Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The CEO Test and an Interview with Greg Brenneman, CCMP Capital

A NYTimes interview with the turnaround expert that was pivotal to turning Continental Airlines around. Some great stuff in there. So what's the CEO test?

I’ll start asking questions. What really drives this business? If I told you I’d love to see earnings up 20 percent, what would be the levers we could pull to do that? Right now, it’s actually a different question, which is, how is your revenue forecast coming out? And then you just listen.

Some C.E.O.’s will say, ‘I’m gonna do one, two, three, four, five.’ And you sit there and listen and you say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. I got it.’ But then you have some that look at you like you came from Mars — and I worry about those guys. Or you have some that will just filibuster you for 30 minutes with stuff you just don’t understand — this buzzword, that buzzword. I worry about those guys even more than the guys that just give you a blank stare.

The second thing I look for is if I were to get on an airplane with this guy or gal, would I want to fly across the Atlantic with them? Are they nice people to be with? Do you want to be with them? Because I find that people that don’t relate well to anybody, from owners or board members to peers to direct reports to folks that actually work for a living in the trenches, they don’t succeed very well. You can usually tell that by asking, “What do you enjoy doing? What do you do as a hobby?” And ask a few questions to the people that work around them, and you get a pretty good sense pretty quickly.
(Read the whole thing. For a username/password: BugMeNot has a few.)

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