Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies

Overview

"Steve Miller has a knack for taking over companies just before they are about to smash into a wall," the Wall Street Journal observed. "In fact, it is his specialty." For thirty years—beginning with the legendary Chrysler bailout, which he negotiated as a key member of Lee Iacocca's team, to the revival of the U.S. steel industry—Miller has done the messy, unpleasant work of salvaging America's lost companies.

Though he has brought many companies back to life, Miller is deeply ...

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Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies

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Overview

"Steve Miller has a knack for taking over companies just before they are about to smash into a wall," the Wall Street Journal observed. "In fact, it is his specialty." For thirty years—beginning with the legendary Chrysler bailout, which he negotiated as a key member of Lee Iacocca's team, to the revival of the U.S. steel industry—Miller has done the messy, unpleasant work of salvaging America's lost companies.

Though he has brought many companies back to life, Miller is deeply aware of the high price individual workers and many communities must pay to restore the health of American industry. That's why the Wall Street Journal said, "He has become Mr. Fix-It for American industry, stepping in to help large, once-dominant businesses confront and manage ugly realities."

The ugly reality is that there is a battle going on in the heart of industrial America, or what is left of it. Centered in the auto industry but radiating out to every manufacturing corporation, management and labor are at loggerheads over wages and the cost of employee benefits. At the bankrupt Delphi Corporation, Miller is cutting costs and closing plants, but he's doing the job for $1. If anyone knows what it will take for American manufacturing to return to profitability, it's Miller.

In this frank memoir, Miller reveals a rarely seen side of American management. Known for his wry sense of humor, Miller talks about what it takes to be an executive. He shares the credit for his success with his "mentor and occasional tormentor," Margaret Kyger Miller, who was his wife and ally for forty years. Her death opens the book and reminds the reader that this will be a blunt and unsparing look at Miller's own education as an American executive.

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Editorial Reviews

Allan Sloan
“What I like about the business parts is that Miller. . . doesn’t pretend to be perfect. He discusses mistakes made on his watch. . . . [W]e get to see something that’s oh so rare: a businessman in full.”
Conde Nast Portfolio
"A riveting tale. . . . a highly engrossing memoir, poignantly leavened by the story of the untimely death of Miller’s wife. No one executive can fix all of corporate America, but Miller came close."
Reuters
“[A] freewheeling tale of corporate crises”
Fortune Small Business
“This is no dull, vain accounting of a power broker: Miller talks about his turnarounds warts and all and opens up about his family life and why Lee Iacocca annoys him.”
Wall Street Journal
“Robert S. ‘Steve’ Miller, the chairman of Delphi Corp., gives us a boardroom seat--at the auto-parts maker and other troubled companies he has headed--during moments of crisis. But he also relates deeply personal stories. And he takes jabs at folks whose paths he might cross again.”
Newsweek
“Miller resists the temptation to burnish his own legacy, frankly examining his failures along with his successes while also sympathetically recounting the struggles of his late wife, who died of cancer as he fought to keep Delphi going.”
Detroit News
“The outspokenness [Miller] is known for is evident throughout. . . but the memoir is also deeply personal. . . . Miller writes movingly of his wife of nearly 40 years, who waged a three-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor that ended in her death in 2006.”
Harvard Business Review
“Miller describes his Herculean efforts to save what he could of these troubled behemoths.... This book...contains some valuable...lessons.”
Condé Nast Portfolio
“A riveting tale. . . . a highly engrossing memoir, poignantly leavened by the story of the untimely death of Miller’s wife. No one executive can fix all of corporate America, but Miller came close.”
Wall Street Journal
“Robert S. ‘Steve’ Miller, the chairman of Delphi Corp., gives us a boardroom seat--at the auto-parts maker and other troubled companies he has headed--during moments of crisis. But he also relates deeply personal stories. And he takes jabs at folks whose paths he might cross again.”
Harvard Business Review
“Miller describes his Herculean efforts to save what he could of these troubled behemoths.... This book...contains some valuable...lessons.”
Reuters
“[A] freewheeling tale of corporate crises”
Newsweek
“Miller resists the temptation to burnish his own legacy, frankly examining his failures along with his successes while also sympathetically recounting the struggles of his late wife, who died of cancer as he fought to keep Delphi going.”
Detroit News
“The outspokenness [Miller] is known for is evident throughout. . . but the memoir is also deeply personal. . . . Miller writes movingly of his wife of nearly 40 years, who waged a three-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor that ended in her death in 2006.”
Conde Nast Portfolio
“A riveting tale. . . . a highly engrossing memoir, poignantly leavened by the story of the untimely death of Miller’s wife. No one executive can fix all of corporate America, but Miller came close.”
Fortune Small Business
“This is no dull, vain accounting of a power broker: Miller talks about his turnarounds warts and all and opens up about his family life and why Lee Iacocca annoys him.”
Publishers Weekly

In 1979, while also moonlighting to save the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from ruin, Steve Miller left a mid-level executive career at Ford to join Lee Iacocca and Jerry Greenwald in rescuing Chrysler from the brink of bankruptcy. At Chrysler, Miller was fanatical about everyone sharing pain-including executives who agreed to $1 salaries-and reward, and used politicians, the media and language to skillful advantage; he refused to use the word "bankruptcy." After completing a much-lauded, successful turnaround, Miller left the company in 1992 and embarked on a series of jobs managing corporations that were near collapse. The rescue efforts Miller describes reveal how his approach to corporate disaster changed radically. By the time he arrived at the Delphi Corporation in 2005, he took the company into bankruptcy while managing to circumvent changing bankruptcy laws, refused to speak to the media and enraged workers and creditors by securing executive bonuses. This strong, straightforward business autobiography also lightly touches upon Miller's personal life and his wife's struggles with cancer. Miller's is a gripping, understated story and an important business book. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
"Narrator Dick Hill is an experienced narrator who knows his way around a story and offers a firm, believable reading that will engage listeners." —-AudioFile
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061251276
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/15/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 705,047
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author


Steve Miller, previously the chairman and chief executive officer of Delphi Corporation, became executive chairman on January 1, 2007.

Reader of over four hundred audiobooks, Dick Hill has won three coveted Audie Awards and been nominated numerous times. He is also the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. AudioFile includes Dick on their prestigious list of Golden Voices.

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Read an Excerpt

The Turnaround Kid
What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies

Chapter One

Family, Values, Maggie, And Me

The sky was overcast and fog hung over the harbor, so even though it was ten o'clock on an August morning, the air was cool and the light was soft. Add the salty smell of the sea and the groan of the foghorn at the end of the nearby jetty, and this place—the small city of Bandon on the southern coast of Oregon—felt like home. I hadn't lived here in decades, but the connection was strong and I sensed it right down to my bones as I stood in front of the little house where I had spent many of my happiest days.

Painted gray with red trim, the two-bedroom cottage has been abandoned for years. Dust coated the siding. Dirt streaked the windows. I opened the door and saw the faded floral wallpaper that had been there since the 1940s. Inside I found a familiar green sofa. All the fixtures, from the kitchen sink to the ceiling lights and bathtub, were just as they were when I was six years old. The frame from my bed sat in the corner of the tiny room where I slept as a child.

In the stillness I recalled the sounds that greeted me from outside when I awakened on summer mornings. The sharpest of them all was the grinding whine of a huge band saw making the first cuts on a Douglas fir. It blended with steam whistles, the shouts of men, and the rumble of passing trucks to create a kind of industrial music. I also recalled certain scents—grease, sawdust, smoke, even exhaust fumes—that filled the air every day but Sunday.

All these sensations and images washed over me because this house,where I had gone to touch my roots and renew my confidence in the midst of crisis, once sat in the middle of a relentlessly busy industrial complex. Built atop a long wooden pier that jutted into the harbor, it included a huge sawmill circa 1910, shops and outbuildings, and a dock where coastal steamships were loaded with shipments for delivery to distant ports. It was called the Moore Mill & Lumber Company, and my grandfather, the manager and eventual owner, lived right in the center of it all.

Scenes from an old Oregon sawmill are not what most ¬people find when they search their childhood memories, but I spent most of my preschool youth, my summers, and many school vacation days at the house on the pier in Bandon. As the first grandson of David and Emma Miller, I came in for extra attention (this was probably not fair to my siblings, David, Randy, and Barbara) and quickly came to love being with them. I took my first steps in their home and immediately began following my grandfather's lead.

"Let's go out to the mill and see if they're workin' or shootin' the breeze," he'd say to me in the morning. I'd scramble to get dressed—usually I wore a plaid lumberjack shirt, dungarees, and work shoes—and then tramp after Grampa as he made his rounds. I was fascinated by it all, but the sawyer who could turn a massive log into a stack of neat boards made an especially big impression. I could watch him for hours.

When I was old enough to avoid most of the dangers, I was allowed to roam free. I played in the corners of the mill complex and watched the endless parade of men, trucks, ships, and lumber. On one occasion, Grampa caught me riding the conveyor that hauled scrap wood and sawdust to the incinerator and gave me a stern lecture on safety. Sometimes I'd even clamber aboard the ships at the mill dock, and the crew would give me lunch. Without knowing it, in every moment I was absorbing vital lessons about the dignity of work and the rewards of honest enterprise.

In late summer 2006, as I walked to the little office building next to my grandfather's house, I felt the presence of the ¬people of Moore Mill. Inside the abandoned office a half dozen swallows flitted around the ceiling lights in the rooms where bookkeepers, clerks, and sales¬people once worked. Antiquated business forms filled the shelves in a back room. A mechanical adding machine gathered dust on the floor. Where Grampa's desk had stood, scraps of wood were piled three feet high. On a wall near the entrance, grime marked the place where the time clock and time cards were kept as workers checked in at the start of each shift.

Here, for generations, hundreds of men had started each workday. Management and labor formed a team to make not just two-by-fours but good lives for themselves and their families. The mill was the source of the money they needed to buy homes, feed and clothe their children, and save for the future. As an industry it was not an abstraction but rather the heart of the local economy. It turned the region's most valuable natural resource into a source of prosperity and pride. The mill's payroll fueled commerce. It paid taxes that kept the city going. It even sponsored the semipro baseball team, the Bandon Millers, who were the pride of the city every season.

My earliest memories of baseball involve Bandon Millers games, where I sometimes served as batboy. Even at the ballpark, Grampa wore his vested suit, tie, and fedora. A gold chain stretched across his belly, connecting the watch he kept in one vest pocket with the little knife hidden in the other. He was over six feet tall, a little bit stout, and his white hair gave him a sort of formal, distinguished look. He had an air about him that suggested a sense of purpose. His competitive spirit, whether it involved getting the best players for his semipro ball team or building his company by acquiring additional mills and timberland, was strong but tempered with the kind of realism expressed by so many ¬people who had lived through the Great Depression.

The Turnaround Kid
What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies
. Copyright © by Steve Miller. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good introdcution to the subject of turnarounds

    "The Turnaround Kid" is the memoir of Steve Miller's, the former CEO of Delphi, business life. The book provides an account of the companies Mr. Miller worked for starting with Ford and progressing to Chrysler where he assisted in the turnaround of Chrysler under the guidance of Lee Iaccoca. Here he and made his reputation as the Fixit Man. It continues by covering the other companies he worked for and attempts (some successful others not) at straightening them out. It provides a candid view of life at the top and strategies that can be used to get the cooperation of various companies and organizations to do a corporate turnaround.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2008

    Learn how Steve Miller turns zeros to heros

    This book was a fascinating tale of life, human drama and one man's commitment to salvaging good companies that became troubled for one reason or another. Great ideas that can be untilized at any company.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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