Over time I had handpicked a good team, I always refused point blank to accept any other department's problem person who would never have had the ability to work on their own. I also got the support of Dick Locke on that score, he agreed with me that we couldn't afford, in such a small team, to take on someone else's 'problem child'. I did take on one person who was a problem within the site Materials organisation, but it was done as a swap which allowed me to move Callum Logan, a person who was obviously going to have problems with the stress that the IPO job would throw up. Besides I thought I could channel that problem person's energies, she was an excellent engineer, way ahead of a high percentage of her peers in her current environment; I was arrogant enough to believe I could sort out those lack of people skills. I eventually learned there were just some cases that I could never fix!
All of those handpicked team members brought with them, their own individual strengths and abilities to the group and in every case benefited the group immensely. I made sure they all got the room to develop those skills and pass them onto others. Every one of them was able to take pride in being able and willing to help the other group members understand or develop whatever was being put forward. Success always breeds success and increases group morale.
I never ever had a shortage of people wishing to join our IPO team, which was much to the disgust of other site managers. I knew of some managers who had on occasion tried to put their people off even applying for any job I was advertising. I had been told by a couple of my team long after they had joined us, they were not sure if it was a good idea when they discussed the matter with their manager. Plus, I must have had some sort of fearsome attitude that scared them off. However nearly every one of them had spoken with other members of my team, which at the time I hadn't known about and they had been told by them that I was one of the best bosses they had ever worked for. What people saw outside the group, was nothing like the atmosphere within the group.
Later I heard from nearly every member of the team, the IPO job was the best job they had ever had at South Queensferry and that I was not such a fearsome boss after all. I also had a couple of applicants who I didn't hire, remind me years later that I turned them down and they wondered why.
To be successful we had to be a team, right off the 'Top Shelf' and one that would offer a 'Knock your socks off' service, and that's exactly what we set out to achieve. And with the right folks on board, that's exactly what we did!!
Although our IPO was independent of our host division, we were now totally part of Corporate Procurement. That didn't always sit well within the host division, who always wanted to be able to exert some level of control over us. In hindsight we should have bitten the bullet and moved off-site completely. Because we were on their turf, on many occasions I found myself standing up and defending my corner. It became even more intense when the IPO's became self-funding and the host divisions, particularly in times of tight fiscal policy, would try and off load their inflated over managed cost structures onto the IPO, which I robustly refused to accept, accompanied by some hard ball or (expletiving) contest. It also irked the host division when they had tight controls and could see my staff and I freely traveling around the world.
There are numerous examples that can be listed.
Every support department on the host site that we purchased services from, would always try and off-load their inefficiency costs onto the IPO, each time they were met with a huge rebuttal from me. I always demanded a complete breakdown of all the costs, they hated that. The Accounts department and the Traffic departments were the worst, funnily enough, Traffic department reported to the Financial Controller and he had told the Traffic Manager to dump a lot of his costs onto the IPO, they soon realised I had other plans on that score. There was only one department that liked our IPO approach to paying for the services we used, IT department, but then they had the same problems that the IPO had with everyone else on site.
On one occasion my dotted line Queensferry Manager Bill Fulton, was adamant that I was to have a chunk of his costs. No way was I going to accept that and aggressively fought back, he didn't like it much when I asked him to list everything he did for me and our IPO, and I'd tell him if I wanted that service level or not, and if I did then we could negotiate a cost structure. Bill was raging and in all his wisdom, he now wanted my card marked. He wrote a scathing e-mail to Karl Heinz Hartmann in Germany and to Dick Locke in Palo Alto, complaining bitterly about me and the way I had rebutted him. Unfortunately, Fulton didn't expect the reply he got from my two bosses, they praised me for kicking back and that it was not the IPO that should shoulder the extra costs from the host division's bad financial management. It shut Fulton up, but he would always have a grudge against the IPO.
The Traffic Department, as I stated, reported into the Financial Controller Jim Rigby, he thought he could also dump some of his costs onto the IPO. No way was that going to happen. Basically I told the Traffic Manager, Jim Boyle, unless you give me a complete breakdown of how my IPO charges are accounted for, I will set my needs up with an outside shipping company. From then on I got a complete breakdown, but the hassles with Traffic still continued, with their manager anyway, not with the staff, they always tried to pull out all the stops for us; they were friends with the other girls in our team, plus they had a low opinion of their boss!
The best battle we won was with the Finance and Accounts Department and their Financial Controller Jim Sherrett. Time and time again he would try to dump charges onto us; I had a pretty good working relationship with two of his managers, so he didn't know I was getting inside support, they didn't like him much either! Then on one occasion Jim Sherrett thought he had done the dirty on us. His department was being audited, and thinking he could also deflect some heat from his department, he said to the Auditor, "You know, you should check out the IPO, I think their processes are out of control." The whole thing backfired on him!
The Auditor, Lesley Holstead came across to my desk and asked, "John, could you tell me about the IPO, I've never heard of it before." I said, "Let's first grab a cup of coffee." She sat down and I explained all about the IPO and the reason it was created and the systems and processes we used. At that point she said, "This is great, I think HP HQ in Bracknell would like to know more about it and your Team." Lesley made a phone call there and then to her boss, who turned out to be none other than Andrew Bothwell, who had worked in Finance in Queensferry many years before and who I knew very well. She came off the phone and said, "When can you come down to Bracknell and give us all a presentation?" To which I replied, "Next week okay?" "Perfect, everyone of importance is in the building that week."
That next week I toddled off to HP HQ in Bracknell with a full presentation package of slides in my brief case. Lesley met me and took me up to the office, where I met with Andrew Bothwell. "Hi John" he said, "Long time no see, what's this I hear you've been up too?" I gave him a quick explanation and we all set off to the meeting room. We were joined by a bunch of other HP UK HQ Finance folks that topped off with Paul Valler, Director of Finance for HP UK HQ, including some of his direct staff, of which Andrew Bothwell was one. Also in attendance was his Controller Bob Venus and the European VAT Manager Neil Rees, who turned out to be a great help in the future.
I gave the full presentation, and at the end Paul Valler said, "John, that's excellent, I didn't know we had that capability in the UK." Then he turned to his immediate staff and said, "I think we should help John and his team make this project highly successful." From then on we got all the Finance help and guidance we wanted, it was a particular help in the area of European VAT which helped us to find ways to manage our "Buy and Sell" programme, which would maintain security of HP's global pricing agreements on the highly competitive worldwide components market. There was particular emphasis on security of supply and price with DRAMS and other semiconductor commodities. We also got help with our processes to ensure they all met the Auditable requirements.
The morning after that meeting in Bracknell and back at South Queensferry, my first step was to Jim Sherrett's desk, where I set out with added glee to burst his balloon, but first I wanted him to think otherwise! I strode up to his desk and brusquely said to him, "Thanks a lot for setting that Auditor onto me!" He of course thought that by my tone he had succeeded in dropping me in it! A wry smile quickly appeared on his face, that I soon wiped off by following up with. "Paul Valler was impressed with what the IPO is doing and has instructed all his UK HQ Finance team to give me all the help they can." Then I had to rub it in by also adding, "Thanks again Jim, for sending the Auditor to me, without that help from you, HP UK HQ would never have known about our IPO and I wouldn't have gotten the help from them that I am now getting." At which point I turned away and made my way back to my desk, with a dirty great big grin on my face. Later I found out from one of his managers, he was really (expletived) at what had happened.
Our IPO never had any major problems with the Auditors, unlike site Finance who looked upon them as spies trying to catch them out and so wouldn't give up any information unless asked for it. We took a different approach, we said we need all the help we can get to improve our processes and system and would appreciate any help they could give. If we were doing something wrong, why hide it, let's get it fixed. We would ask for recommendations on anything that was turned up. The auditors were so used to being treated the opposite, I think they were glad to help. Their approach towards our IPO was always different from the way they dealt with the division Finance. I think part of the problem was due to the system. When the auditors found any problems in Finance it was always escalated to Corporate Finance as a black mark, so in a way I can understand the division's reluctance to work closely with the auditors. Two wrongs don't make a right; the process should have been to address the issues to achieve a win-win situation rather than one of confrontation.
In the early 1970s, during a period of tight fiscal control policy within HP and more so in the MCG which had bigger problems to manage. HP was fighting a downturn across all its business segments, with each group installing its own controls specific to getting through their own group difficulties. There was no commonality between the groups on how the controls would be affected.
MCG had by far the most pressure in their customer market when compared to those in other groups, like Printers and Personal Computers. Our host division installed a complete ban on all spending, particularly in travel. Unfortunately also at that time our host division General Manager was none other than George L, or Dr. Death as he was aptly named. George was an unbelievable control freak, who meddled and controlled everything in the minutest detail. He was a micro-manager in the extreme, where absolutely nothing could be done without it passing by him first.
When QMO moved into its new building, George, with wife in toe, set off to visit the John Lewis retail store to choose the curtains for all the meeting rooms!! There was also the situation where all the new overhead projectors were not to his liking, so he had them all locked away in a cupboard until they were replaced. It did have the advantage that no one had to sit through any boring presentations! Childish Divisional Manager behaviour nonetheless! He was by far the worst Divisional Manager I ever had the misfortune to meet and had to deal with. No one ever stood up to him; he just rode roughshod over everyone. Unfortunately when QMO eventually got shot off him, he left an equally obnoxious legacy behind, in his protégé Paul Y, whom, after Gil Reeser's short watch, would take over the General Manager's role.
At the time of these MCG constraints, George banned all travel, which of course led to me going head to head with him. He did not have good interpersonal people skills, there was always only one way with him, and that was his way!
As business would have it, some divisions were still going gangbusters, one of these being the IJBU. (Ink Jet Business Units) Parts we had supplied, mesh filters, and had been supplying for some time, for some strange reason suddenly wouldn't work in their new automated production line. These automated lines were extremely complex and cost many millions of dollars to manufacture. When not operable it was a major disaster as it instantly stopped Ink Jet Cartridges being sent to the end users. IJBU had an extremely urgent need for me to go and see the supplier who manufactured the filter parts we sent, to ascertain if that supplier had somehow changed their manufacturing process for the filters.
However, my host division under George had installed this strict freeze on all travel, which meant I had to get him to authorize my travel warrant. I was not looking forward to approaching him on the matter as I knew exactly how he would react, but needs must! I handed him the travel requisition fully completed with all the reasons for my trip. Only to be met with, "Don't you know the company is having a hard time just now and there is a freeze on travel?" I said "Yes I do." I explained the reasons for my need, even though they were clearly written on the requisition. He again and again repeated the need not to travel and save expenses. He was not listening to me. At about his sixth time of asking me if I really had to go.
I finally lost it with him and said, "George, this is the sixth time you have asked me the same questions about this travel I need to make, and I've explained six times all the reasons why I must go. If you do not want me to go and you will not sign my travel warrant, I will get the IJBU Divisional Manager to call you and instruct you to do otherwise." At that instant he stood up, glowered at me and said, "Don't you ever talk to me like that!" Then he signed the travel warrant and threw it at me. From then on in, I would just place a travel requisition under his nose, and he would sign it without even looking up at me.
I can honestly say without any contradiction from others, with the exception of Paul, George L was by far, the least liked General Manager that ever managed a division at South Queensferry. So much so, that when he left to return to the USA, a great relief came over QMO. That elation was to be short lived though, when the announcement was made that his replacement as QMO Divisional Manager was to be Gil Reeser, Then not long after, both their lap dog Paul Y. It was a case for me of out of the frying pan and into the fire. I had already had quite a few head to heads with Paul from the past.
Paul Y was an academic snob of the first degree. He rated and ranked people not by their ability, but depending on which University they had attended.
It was a year or so earlier when I had my first of many head to heads with Paul, we both found ourselves on the taskforce assigned to create a new Job Evaluation Programme and a Job Ranking Programme. As my luck would have it, I ended up in the same working group as Paul. The first part of the Job Evaluation programme was to Grade the different jobs in relation to qualifications, experience, job complexity etc. This turned out to be fairly straightforward because of the various job complexities, and it was really self-evident what level of attributes and qualifications were minimally required to be fitted into those appropriate Job Descriptions. Eventually all the jobs were given a grade number which would position the different salaries which would be applied to each individual job grade.
The aggravation started when our group moved onto the Job Ranking Programme process. It was at this point that Paul tried to force through that each person in each Job should be ranked according to their qualification. At which point I was in total disagreement with his approach and quickly injected that you cannot do that, as qualifications formed the major part of the Job Evaluation Grading and as such could not play a role in each individual Job Ranking. Job Ranking was a function of meritability and capability in doing the job, and as such academic or other qualifications played no part in that whatsoever. I repeated that qualifications played their part in the Job Grading Structure only. At that point I got full agreement from all the other team members, much to Paul's disgust. I had won the day, but Paul had marked my card as the future would prove on a few other occasions.
One of those occasions occurred during a salary increase time. This situation would have never arisen had it not been that Bill Oliver was at this time seconded into a temporary taskforce to help manage a major site project and acting Materials Manager was Bill Fulton. Previous to this, Bill Fulton had been a nice guy to work with, I had really only come in contact with him when he managed the Transformers section. That was a good few years earlier and he had moved into Printed Circuit Board Manufacture for a while and onto the Production Lines. He also had subsequent years reporting to Dr. Death and Paul, this resulted in him changing his personality quite a bit. He had changed and was now forever brown nosing their party lines. Bill Fulton was later to find out just how little value his kiss-up loyalty to them was really worth. He also got the chop (fired) and left the company an angry and disappointed man.
That aside, my head to head with both Paul Y and Bill Fulton at the same time, happened when one of my staff, who was due a salary increase, did not received it. I checked it out with the Personnel Department, only to find that it had not been submitted. I was livid, this was yet another example where the host division showed no interest in the IPO and failed in their responsibility to give us even the basic minimum support. As fate would have it, as I got back to my desk, both Paul and Bill Fulton were walking past my desk together. An opportunity to have words with them both at the same time, one that I wasn't going to pass up. I immediately questioned them right at my desk. It turned out that they had completely forgotten about all the folks in the IPO and to take account of the pay raises that were due for my staff. I accused them both of downright incompetency, and as our host division they had failed in their duty to support us by putting the needs of our IPO out of their minds.
This led to heated words in the open, which everyone in the near vicinity could hear quite clearly. It was obvious that both Paul and Fulton were really (expletived) that I had the audacity to challenge them about their incompetence, but they also knew full well they were in the wrong and that they had failed in their duty as host division managers to give the IPO this basic level of support. By the next morning they had fixed their problem and my staff got the pay increase they so richly deserved. I on the other hand had my card marked........ Again!
What I didn't realize at that time was that members of my team had witnessed every bit of my discussion with Messrs Paul and Fulton and many of them spoke to me afterwards about me defending their corner and for taking such a hard line with Managers of that level. It was obviously an action that helped strengthen the loyalty within the IPO and towards me. Site managers wondered how I could command so much loyalty from my team towards me, perhaps if they also looked after their team members the same way, they also would have had that same level of respect and loyalty.
There were yet two other occasions where I had major points of conflict with Paul. The first of those was based on the knock on effect of the Government installed pay freeze. The freeze had been employed nationwide as the Government struggled to deal with the country's financial economic disaster and part of their medicine was a total pay and price freeze. This had become law just prior to HP's salary increase period. The Managing Director at that time was Peter Carmichael, who was one of the better Divisional General Managers we had at South Queensferry, so much so he was made Joint Managing Director HP UK. Peter Carmichael had come up with an idea of getting around the Government Pay Restrictions.
Peter Carmichael implemented a scheme that at the end of the Government Inland Revenue Financial Tax Year, the company would move payment of employee salaries from being paid in arrears to being paid in advance. This in effect meant that all employees getting one month's pay a few days after getting paid at the end of the month, in effect 13 month's pay in 12 months, but on paper we were still getting only twelve pays in the new Government Inland Revenue Financial Tax Year, which was as good as an 8.33% pay rise! Peter Carmichael also said to the employees they would never have to pay that extra month's pay back to the company.
Being paid in advance ran on for years and years, but the finance and accounts department never liked it as the division was always out of line with all the others and HP's accounts practices. It caused them extra work and they always wanted it changed. They lobbied the General Manager and his Functional Managers and they wanted to have a form on file that stated that the employee would refund that month's salary which had been previously paid out. Of course Paul agreed with what Finance was proposing as it also meant getting people back to being paid in arrears.
Paul harassed everyone on site to sign a form stating that they would refund that salary amount as and when they departed the company. Eventually, there was only myself and a handful of others who had refused to sign this form. Almost a year later the Finance Department gave Paul a list of names of those who had not signed the form. This resulted in Paul bringing more pressure to bear, I still refused to sign the form. Eventually I got a call from him, commanding me to come to his office and sitting there in his little meeting room was Tony Summerfield. Tony Summerfield had by now replaced Bill Fulton, who had been sent out to pasture as he had exceeded his useful shelf life. Tony Summerfield, whom I got on very well with was also to meet the same fate as Bill Fulton, but Tony put up a much stronger resistance, so it took quite a while longer to push him out the door.
This time around Paul's little meeting room table, he himself tried to strong arm me into signing this form. It was quite noticeable that Tony Summerfield was extremely non-committal during the whole meeting. I think Tony Summerfield himself was in agreement with what I was arguing back with. Paul was trying all angles to get me to sign this form, each time I rebuffed them. He then said, "Peter Carmichael had no power or authority to give everyone that extra month's pay by moving everyone into payment in advance." At that point I said, "Peter Carmichael, when he made the decision to give people the extra month's pay by making them paid in advance, was not only the Divisional General Manager, but he was also the Joint UK HP Managing Director. He had no authority to do that at that time, why should I accept that you as a QMD General Manager, have the authority to push through this pay the salary back policy, a country MD out ranks a Divisional GM?"
Paul went silent! Then said, "If you do not sign the form I will make sure that you do not receive another pay rise." At that point I had to remind him, that I did not report into his organisation, and that I reported into Corporate in Palo Alto, and that it was my Corporate boss who exerted control of any salary increments that I would receive. Paul stormed out of the meeting room. Summerfield stood up, smiled and followed him out of the room. From then on Paul would often pass me in the corridor, but not once would he ever acknowledge me in the passing. He had lost again in a disagreement with me. I later spoke with my Corporate boss, and told him all about it, he shook his head in disbelief, and said, "John, sign the form, I'll make sure you do not have to pay any monies back. A month or so later I went into the Finance department and signed the form.
Paul Yhad to be a 'know all' on everything, he was well trained by Dr. Death! I will always remember a USA trip he went on, he was trying to park his car in San Francisco and having some difficulty, until he saw a parking place on the other side of the street, which he immediately drove into, like everything else he wouldn't look at everything around him and see the pattern, nope he parked the car and went off to do whatever he was planning on doing. On his return to his car he found a parking ticket stuck to his windscreen. When in the USA, you just don't park your car on the wrong side of the street, facing the wrong way, that only invites a parking ticket penalty. I laughed within myself. I may not have gone to the University of his choice, but the University of Life taught me to check out things and think when in a foreign land before just parking in a space that just so happened to be on the other side of the street. It just didn't dawn on him that all the other cars were parked and pointing in the same direction. I hope his fine was high!
The other major incident with Paulinvolved an employee in my team, Judy W. Judy was the problem child I thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that I could shape into being a great team player and away from her interpersonal problems she had with nearly all the people she came in contact with. She was an excellent engineer, one of the best that I had come across, but her one major failing was she had zero interpersonal relationship skills. She had joined my team awhile back after Bill Oliver and I had been discussing two problem people we both had. One was on my team, where the high workload rate was causing him distress and he had a drinking problem, which I could not afford to impact our global customers. Bill Oliver had this problem child in Judy, who was upsetting nearly everyone in his Materials Organisation. So we both agreed to do a people swap, a big mistake on my part! The dealings with Paulon this will come next.
Though this was to cause an upset within my team with one person, Irene Shirridan, I had to press on with making the changes as I had little room to do otherwise.
I was in the USA with Irene. We had been attending a meeting in the Little Falls Site near Philadelphia, and then we were to go up to Boston for meetings in Waltham, Andover and Exeter. It was whilst Irene and I, just after we had dinner, were chatting in the bar, about the work load having an impact on one of our team members. I mentioned that I had to do something and I had come to an agreement with Bill Oliver on doing a people swap. Irene was sharp enough to realize who I might be talking about and immediately said, it better not be Judy W, she is trouble, if you hire her, I will leave the IPO. I couldn't let Irene get away with that and said it was my decision, not hers to say who could and who could not join our IPO team. The end result was that Irene not only left the IPO, she left the company and joined Scottish Enterprise. In a way, I didn't realize it at the time, this was a blessing in disguise, as I had to advertise the position and eventually hired Jim Rooney. Jim had worked for me back in the old Tool Engineering days. Jim wanted a complete change of job, he was rotting away in QTD's Quality Assurance Department. He needed something more challenging, and that he got when he joined our IPO team. Jim was the ideal person that we needed to challenge our purchasing processes and procedures and to help develop a new computer system for the IPO's. He did an absolutely outstanding job in those areas.
I was naive and big headed enough to think I could harness Judy W's skills and mould her into being a key team player, which did happen for a couple of years. But Judy had this huge chip on her shoulder and was always impatient for things to happen for her. Everything had to happen immediately and for her benefit. Eventually enough was enough and there was a complete breakdown of trust between me and Judy. Other team members in our group were by now, all very wary of her and what they said to her about anything. I tried all sorts of approaches to try and get to the bottom of what was eating at her, I even got Personnel involved and we worked out and agreed in counseling on how things should move forward.
No sooner than we had walked out the meeting room door from Personnel and after agreeing how we would handle things, Judy would say, "Well that was a complete waste of time!" It became obvious to me that nothing was going to sort out what was wrong with her, even if we had agreed to everything she had said, it would still not have satisfied her one little bit.
It all came to a head whilst I was in Japan on a Marketing and Promotional business trip. I had previously set up for Judy to spend six months living and working in Grenoble to understand all the processes used in Grenoble Personal Computer manufacture, so that she could act on behalf of our IPO, support GPCD's engineering needs with the subcontractor near to us. This was an opportunity that Judy had previously leapt at. All expenses paid six months in the French Alps, but more on that later.
I found out that Judy was abusing her travel benefits of the job when visiting Grenoble, she would seek job interviews but not inform me of what she was doing. Had she been honest and upfront on what she wanted to do, I would not have had an issue with it and given her what support she needed. I had to try and contact her via voice mail whilst I was traveling throughout East Asia, trying to ask her what she was doing, but she was being devious and making sure she was not available to receive my calls.
Other members of my team were aware of what she was doing, and they were trying to protect my back. So they kept me fully aware of what Judy was up to. She would leave short messages on my voice mail and then she would pick up my phone to listen for the tone to see if I had picked up my messages. Meanwhile she was making sure she kept avoiding direct telephone contact with me. In the end I left her a voice mail stating that I was not happy with her behaviour and on my return to the office I would get Personnel involved in the matter.
All of this was happening at a time when QMD management-and there's no guesses why, you only have to look who was in charge at that time-had received extremely poor results from a recent People Management Survey. The management had come under severe criticism for their management style and lack of communication. Everyone on site knew those survey results. They were aimed at QMD management and not against the IPO. Someone like Judy knew exactly how to milk the situation and had gone directly to Paul to complain that I had threatened her, which I hadn't done.
On my first day back from the Asian trip I was summoned to an immediate meeting with Paul and Tony Summerfield. True to form and before I could even say a word, Paul's approach was arrogant and aggressive. The employee survey was very critical towards the QMD site management, so Paul was not prepared to listen to any facts or the story from the other side. He should have known by now, that his approach just would not wash with me, and I interjected and stopped him ranting on by making sure he heard the full facts of what was going on with Judy W.. And that I could back those words up with supportive evidence from my part and with supportive evidence from his own Personnel Department.
Paul was still not interested, he was more worried that another employee complaint, no matter how wrong, would impact his own personal record which would have a big reflection on his tenure. He even went on to say that he would get me fired if this matter went any further, he was adamant he was not going to have an employee dispute at any cost. I followed up with the fact that threats don't work on me, I'll just dig my heels in and blow the whole roof off on his management style. I ended with, if he doesn't want this to go any further, then I suggested that it might be a good idea for Judy to be moved from my IPO.
Within a week, Judy was moved to Marketing. She was now someone else's problem child and even there she managed to cause a migraine or two with the folks in that department. Not long after joining Marketing, Judy became pregnant to a guy in Marketing, they got married and a few years later separated, I wondered if even her lack of interpersonal skills let her down there also?
On the upside, I never had any more dealings with Paul. In later years after I had left the company, I heard he also got the chop and was heaved out the door. What goes around, comes around. I was so pleased to hear about Paul's downfall, probably I and a good few others I suspect.
On the bright side, none of those negative General Managers ever managed to dampen my spirits or my enthusiasm, or that of my IPO team and we just marched on and on to make our IPO even more successful.
In the latter years, our IPO was shipping and supporting materials with a dollar value much greater than our host division. By the time of my early retirement our IPO was responsible for $500 million of materials under our management control. Not at all bad for such a dedicated small group of seventeen people! Though in those latter years the host division resented more and more our successes. One result being that I believe that Bill Oliver deliberately went out of his way to make things difficult for us with SAD in Rohnert Park, which had also undergone management changes with my previous contacts no longer there. Being replaced by the SAD Materials Manager Mike O'Neill, who at one time was an ally. He eventually got in league with Bill Oliver, and between them stopped our IPO from supplying more parts, or for that matter even visiting SAD, trouble was they were even incompetent of taking control of what we were managing on their behalf.
This came was under the guise that the MCG could organize themselves into being their own IPO and supporting each other. Their pettiness was unbelievable. It wouldn't have been so bad if that had gone ahead with this MCG support model 100%, they would have had my 100% support as they were a big drain on our resources. The said resources we could well put to better use and work on many more higher dollar value parts, with Divisions who wanted our help and support. QMD Materials Department, which swamped us in sheer numbers, couldn't cope with the managing and shipping of the parts.
Their business by now had become a real pain as far as our IPO was concerned, and because of their attitude, I would have dumped them in a minute and left them to stew in their own juice and manage it all on their own. Unfortunately I had a new European IPO manager Wolfgang Zenger, who was useless when it came to hardball, he just didn't have the right stuff to kick them into touch. He would rather suck-up his way in management circles that might help him climb the ladder. It was at this juncture I realised I had zero faith in Zenger's capability and management style. His primary aim was not that of his team, but that of what's good for Wolfgang. More on him later as I gave him a few headaches over time.
Prior to me going fulltime IPO, I and my team had created and set up the whole subcontract supplier base from absolutely nothing. It was a task that had never been attempted before. Identifying potential suppliers was one thing, having them make parts to the exacting and demanding specifications of HP standards was another. I had the team together that knew how to make things and we had the reputation with the suppliers of a good supportive group to work with and those suppliers rose to that challenge, time and time again we would get preference over their other customers.
We had proven to the suppliers just how capable our IPO was. The SPC Supplier Seminar was a big feather in our cap, not just with the suppliers but also with Government Agencies like the IDA Irish Development Agency, as well as our HP customer divisions.
Finding the suppliers and teaching them to think HP and IPO was a big learning curve for both the suppliers and us. The suppliers also began to realize that "The HP Way" was also applying to them, a factor which proved crucial in the months and years ahead. At the beginning it was difficult for the suppliers to come to terms with our style, they always thought they were the whipping boy as far as their customers saw them and we came along and stated that we don't work that way. We wanted them to feel that they were part of HP and our IPO, an extension of my IPO team. Our aim was to create a business friendship and business partnership, where we would work together to satisfy the one and only customer, the customer that bought the HP product.
This approach worked really well and was well accepted, I could see the difference with the suppliers in how they worked with us, against how they were working with their other customers. The suppliers felt at complete ease and unhindered about calling me on any matter that was causing them concern. In fact I told them to call me when HP didn't keep to the plan. Funnily enough most of the suppliers' problems revolved around HP Finance and Accounts Payable, which I had to do battle with on more than one occasion.
Initially I wanted our Suppliers invoices paid in Thirty Days, with later a move to fifteen days for some suppliers who offered special concessions on their part, cost reductions or holding special levels of inventory for our benefit. Our suppliers loved it, a customer who paid quickly and promptly, it was a dream come true. It helped ease the supplier's cash flow no end. Our Finance and Accounts department hated it, they wanted us to stick with the industry standard of Ninety Days! I dug my heels in and persuaded both Jimmy Queen and Bill Oliver of the merits of this change. Both agreed and with Jimmy's support, it happened.
HP and the IPO as a customer of the suppliers, was now head and shoulders above our suppliers other customers. Not only were we paying them quickly, we were also in there helping them resolve any problems that they had in the manufacture of our parts. This open and friendly working relationship put us to the top of the suppliers customer pile. It gave us huge benefits, when we need that bit extra of unplanned support, the suppliers would bust a gut to achieve it for us. As we had no in-house manufacture, this was a very important benefit to us.
When I offered to the suppliers the benefit of expanding their business via the IPO with HP to the non UK parents divisions in the USA, they leapt at that opportunity, the IPO was offering a free marketing service and a global one at that, the suppliers' sales departments were only too happy to help.
As I said before this was going to be fraught with problems as we were taking work away from those divisions current USA suppliers, and a lot of HP folks themselves didn't like it much either and would pick faults or create road blocks at every opportunity. Many were quite adept at creating extremely complicated computer mathematical models, which seemed to have some cost multiplier for every minute detail, with further built in allowance for things that just 'might' happen. Boise had one of the biggest and most complicated processes that I had ever seen in a "Landed Cost Model." Lots of it was totally unrealistic, we eventually created one of our own that was fair and honest. One that we could use to counter the issue some divisions like Boise would throw up at us.
I'll never forget the hilarity around one supplier happening. There was nothing wrong with the parts, the supplier had just been a little bit over zealous and had not foreseen what the end result might have been. From a Scottish humour point of view, we thought it was side splitting! Spokane wanted their parts specially wrapped to prevent them from transit damage like scratches and to protect the component finish etc. Of particular importance were the sheet-metal parts as they could easily rub against each other when in transit. The supplier in this instance making those parts for Spokane was Livingston Precision Engineering (LPE).
LPE, would buy very good quality map paper, this paper came from a printing company, but the paper was of no use as it only had a scrap value due to the map paper having printer faults, in which case it would have just ended up being recycled at a low cost. The paper though was of excellent quality and toughness for the wrapping of sheet-metal work to protect it in transit. In fact Spokane were so impressed with the wrapping paper, they said to us not only were they getting the parts unscathed, but the educational knowledge of their incoming goods personnel on world geography had gone up a notch or two.
Then one day I got this urgent telephone call from my peer Bill Burdick in Spokane, who said, "Wastle what are you trying to do to me!" It turned out that the printer supplier of the paper who had supplied the original scrap map paper to LPE, had run out of this particular print, so they sent to LPE, another faulty printed scrap paper of equal quality. Problem was, this scrap paper was from girlie magazines! The packing guys in LPE, would think nothing of it, but when it arrived in Spokane In-coming Goods Department and the un-packers started to un-wrap all the parts, well they were sticking up pictures all over In-coming Goods Department of topless ladies. I heard afterwards there were a few of their garages at home also lined with these pictures!
The In-coming Goods Manager, gave Bill Burdick a call and said, "Bill you'd better get your butt down here real quick and see what those Scots guys are sending the parts wrapped up in, they've changed their process and are using a different wrapping paper."
Everyone had a great laugh about it, but we were sending parts to the USA wrapped in pictures of topless ladies, at a time when Political Correctness was running rampant across the USA!
However, we made lemonade out of our lemons when this happened, John Thomson in our IPO group came up with a brainwave in sorting out this problem. It was one that would make the suppliers look even more professional. Up to that point all our suppliers were using old scrap cardboard boxes to ship the parts abroad, they were old whisky boxes, cereal boxes, soap boxes, any old cardboard boxes that was the norm, and in fact QMO would receive parts from the USA suppliers in very similar boxes.
John Thomson changed all that. The suppliers believed that those scrap old cardboard boxes were the cheapest option. John Thomson got our own Packaging suppliers onboard, they were going to get more business making boxes for our suppliers, and our suppliers could promote themselves and their products and capabilities. It was a win-win for all, it even got our IPO even more on the map as the professionalism was showing through. It was amazing that something so simple, achieved so much.
In those early days, managing QMO Materials Engineering Department and our embryonic IPO, was really a Godsend for me, particularly as the IPO customers at that time were the divisions in MCG. They were using the exact same parts, plus I now had the contacts there for starting to source their other non QMO components. I pretty much had a captive customer base with which to work. As the IPO business grew, I quickly realized we needed to develop further "The Art of Marketing and Selling," especially if we were to target other divisions outside our comfort zone in MCG.
Being a Materials Engineer was never going to cut it. I and my IPO team had to learn a whole new set of skills. We needed to develop our Business skills in Marketing and Selling as well as not forgetting to get a greater understanding of People Psychology. I spent a lot of time reading books on it all. One of the great advantages of traveling back and forth to the USA, the airport shops in the USA are crammed full of business type books, so I would always stuff a few in my briefcase on expenses of course.
I set myself up as guinea pig and attended a lot more courses to suss out if they would be of use to us or not. There was no point in putting other team members through a course that may have proved completely useless to our needs. In the end it made sure that I and other key members in my IPO group attended the better in-house training programmes. Many were aimed primarily at Marketing, Selling, Effective Presentations, People Management, Situational Negotiation, Consultative Processes, Investment in Excellence, Negotiating Contracts, Effective Communications, Working in Groups, Basic Finance, Financial Tools for Decision Making and People Psychology and Body Language, to name a few. I even had set up a course that addressed appearance, what colours to wear and what not to wear, dress that accentuated your appearance when making presentations!
"But something was missing to help make it click. How could we break the ice?"
All those courses my team and I attended were a huge help, but we needed more, we needed to find a way that would help to "break the ice." The answer lay with what the UK is noted for... Humour. The Americans and other nationalities would often comment on the "British Sense of Humour." From then on I would use humour at every opportunity particularly during presentations and encouraged my team to do likewise. It worked, it could breakdown the most daunting presentation when met by a room full of skeptical strangers and would soon have their total attention.
Humour became an even bigger tool in our toolbox as our IPO started to grow, but to make it really grow into the big time, we needed to focus more of our attention on the other much larger Business Groups, the ones that swamped that of the Test & Measurement Organisation let alone the MCG structure. We needed to break into the Computer and Printer Groups. Humour played a key role in helping us to achieve that break through.
Every time I entered a meeting room I first would have a good look around the room to try and ascertain who was in attendance, looking to try and gain some input that might help me gauge just how to go about making my presentation, it was always useful to spend a few minutes beforehand with my host, there was always something he or she would say that you could use. In most cases when in the USA, you could always crack a bit of humour by exploiting that we were two nations divided by a common language.
On one visit to Roseville, I entered the conference room, there were close to forty people in attendance, each one of them a specialist in their own particular discipline. It was the first time I ever thought to myself, "Oh (expletive), all these specific experts, how am I going to work this?" By the end of the meeting, I needn't have worried, in fact it drove all future thoughts, nervousness and concerns I might have about giving presentations out of my mind.
I kicked off the meeting by introducing myself and said I would give them a presentation on our IPO and on what we have achieved so far. But before I did that, I asked the question, "What questions do you have before I start?" Out came the questions each of which was primarily aimed at their own particular field of interest, these I took note of on a Flip-Chart. I then said, "Let's see how many of these questions get answered and those left I'll deal with after the presentation." At that point someone said you spell words differently!
Here was a chance to break the ice before I even started my presentation. So with a smile on my face I started to inject some humour, when I replied with, "Ever since America gained independence, standards have been allowed to slip in certain areas, spelling being just one of them. Let me elaborate. It is said that we are two nations, divided by a common language, which is not surprising when you drop the letters U and E from words like epilogue and spell the word tyre with an I, Tire spelled with an I clearly changes the word as it relates to how one can feel. Even the correct pronunciation has been let slip, for instance the word Schedule is not pronounced as schedule. But this slipping of standards also goes into other areas, for instance, the use of silverware when you are dinning, I do admit, it does take a certain amount of skill to eat your food with the fork permanently in your left hand and the knife in your right hand, but if you keep up the practice, you will manage it, even to the level that allows you to eat the peas on your plate.
One of the added benefits of you not having to continually swap hands with that fork and put the knife down, you get to eat your food whilst it is still hot." There were a few hoots of laughter around the room at that point. I then went on to say, "There is another area where we have a difference, holidays as we call them, vacations as you prefer to call them, but even on that you have managed to get the dates all a bit mixed up. For instance, let me give you another example. Thanksgiving Day in the UK is held on the Fourth of July." There was a second or two silence, then when the penny dropped, there were roars of laughter and applause.
As I turned to get started on my presentation, I said, "So don't just look upon me as a European IPO Manager, but also as a Missionary who has come here to try and help you find your way." The presentation was well accepted, although there were still those who had a fear of off-shore sourcing, and even with all those specialists in their field, I think they were a little surprised I could answer whatever questions they had.
Walt Winchenbach who was Materials Manager in Waltham Division in Massachusetts asked me on a trip I had planned if I would give an IPO presentation to his Materials staff? Walt said they were really wary of sourcing parts outside their local suppliers and as such he met internal resistance from time to time. No problem I could do that.
Waltham was part of the Medical Group which had a manufacturing facility in Boeblingen, similar to what QMD was doing in South Queensferry. The German IPO under Karl Heinz Hartmann would be supporting Waltham in a big way, and I wanted to make sure that Waltham felt comfortable with the European suppliers and the support from the IPO.
I turned up in Boston and made my way to the Division, but I had thought ahead as to what Walt had said about his Procurement team. So I walked into the meeting room sporting a wide kipper tie in the form of the 'Stars and Stripes.' Walt immediately noticed it, as did everyone else in the meeting room, Walt said, "That's some tie John!" To which I replied, "This is my sucking up big time tie." Laughter spread throughout the meeting room. The ice was broken and the Materials group were more accepting of the presentation.
It always pays to try and gauge your audience. On one occasion I wasn't convinced the humour might help in getting the presentation underway. I was in Singapore visiting APDO, Asian Pacific Distribution Organisation, they were a big customer of ours and a good supporter of our IPO. Bok Swee Tay, APDO Materials Manager asked me on my visit to give his staff an overview of the European IPO, you only had to ask me once to promote and market our services.
I entered the meeting room, and the first thing I noticed, 98% of Bok Swee Tan's staff were all young girls. Unlike the USA, some of the humour wouldn't work. So I tried a different approach to get them on my side. In my overhead slide presentation package I had made an overhead of my two dogs at home, Molly and Fergus, they were Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, they were always an attraction to people because they looked so cute.
I could use this overhead I thought to myself, so as I pretended to set up the overhead projector, I put up this overhead slide of my two dogs and adjusted the picture on the screen. Ooo's and Aahh's came from all those young ladies. They all immediately wanted to ask me about my dogs, what their names were and then tell me about theirs and that they all met on a Sunday to walk their dogs in a local park. The ice was broken and the presentation was well accepted.
Bok Swee Tay said to me later, "That was a clever move John to get my ladies to pay attention, and I didn't know they all walked their dogs on a Sunday."
After that, whenever I had to do a presentation on one of my visits to Singapore, I had to give an update on how my dogs were doing!
The IPO's were funded out of Corporate, but that was about to suddenly change! All the HP Divisions around the world were complaining and balking at the Corporate HPP cost structure. The divisions were having to tighten their belts and were looking for ways to cut out excessive costs. Corporate Procurement seemed an ideal place to start a cost cutting exercise.
HPP now had to defend their corner and in an effort to do that, they could see that if they could divert some of the attention on themselves, it might take the heat out of the situation. HPP decided to cut the IPO's loose. Their argument being, and which was sold to the Divisions, not every division was using the IPO's, so why should they have to pay to keep them going if they were not using them. But, a lot of divisions were using the IPO's and saw the value in them, but they also had to agree that some other funding method was needed.
This gave HPP the opportunity to appear as if they were addressing the Divisions concerns about reducing the costs. HPP decided that the IPO's had to be self-funded and that it had to be achieved within 18 months. HPP applied a mark-up to those divisions who used the IPO's of 2.5%. The Divisions failed to see that HPP were still going to charge the Divisions their costs. Only the IPO cost would disappear, but not if they were using the IPO's. This was a smart move on HPP's part, however over time though, the divisions would start to twig (catch on) and add more pressure to reduce the HPP overhead costs and put a stop to the ongoing mushrooming of HPP. The divisions felt that they could do themselves what HPP was doing. If only we could do similar in the external Public Sector!
This was going to be a big challenge to our IPO, we had lots of customers, but the shipment dollars were small and with that 2.5% mark-up, we'd really struggle to make ends meet. However, we made it, by the skin of our teeth and without making any cut backs that would have affected our ability to support our customers. In fact every year after that we were in a surplus in our mark-up earnings. That allowed us to do even more. With the extra surplus that we didn't use, going into HP UK HQ. That also gained us a few brownie points with Paul Valler in Bracknell. I was glad it was going there rather than into our host division coffers! Even HPP wanted to get their hands on the IPO revenue, but they couldn't. I'm glad after the way they cast the IPO's adrift, it did add more envy on HPP's part as the IPO's could afford to travel at will in support of their customers.
On the IPO mark-up, divisions started to become more aware that when they totaled up what they were paying the IPO, they could probably do the task themselves. In the end we had to limit the cost of the mark-up to a ceiling of $100,000, which satisfied the divisions. The only people who actually knew just how much the divisions were paying in mark-up was us, the IPO's, the divisions didn't have the processes to monitor it. This suited us fine, although we would cap the support cost at $100,000, that was for each component, in many cases, because of complexity and different components and commodities, we could collect much more than $100,000 from some divisions.
In what I had initially thought was HPP doing the dirty on the IPO's it turned out they did us a huge favour, we were proving our value to the HP Divisions, so much of the heat was off us. Corporate Procurement on the other hand were still in the same boat and having to justify their existence.
Though we had to become a bit more hardnosed and played a few rounds of hardball with some divisions and even Corporate Procurement who suddenly had to wake up and find areas where they could justify their support and that meant they were about to try and steal some of our IPO lunch. I took great satisfaction and a bit of self-pride at taking on Corporate Procurement, with the sound backing of my Corporate IPO boss Dick Locke.
One of those areas was Power Cords, HPP wanted a share of our income from Power Cord support, they stated it was a HPP Commodity. It may well have been at one time, but they had done nothing in any way to support it, unlike what we had achieved in our IPO, so I was determined they would not get a cent from our revenue.
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