Tough Calls from the Corner Office: Top Business Leaders Reveal Their Career-Defining Moments

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Overview

Thirty-nine of America's most successful business leaders share the most important decisions of their careers—and the life and career lessons they hold for us all.

When former CEO Harlan Steinbaum decided to buy back his retail drug chain with his partners, his life changed dramatically. The personal impact that this one business decision—this "tough call"—had on Steinbaum made him wonder if others had experienced similar kinds of defining moments in their own careers. To find...

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Tough Calls from the Corner Office: Top Business Leaders Reveal Their Career-Defining Moments

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Overview

Thirty-nine of America's most successful business leaders share the most important decisions of their careers—and the life and career lessons they hold for us all.

When former CEO Harlan Steinbaum decided to buy back his retail drug chain with his partners, his life changed dramatically. The personal impact that this one business decision—this "tough call"—had on Steinbaum made him wonder if others had experienced similar kinds of defining moments in their own careers. To find out, he reached out to some of the most successful people in the country—leaders from companies such as Verizon, Chrysler, ESPN, Ogilvy & Mather, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, WellPoint, and Panera Bread Company—to pinpoint the career-defining decisions that were integral to their success. The result is Tough Calls from the Corner Office, a treasure trove of rich business wisdom, stories of tough decisions and hard-won victories, and lessons from a lifetime of achievement in the world of business.

Tough Calls from the Corner Office offers inspiring stories, lessons, principles, strategies, ideas, and solutions drawn from every stage in a successful career, from early key choices to the final leave-taking from the world of work. Given unprecedented access to such visionaries as Union Square Hospitality Group's Danny Meyer, ESPN's Bill Rasmussen, Build-A-Bear's Maxine Clark, and Let's Make a Deal's Monty Hall, Steinbaum shares their experiences, told in their own words, so that others may learn from them. In a time when many people are at professional crossroads, Tough Calls from the Corner Office offers inspiration and the confidence to believe that tough decisions can be the first step to extraordinary success.

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Editorial Reviews

Evelyn Williams
“Mr. Steinbaum captures the fundamental critical moments of an executive’s life and packages them in a comprehensive and very accessible way. His commentary frames these moments within the larger context of an executive’s life - and the executives’ stories he shares are both rich in their diversity and their relevance.”
Bill Steere
“Tough Calls from the Corner Office offers invaluable insight into the mind of the CEO. Harlan Steinbaum’s book reveals how companies are only as good as the instincts, and the guiding principles of the people who run them.”
Thomas S. Robertson
“Harlan Steinbaum has developed a fascinating account of how senior executives faced their single most important decision. His notion of Tough Calls from the Corner Office provides insights rarely derived on management decision-making under difficult conditions.”
General - Richard B. Myers
"This book is wonderful. I enjoyed every story — every part of it. The stories in this book should inspire and give confidence to the many people looking to make their mark in business, or for that matter life."
Jessica Bibliowicz
“Refreshingly intimate and candid, these personal reflections from some of America’s top business leaders offer insight into their choices and decisions. CEOs and those aspiring to lead will find inspiration here.”
Jim Gold
“Tough Calls from the Corner Office is a treasure of a book. Stories from a wide array of remarkable and wise business talent reward the reader with invaluable insight into what it means to follow one’s dreams, lead people and maintain a moral compass.”
Mahendra Gupta
“Tough Calls from the Corner Office provides a unique opportunity to witness—and learn from —decision-making in action at the highest levels of business in times of crisis.”
Cindy Brinkley
“This collection of defining moments offers key insights into the birth of some great strategies. Very interesting. What struck me is the diversity and breadth of some of those decisions and how each one became a driving force. This is a great read.”
Bill DeWitt III
“Tough Calls from the Corner Office” is a great read for anyone who is interested in the interplay between character, luck, and talent in the lives of successful people. ”
Francis Fraenkel
“This compilation of business success stories will engage anyone looking for inspiration. The stories are varied but the storytellers all share a common characteristic - the instinct to recognize a significant career opportunity”
Murray L. Weidenbaum
“Tough Calls from the Corner Office is a unique casebook of management decision making. Each case is incisive, authoritative, original . . . and short. Harlan Steinbaum’s new book can usefully be read by both students and managers.
General Richard B. Myers
“This book is wonderful. I enjoyed every story -- every part of it. The stories in this book should inspire and give confidence to the many people looking to make their mark in business, or for that matter life.”
Library Journal
Business is often complex, and many business leaders have faced major crises or life-changing experiences that led to pivotal developments. These events shaped them profoundly, often making them better leaders and decision makers. Steinbaum, a former CEO, has compiled short stories of "defining moments" in the lives of 39 professionals across different industries and organizations. The stories are organized into nine chapters focusing on different themes, such as career choices and organizational culture changes. A conclusion provides key ideas the author identified in writing this volume, and a distinctive appendix offers "Executive Advice and Wisdom" from 30 contributors. VERDICT Since many insights are the outcome of personnel decisions, this is suitable for human-resource and other management professionals and can be used as an alternative to textbook readings in business and human-resource programs. Although the book deals with major upheavals in business figures' lives, it is also an inspiring and enjoyable read, suitable for public libraries, too.—Caroline Geck, MLS, Newark, NJ
Kirkus Reviews

A former pharmacy CEO asks 39 successful business executives to reflect on their careers and recall the defining moment of their careers.

With the exceptions of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and game-show host/creator Monty Hall, most of those interviewed here are little known outside business circles. The other participants in Steinbaum's exercise are all decidedly less glamorous, but all have achieved wealth or eminence directing major enterprises, selling everything from bread to airplanes, vitamins, shoes, dolls, newspapers, commercial furniture, real estate, cars, chemicals and candy. They have run insurance companies, health programs, advertising outfits and architectural firms. All appear delighted to assess their business lives. Steinbaum offers a brief, folksy introduction to each of his interviewees and, then, permits them to speak in their own words. He divides the answers into chapters that correspond roughly to predictable passages in many business lives: the initial choice to enter a particular field, become an entrepreneur, find the right partners and abandon the wrong ones, reshape the corporate culture, change a company's business model, reposition or renew a business and, finally, decide when to leave. Unsurprisingly, the answers are as varied as the individuals and the specific challenges they've confronted. For this reason, apart from an appendix, in which Steinbaum assembles some words of advice and wisdom also gleaned from his subjects, nothing here can be read strictly as a success manual. In fact, many of Steinbaum's respondents readily acknowledge the degree to which luck, accident or emergency shaped their choices. One person's decision to stay and transform a business is not inherently smarter than another's call to strike out on her own. One maxim cautions a man to look before leaping, while another warns that he who hesitates is lost. Which to follow? Well, these judgments are labeled "tough calls" for a reason. Other companies represented include Monsanto, Verizon, Time Inc., Enterprise Rent-A-Car, United Airlines and Chrysler Corporation (both represented by one executive, Gerald Greenwald).

Comfort food for business enthusiasts.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061802492
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/8/2011
  • Pages: 271
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Harlan Steinbaum has had a long and successful career in business as an innovator and leading executive in the retail drug industry. He was chairman and CEO of Medicare-Glaser, one of the largest retail pharmacy chains in the United States. He was also chairman of Express Scripts, Inc., a leading pharmacy benefit management company that has grown into a multibillion-dollar public corporation ranked number 135 on the Fortune 500.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Road Taken: Making Key Career Choices 9

Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group 13

Angela F. Braly, WellPoint, Inc. 17

James H. Speed Jr., North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company 21

Joseph Plumeri, Willis Group Holdings Ltd. 25

Clarence C. Barksdale, Centerre Bancorporation 28

Gerald Greenwald, United Airlines, Chrysler Corporation 32

Chapter 2 Leaving the Mother Ship: Taking the Entrepreneurial Leap 39

Bill Rasmussen, ESPN 43

David L. Steward, World Wide Technology 50

Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop 56

Leo R. Jalenak Jr., Cleo Inc 61

Chapter 3 Love and Marriage: Finding or Shedding Business Partners 67

Michael Staenberg, THF Realty Corporation 72

Gyo Obata, Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum (HOK) 77

Jack C. Taylor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car 82

Chapter 4 Betting the Farm: Risking Success for More Success 89

Monty Hall, Let's Make a Deal 92

Frank Jacobs, Jacobs International, Falcon Products 98

Jerry Finger, Finger Interests Ltd., Charter Bancshares 103

John D. Graham, Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. 108

Lee Liberman, Laclede Gas Company 113

Chapter 5 Hearts and Minds: Creating a New Corporate Culture 117

Sanford N. McDonnell, McDonnell Douglas Corporation 121

Benjamin F. Edwards, A. G. Edwards 126

David Farrell, May Department Stores Company 132

Reginald Brack, Time Inc. 137

William C. Swaney, Perrigo Company 141

Chapter 6 The Mother of Invention: Transforming the Company's Business Model 145

Shelly Lazarus, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide 149

Lester Sherman, Wohl Shoe Company 152

Albert E. Suter, Emerson Electric Company, Whirlpool Corporation, Firestone Corporation 155

John F. McDonnell, McDonnell Douglas Corporation 161

James Nixon, Whitman's Chocolate Company 166

Lloyd Schermer, Lee Enterprises 170

Chapter 7 Sea Change: Repositioning, Refocusing, and Renewing a Business 175

Richard Mahoney, Monsanto Company 178

Les Loewe, Angelica Corporation 183

Ronald M. Shaich, Panera Bread Company 186

Frederic V. Salerno, Verizon, New York Telephone Company 191

Hans Sternberg, Starmount Life Insurance Company 196

Susan S. Elliott, Systems Service Enterprises, Inc. (SSE) 199

Chapter 8 When to Fold 'Em: Knowing When It's Time to Step Aside 207

George Herbert Walker III, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary 210

Barney Ebsworth, INTRAV, Royal Cruise Line, Clipper Cruise Line 217

Chapter 9 Paths to Service: Defining Moments That Transcend Business 223

General John W. Handy, U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) 224

Tadataka (Tachi) Yamada, Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 228

Conclusion 235

Acknowledgments 245

Appendix: Executive Advice and Wisdom 247

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