On Mar. 10, the Student Community Center boardroom was fully packed and attendees were excited to hear from the former CEO of Goodrich Aerospace, Marshall Larsen, in the first International Business Conference of Saint Leo University. Former Second Lieutenant at West Point Military Academy and the first “boss” of Saint Leo’s president, Dr. Lennox who was First Lieutenant at the same time, had tremendous success in business.
Larsen graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1970 at West Point Military Academy and graduated with a business master degree from Purdue University, Indiana in 1977. He had served as the CEO, President, and Chairman of the Board of Goodrich Corporation from 2003 until its acquisition by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in 2012. He had worked with Goodrich for 35 years and now he is on the Board of Directors at UTC.
Since he started in the mid-1980s, he occupied many different positions in the Goodrich Aerospace business from Director of Planning and Analysis, Director of Product Marketing, Assistant to the President, and General Manager. In 1994, he was promoted to Vice President of Goodrich and Group Vice President of Goodrich Aerospace and a year later he was Executive Vice President, President and Chief Operating Officer of the aerospace division.
Larsen went through a big change in the business from an oil company with a lot of negative aspects to acquiring many segments in the aerospace business and ultimately changing the face of the company’s primary sector of business. The aerospace business includes supplies of aerospace products as well as defense products. Goodrich was involved in commercial, regional, business, and military products. For example, helicopters, aero planes, and aerospace products for space programs in the United States and the World. The reason of the change was because of the higher margins between revenues and costs in Aerospatiale.
Over the time he was with Goodrich, they made 40 acquisitions for over 8 billion dollars and they sold for over 4 billion dollars. Indeed, with all these acquisitions, Goodrich had to deal the multiple of cultures. In other words, the different values and missions between all the bought companies meant there was no unifying theme within the organization.
He emphasized that they needed to define the culture of the organization otherwise the company would have let time pass and the culture would have been defined by itself. As a result, the culture of the organization might not have been the one wanted by the Board of directors, the shareholders and the managers. Within all the consolidated companies, the culture needed to be established and it was a priority. A leadership culture was installed and he said at the start of the presentation “It’s all about leadership.” A few key leadership points were said about Goodrich that made the company successful: an ethical behavior by feeling free to do the right things, customer-founded improvements, an accountability and teamwork mentality, and an openness and inclusion approach.
Larsen believes that people by nature have the value of integrity, want to work hard toward their objectives to which they are committed, assume their
responsibilities, have a desire to achieve, are not passive and submissive and ultimately want their organization to succeed. This belief in the human qualities dictates a mutual respect within the organization, identifies and eliminates negatives, promotes learning and development, fosters a two-way communication from employees to managers, and engages the employees to participate fully in their work.
In fact, Larsen cared deeply about his employees and believed in them. For example, before establishing a common culture within all companies at Goodrich, employees had six sick days per year.
“What if they were sick seven days?” asked Larsen to the audience.
The company changed that rule and believed in the honesty of their employees.
“When you’re sick, you’re sick, comeback and get better,” said Larsen.
This trust showed significant results since employees were missing fewer days due to sickness and were more committed to their organization. Moreover, it gives a competitive advantage in the industry because the culture was established precisely and made everyone work for the same goal.
“Go do what you want to do! If you fail, you got time on your side,” said Larsen as advice for the students in the auditorium.
He suggested to the students to go out there and do what they want to do now when they graduate. According to Larsen, in order to become a successful entrepreneur and start a good small business, you must have the right business and the right product or service. To grow, he warned the students on the challenges ahead concerning contingencies, cash flow and the immediate effect of the product.
At the end of the presentation, one student asked Larsen about his political affiliation for this year’s election. Larsen does not know who will he vote for yet, but did not seem to be a fan of the current democrat president.
“What about Donald Trump?” Someone asked in the audience.
Larsen believes he has no clear policies or any ideas of where he stands. Then again, he has not made up his mind.