Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox
  • Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox
  • Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox

Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox

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by Charles D. Ellis
     
 

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Joe Wilson was that rare business leader who, like Henry Ford before him or Bill Gates since, literally changed the world in which he lived. Wilson's company, Xerox Corporation, introduced the first one-piece, plain paper photocopier in 1959, dramatically altering the way in which business was done and becoming so culturally ingrained that the term for photocopying

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Overview

Joe Wilson was that rare business leader who, like Henry Ford before him or Bill Gates since, literally changed the world in which he lived. Wilson's company, Xerox Corporation, introduced the first one-piece, plain paper photocopier in 1959, dramatically altering the way in which business was done and becoming so culturally ingrained that the term for photocopying is "Xeroxing."

Yet Wilson was much more than just one of the twentieth century's most talented and accomplished business executives. Decades before a sense of social responsibility was considered vital to the success of a corporation, Joe Wilson was a driving force behind gender and racial equality, labor-management harmony, and the need for big business to understand and address the failures of our overall society.

Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox is the first book to tell the story of this deeply principled and talented leader. Written by Charles Ellis, the globally renowned business strategist and author of the investment classic Winning the Loser's Game, this inspirational and vastly entertaining book details:

  • The determination and entrepreneurial drive of Joe Wilson as he transformed the brilliant invention of Chester Carlson from near-certain oblivion to ubiquitous xerography
  • The early growth years of Xerox—then called Haloid—and the programs Joe Wilson put in place to hire the most promising employees and seamlessly "retire" those who didn't share his vision and work ethic
  • The many years of uncertainty and near-defeat through which Wilson led the team he was recruiting to create the company and the great products that drove Xerox's profits consistently upward at a faster rate for a longer number of years than any other company
  • The legendary 914 copier, and how Wilson and other company executives bet their futures and fortunes on the unproven product that would soon make Xerox a household name
  • Wilson's hands-on work with minority leaders to provide education and opportunity to young African- Americans during the racially explosive 1960s
  • The transition years, and how Joe Wilson carefully relinquished control of Xerox while remaining intimately involved in both its day-to-day and long-term growth

In a business world in which intense competition is the norm, with old-fashioned integrity often the first casualty, Joe Wilson's life and legacy have established a gold standard of leadership ethics and excellence. Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox tells Wilson's story, from struggling college graduate to esteemed business leader, and provides a success template that will be valuable for business leaders of every type, in every industry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An inspiring biography" (The Economist, November 2006)

If you run a business and aspire to make it great, you owe it toyourself to read Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox byCharles D. Ellis. Despite occasionally pedestrian writing, the bookrewards the reader with dramatic accounts of how one great leadermanaged to influence change rather than just react to it.
Wilson knew little about technology, yet he—not the brillianttechies with whom he surrounded himself—created the modern copierindustry. Xerox was an old Rochester, N.Y., company that wassmall, obscure and unambitious until Wilson took over from his dadin the late 1940s. In a sense, his takeover kicked off thetechnology revolution that shook American industry out of itssomnolence. Early investors with small stakes in Xerox becamemultimillionaires. Later investors lost billions looking for the"next Xerox." They would have done better searching for the nextJoe Wilson.
His tact and lack of ego held together a necessarily diverse bunchof people. Sol Linowitz, the company lawyer, upstaged him byletting it be said on national television that he, not Wilson, wasthe father of Xerox. Wilson ignored it: Linowitz was important tothe company, and Wilson wanted success, not an ego massage. Hegrasped the importance of image. He pioneered new and novel ways toget public attention for Xerox, including backing public-service TVshows at a time when the company could barely afford the expense inorder to convey an image of quality for a little-known brand.
When a leading consulting firm told Xerox there was no real marketfor its proposed 412 xerography machine, Wilson and his aides tookthe report apart and discovered that the questions asked and themethodology were faulty. He plowed on.
The 412, Xerox's first truly competitive product, would have tosell for $47,000 and was far too big for salespeople to lug around.Who would, or could, write a check of this size for a mere copyingmachine? But hey, someone suggested, who wouldn't pay a nickel toget rid of the messy carbon copy that was the curse of every officeat the time? Wilson didn't hesitate: a nickel a copy it would be.Customers loved the seemingly cheap price, and orders mounted andremounted for the 412. To the customer's surprise and Xerox'sdelight, users were making far more copies of things than they didbefore the 412. The machine was so clean, fast and precise, it wasan easy way to expand internal communication in the days beforee-mail. In a year, some customers were spending more for copiesthan the machine would have cost. Xerox became a cash jackpotmachine.
Ellis's generally upbeat book has a sad ending. On his retirementin the mid-1960s, an ailing and tired Wilson made two horriblemistakes: He picked an incompetent successor and then failed tobequeath a strong board that could have reined in his successor'sblunders. His successor threw away the chance to own the comingpersonal computer revolution and made disastrous billion-dollarinvestments in old industries. He lacked his predecessor's knackfor embracing change. By then, Wilson was too ill to retake thereins. Xerox shriveled, and its bonds sank to junk status. Rescuedby the present CEO, Ann Mulcahy, Xerox is doing well again, but itis no longer the shining symbol Wilson created.
The author, Charley Ellis, is retired head of the consulting firmGreenwich Associates and serves as a Yale trustee and a director ofthe Vanguard funds. He knows a lot about business leadership,having consulted for and worked with many of the bestpractitioners. Among all of the business leaders he's known, andhe's known hundreds, he puts Joe Wilson—whom he never met—overthem all. The lessons here are clear and shining—both the good andthe bad. (Forbes.com, October 25, 2006)

Transforming family-owned Haloid Corp., which struggled in theshadow of hometown behemoth Eastman Kodak, into the globallyrecognized Xerox is an amazing accomplishment. But as Ellis'sbiography of Joe Wilson attests, Wilson's achievements ranged morewidely and went much deeper than many gave him credit for. Ellis,author of 11 books and former financial industry consultant offersa heartfelt, if not artful, telling of the CEO's life story. Hecontends that Wilson embodied all of the qualities that leadershipmanagement books celebrate: integrity, foresight and the ability toinspire people to perform. He credits these attributes to helpingWilson so spectacularly realize his vision for his company; itsemployees; his alma mater, the University of Rochester; and thecity and people of Rochester, N.Y. Ellis's telling starts off slowand is initially quite repetitive. But once Xerox is finally born,after years of setbacks, the story picks up. The real purpose forthe detailed buildup appears toward the end, when credit for thelast 20-odd years of corporate strife and ultimate success is givento the wrong person, Wilson's best friend and the company'scorporate counsel. At that point, it becomes clear why Ellis wascompelled to write this book so long after the company's rise andits true founder's demise.(Sept.) (Publishers Weekly, July17, 2006)

Publishers Weekly
Transforming family-owned Haloid Corp., which struggled in the shadow of hometown behemoth Eastman Kodak, into the globally recognized Xerox is an amazing accomplishment. But as Ellis's biography of Joe Wilson attests, Wilson's achievements ranged more widely and went much deeper than many gave him credit for. Ellis, author of 11 books and former financial industry consultant offers a heartfelt, if not artful, telling of the CEO's life story. He contends that Wilson embodied all of the qualities that leadership management books celebrate: integrity, foresight and the ability to inspire people to perform. He credits these attributes to helping Wilson so spectacularly realize his vision for his company; its employees; his alma mater, the University of Rochester; and the city and people of Rochester, N.Y. Ellis's telling starts off slow and is initially quite repetitive. But once Xerox is finally born, after years of setbacks, the story picks up. The real purpose for the detailed buildup appears toward the end, when credit for the last 20-odd years of corporate strife and ultimate success is given to the wrong person, Wilson's best friend and the company's corporate counsel. At that point, it becomes clear why Ellis was compelled to write this book so long after the company's rise and its true founder's demise. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471998358
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
09/01/2006
Pages:
424
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.23(h) x 1.39(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"If you run a business and aspire to make it great, you owe it toyourself to read Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox byCharles D. Ellis ($28, John Wiley & Sons, 2006) . . . . thebook rewards the reader with dramatic accounts of how one greatleader managed to influence change rather than just react to it . .. The author, Charley Ellis, is retired head of the consulting firmGreenwich Associates and serves as a Yale trustee and a director ofthe Vanguard funds. He knows a lot about business leadership,having consulted for and worked with many of the bestpractitioners. Among all of the business leaders he's known, andhe's known hundreds, he puts Joe Wilson—whom he nevermet—over them all. The lessons here are clear andshining—both the good and the bad."
—James Michaels, Forbes

"When the creator of Xerox described the inventor of xerographyas an "unreasonable man," he meant it as a compliment of thehighest order. Business-management consultant andinvestment-management professor Charles D. Ellis notes that, afterinventor Chester Carlson's death in 1968, Joe Wilson regularlylauded Carlson for his vital contributions to xerography and Xerox.Once, writes Ellis, Wilson alluded to an observation by GeorgeBernard Shaw: "All progress depends on the unreasonable man...because reasonable men accept the world as it is, whileunreasonable men persist in adapting the world to them. ChesterCarlson was splendidly unreasonable." Readers of this splendidbiography will come away convinced that Wilson was even moreunreasonable, in that positive sense, than Carlson. Theunreasonable Carlson pursued the idea of "electrophotography" fordecades, despite setbacks and discouragement from the scientificand business worlds. But, as Ellis makes clear, it was the evenmore unreasonable Wilson who took the risks with Carlson's ideathat ultimately paid off in Xerox Corp."
—Cecil Johnson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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