirement to work at GM.

But Whitacre is that rare CEO with great charisma and extraordinary management instincts. And when he got to Detroit, he started to whittle down the corporate bureaucracy right away - and got GM back on track in record time

Before being pulled out of retirement to run GM by Obama, Ed Whitacre had spent his entire corporate career in the telecom business, where he ultimately ended up running AT&T.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Edward Whitacre didn't want to come out of retirement, but the president's phone call convinced him. After the hospitable 2009 White House request, the former AT&T CEO agree to take over General Motors and help the embattled car company get back on track pronto. He succeeded and in American Turnaround, the retired-again executive explains why American companies need to do find their way to a resilient recovery.

Publishers Weekly
An inspiring memoir from the laconic CEO and chairman of AT&T and GM. Whitacre spent 44 years at AT&T, starting as a student engineer in the early 1960s at what was then Southwestern Bell and eventually leading the company. His time there was rewarding, exciting, and beneficial for the company: he oversaw the original iPhone contract, implemented budget-saving, cost-cutting measures, and did away with executive privilege. He also made good but less popular decisions such as moving Southwestern Bell from St. Louis to his native Texas. After spending just two years getting accustomed to retirement, Whitacre was asked by the White House to take over the sinking GM. He agreed, intending to be quickly in and out, but instead ended up shepherding the company through the launch of the Volt and a highly successful IPO. The Obama administration approved of his success, and he finally stepped down, handing GM over to a new CEO. Whitacre characterizes himself as a “private man by nature,” but wrote the book to “thank and publicly acknowledge” the people who helped him throughout his career. In what is basically a vanity project, albeit a sweet one, Whitacre describes his philosophy, management style, and business principles, all of which are interesting, but not particularly novel. Agent: Joe Veltri, Gersh Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
This straight-talking Texan and former CEO of two of America's best known corporations provides a candid, insider's view of how a committed business leader can make a difference. More importantly, his book offers a prescription for the kind of leadership that can turn America around and get the country moving again.

—Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Ed is a strong leader with intelligence, a big heart, common sense and without fear. He is also an exceptional human being-always concerned about people. His mind is clear with a long-term vision and mission.

—Carlos Slim Helú, Industrialist and Philanthropist

Among CEOs, Ed is one-of-a-kind. Not only did he successfully run AT&T and fix GM, but he is also a classic Texan — complete with a straight-speaking manner and common touch that truly sets him apart. Here is his uniquely American story. Everyone who starts this book will finish it.

— Roger Altman, Founder and Chairman, Evercore Partners; former Deputy Treasury Secretary

Very inspiring, down to earth leadership lessons and very consistent with our experience with Ed during his time at GM. He always respected our members and never blamed them for what he strongly viewed as poor management.

—Bob King, UAW President

A CEO memoir worth reading.

— The Economist

Library Journal
Whitacre, former chairman and CEO of AT&T and General Motors, tells his story of building AT&T and then rescuing GM from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and overseeing its reorganization. Whitacre had been retired from AT&T for two years when President Obama's "car czar," Steve Rattner, asked him to become chairman of GM. In this easy read, Whitacre describes his management style of employee empowerment and accountability, yet he also admits that "companies are not democracies; you can't run management by consensus." Famous for his "walkarounds" in which he talked to employees, he stresses the importance of individuals and their access to management, advising, "People are the number one asset of any business." Whitacre further argues that GM emerged from bankruptcy in 16 months because of its employees. While good management helped, nothing management did "would have made a shred of difference if the men and women of GM had not been willing to put their shoulders to the wall and push." VERDICT A down-to-earth explanation of GM's resurrection and an interesting look at Whitacre's life.— Joanne Conrad, Geneseo, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A tough-talking Texan offers business truisms. Whitacre is a turnaround specialist who took AT&T from a $9 billion "Baby Bell" to a global giant with annual revenues of more than $120 billion; he later took the reins of General Motors and saw it through the tough process of federally mandated reorganization. "None of this is magic," he faux modestly avers. It does, however, have everything to do with good management, and by his account, good management is in exceedingly short supply. The truisms begin to mount as he proceeds: "People are the number one asset of any business"; "Good managers know that change is the only constant in business, so they actively manage their businesses--smartly, aggressively, and as humanely as possible"; "Life, when you really think about it, is basically just a series of key moments or turning points." Such things might seem self-evident and obvious, but when Whitacre serves up horror stories of corporate culture run amok, including places where ordinary employees weren't allowed to ride in the same elevators as top management and where those same ordinary employees were made to feel as if they were scarcely worth being seen, let alone being heard, then it becomes more obvious that common-sensical approaches have to be beaten into the heads of some of the privileged corporate elite. There's no sense of privilege in the author's pages, though it's obvious that he's made a vast amount of money. Instead, Whitacre provides a refreshing amount of sunshine and fresh air, with guardedness surrounding only the question of why he left GM, an event that still seems a touch mysterious. A keeper in a field of undercooked, underwritten books by CEOs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455513017
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 289
  • Sales rank: 583,607
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Ed Whitacre is the former chairman and CEO of two major American corporations: General Motors and AT&T. At GM he set a clear vision and mandate - "Design, Build and Sell the World's Best Vehicles" - that continues to this day. As the chief executive of AT&T, Whitacre applied a set of management principles and disciplined growth strategy that would turn the company, originally known as Southwestern Bell, into the largest telecom in the world.
Born and raised in Ennis, Texas, Whitacre attended Texas Tech, earning a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering. He began his career with the phone company in 1963, as a student engineer in Dallas. In 1990 he was named CEO, and he remained in that leadership position for 17 years. In 2009, the White House appointed him chairman of GM, and he became CEO later that year.
Whitacre is actively involved in a number of organizations, including Boy Scouts of America, the United Way and Texas Tech. He is a current or past member of several boards, including Exxon Mobil, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Anheuser-Busch. He is married to Linda Whitacre and they have two daughters, four grandchildren and a really great dog, Lucille.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

1 "The Economy Got Us" 1

2 Duty Calls 16

3 "Government Motors" 27

4 Keep It Simple 42

5 Ennis, Texas 57

6 Keeping It Between the Ditches 79

7 (Good) Vibrations 89

8 Buenos Dias, San Antonio 107

9 Keep Going, Keep Growing 121

10 Betting on People, Not Products: The Apple iPhone 138

11 Personal Business 149

12 GM: Rising to the Challenge 158

13 January 2010 175

14 "Design, Build, and Sell the World's Best Vehicles" 191

15 Management: Focus, Focus, Focus 206

16 Spirit of Hope 222

17 A Very Public Offering: GM's IPO 234

18 The Last Chapter 252

Reflection: Texas-A (Management) State of Mind 263

Epilogue 266

Snapshots 273

Acknowledgments 277

Index 279

About the Author 289

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Ed Whitacre at his best!

    A must read for anyone in business. A good reminder that the employees are the backbone of any large company.

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