This Week in Imaging: There’s No “I” in CEO Either, or Why HP Inc. Continues to be a Good Bet

Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

The expression has probably become a cliché at this point, but there’s still truth in the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM.” But we can also say there’s no “I” in CEO either, and that’s probably one important part of HP Inc.’s continuing success, as evidenced by HP Inc.’s revenue-growth chart below.

HP Inc. Revenue Growth:

HP split into two companies in 2015, HP Enterprise, devoted to enterprise services and software, and HP Inc., devoted to PCs and printing. At the time, many analysts assumed HP Enterprise would outperform HP Inc. But HP Inc. has more than held its own. As of this writing, HP Inc.’s share price is  $23.81  and HP Enterprise’s share price is $19.17.

Without a doubt, HP Inc.’s success is due first and foremost to its rank-and-file employees – from R&D, marketing, and sales, and everything and everyone in between. But credit is also due to its management team, CEO Dion Weisler and CFO Cathie Lesjack, and others. Neither Weisler or Lesjack are the “rock star” self-promoters that HP has suffered with in the past, and both have extensive experience within the industry: Lesjack has been with HP since 1986 (that’s over 30 years), and Weisler was recruited from within the ranks at HP – he began at HP as senior vice president and managing director, for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems group in Asia-Pacific and Japan. Similarly, Enrique Lores, who is president of HP Inc.’s Imaging & Printing business, has been with HP for 26 years.

Stephen Nigro, who is president of HP Inc.’s 3D-printing business, helped bring HP’s first inkjet printer to market, and has over 30 years of experience in the printer industry.

But the leadership at HP’s printing and PC business hasn’t always been so pretty, beginning with the reign of Carly Fiorina, who previously worked outside the industry at AT&T, and whose reign at HP is often described as “disastrous. Fiorina presided over the largest lay-off at HP and the acquisition of Compaq, neither of which did much for HP (Fiorina would later claim that she doubled HP’s revenues, but that takes into account Compaq revenues; she also claimed she propelled HP into leadership in the printer market, but HP was already the leader in the printer market).  Her departure from HP was greeted with fanfare by HP employees.

In 2005, Fiorina was succeeded by Mark Hurd, who hailed from outside the industry from NCR, which at the time was focusing on computing solutions for the retail and financial industries. Hurd also engineered layoffs, and following allegations that he had violated HP’s code of business conduct involving an HP subcontractor, resigned in the wake of HP board findings that he had they found that Hurd had submitted inaccurate expense reports.

HP’s board then went to a software company, SAP, hiring Léo Apotheker, but who was then fired in 2011. HP’s board continued to go outside of not only HP but the industry, hiring Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay (interestingly, both Fiorina and Whitman, ran for, but failed to win public office). Whitman brought some stability to HP, and presided over its successful split into two companies, at which point Weisler was appointed CEO of HP Inc.

There’s a lot of lessons to be learned here. Probably the first is that CEOs and the C-suite aren’t gods, and the only rock stars are rock stars. Being a leader requires industry experiences, skill sets, and not letting power get to your head. With its current C-suite, HP’s board seems to have learned its lessons, and the proof is in the pudding – in other words, growing revenues and earnings, and an excellent first quarter to start the year.

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