Manual The Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing Americas Most Troubled Companies

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Customers depended on Moore Mill delivering on time, and he was determined that they be satisfied. But while he was the boss, my grandfather was never a bully. Mutual respect governed his relationship with everyone at the mill, and I could see and feel in everything he did both his affection for the place and his sense of responsibility. He took all of it—the company, the workforce, Bandon—personally. My grandfather lived at the mill and worked every long day that it was open because he understood what it meant to real people. He had a feeling for the way that industries created opportunities for individuals.

After all, he had been born into the working class. He had risen from the rough-and-tumble logging camps of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest to mill manager and then finally—at the ripe old age of sixty-five—a mill owner, all without a high school diploma. Grampa also knew how this operation, a simple lumber company, contributed to the well-being of the local community and a growing America. He had come to Bandon to run its biggest industry in the days following a great fire that had destroyed the entire city. In the postwar years, the studs that steamed away in ships named the Alvarado and the Oliver Olson among others were used to build the suburbs of Los Angeles, San Diego, and many other cities.

And I was lucky that when I returned to my mother and father in the not-so-big city of Portland, the virtues I had learned in Bandon were reinforced every day. Although he had joined the professional class, becoming a prominent lawyer, my father, Robert S. Miller, worked harder than anyone I have ever known, often donning his suit and tie and heading to the office on holidays and weekends, and even Christmas mornings.

As principal outside legal counsel, Dad was a key figure in transforming Georgia-Pacific Corporation from a small Southern plywood company into a huge global forest products conglomerate. He set the standards for ethics, character, and achievement that I would try to match in my own career. He was right. I would forever be grateful for what I learned at Stanford Business School, which I attended after getting a law degree at Harvard.

But still, the important stuff about human character, values, and leadership I learned in Oregon. This education began with childhood observations, continued when I was given some work to do as an adolescent, and truly took hold when I was a young man. It was then that my father and Grampa sent me into the forest to labor as a real lumberjack. I did most of the jobs that were part of harvesting giant fir trees, including the dangerous work of breaking up logjams in local rivers.

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I wound up in the water almost every time I cleared a jam. But I loved the satisfying feeling that comes with giving your all, to the point of exhaustion, and then getting up to do it again the next day. Besides offering me the chance to experience hard, satisfying work, my grandfather also introduced me to the world beyond Oregon. Everything I saw, from the stadium to the skyscrapers, opened my eyes to the possibilities in life.

But nothing excited me more than the sight of Moore Mill lumber piled at the docks in Brooklyn. Here, thousands of miles from home, was evidence that what happened in Bandon mattered. Four years later, another trip east gave me further inspiration. Somewhere between the famous bean soup and dessert, Senator Morse looked me in the eye and told me I should make sure to serve others, and the greater good, when I grew up.

The message stuck. ONE OF THESE challenges was very public because it involved my efforts on behalf of the huge Delphi Corporation, an auto parts and electronics supplier that had become an industrial basket case and was widely viewed as a bellwether for the entire U. Delphi had all the problems that afflict old-line heavy industries in America. They had been negotiated under conditions that had changed, and included retiree obligations that proved unsustainable.

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On top of this, many of the goods it made could now be manufactured much more cheaply abroad. I had initially thought to refuse the job and remain in my comfortable retirement in central Oregon. But when I asked the recruiter why I should even consider undertaking such a stressful, arduous task, he simply replied, Because your country needs you. It was the only thing he could have said that would have motivated me to accept. I take a less serious view, telling people they can find me in the yellow pages under Flaming Disasters.

Included in my concerns about the future of this Fortune company were all the communities where it operated and the larger American economy, which would benefit if we could preserve at least some of the best parts of an important old-line industry. Equally important, a disastrous outcome for Delphi could take down General Motors and much of Detroit with it. No matter what, the treatment for what ailed Delphi was going to hurt. Big cuts in jobs and manufacturing plants would be unavoidable.

But like many physicians faced with a desperate patient who waited too long to seek treatment, I would feel the pressure, hear the second-guessing, and receive much of the blame. They attacked me with pickets, Internet blasts, and broadsides in the press.

I also received an e-mail message from a Delphi worker, who obviously agreed with Dobbs as he insisted that my own family must be ashamed of me. I could handle the attacks. I also knew from experience, beginning in Bandon, how people and communities do struggle but eventually recover when industries leave. Opportunity breeds new companies, which grow and provide jobs and, eventually, a stronger, more diversified local economy. This had happened in Bandon when the Moore Mill reached the end of its useful life and closed. It could happen wherever Delphi might shut down factories.

I empathized with workers and their families, but I also knew the process was inevitable, and I had confidence that things would work out all right in the end. Struggle is part of the equation, but whether it requires reeducation, reinvention, or relocating, Americans tend to find their way to a better life, and I was sure the people of Delphi, union and nonunion, could do it, too. In fact, it was the smaller of the two crises I faced that summer.

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The much bigger challenge of this season, perhaps the biggest in my life, had come when my wife, Margaret Maggie Kyger Miller, developed inoperable brain cancer. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join.

Save For Later. Create a List. Summary For the past thirty years, Steve Miller has done the messy, unpleasant work of salvaging America's lost companies with such success that the Wall Street Journal has dubbed him "U. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.

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The Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies by Steve Miller

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    Account Options Sign in. Top charts. New arrivals. Switch to the audiobook. For the past thirty years, Steve Miller has done the messy, unpleasant work of salvaging America's lost companies with such success that the Wall Street Journal has dubbed him "U. Industry's Mr.