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托马斯库集团CEO:失败让我无所畏惧

Colleen Leahey 2013年07月03日

她11岁时,父亲被诊断出脑瘤,到了她14岁那年,父亲去世。正是这段经历养成了她无所畏惧的强大心灵。她说,职业生涯最坏的结果不过是失败,而这跟生死比起来简直不值一提。凭着这股大无畏的勇气,她成功地扭转了托马斯-库克集团濒临破产的命运。她是财富最具影响力商界女性哈莉特•格林。

    在伦敦的克莱里奇酒店(Claridge's Hotel),哈莉特•格林喝了一小口咖啡。再有一个小时,她就要在《财富》最具影响力商界女性(Fortune Most Powerful Women)大会上发言。她一身黑色装扮,戴一条豹纹纱巾,脚踩高跟鞋——给昏暗的地图资料室增添了一抹色彩。格林对此似乎非常在行。去年七月,她开始担任托马斯-库克集团(Thomas Cook)CEO,之后,她给这家陷入困境的英国旅行社注入了活力,将它从破产的边缘拯救回来。

    投资者最初对她持怀疑态度,但现在,他们似乎非常信任格林为这家有着171年历史的公司所提出的愿景。公司股票在去年夏天跌至0.14英镑,公司宣布由她担任公司CEO之后,公司股票一度下跌得更加猛烈(她是旅游行业的门外汉)。之后,她专注于关键决策,如裁员和招聘,聘请麦肯锡(McKinsey)作为公司的管理顾问,推动托马斯-库克的新战略,以实现可盈利的增长,同时把这个战略推向资本市场,以便进行再融资(公司在五月份获得16亿美元投资),借此逐渐赢得了股东们的信任。现在,格林在这家公司已经任职336天,公司的股票已经超过了1.2英镑。

    “我接到了其他公司CEO和媒体打来的无数个电话,问我:‘你在干什么?你为什么要这么做?’”格林回忆道,还提到了当时加入托马斯-库克明显面临巨大风险。但这家公司凭借稳定的毛利率、规模和品牌打动了她,于是她直接找到了公司董事长。“这是一家非常优秀的公司,只是资产负债表非常糟糕。”她对旅游业一窍不通,但她成功让弗兰克•梅思曼相信,在电子元器件经销商派睿电子(Premier Farnell)担任CEO期间,她积累了改革经验,使她足以胜任托马斯-库克集团的CEO职位。在派睿电子任职期间,她将公司基本不存在的网络业务从12%发展到了超过55%。

    这并不是格林第一次主动接受一个让自己感到不舒服的职位。她的职业生涯有很长一段时间是在艾睿电子公司(Arrow Electronics)度过的。上世纪八十年代初到九十年代中期间,公司共收购了超过70家公司。她经常接受一些“金牛们”(golden bulls)不感兴趣的事情,所谓“金牛”就是指“那些希望做常规工作的非常有才的人,”她解释道。而且当时艾睿电子的CEO史蒂夫•考夫曼要求她尽自己最大的努力。格林解释道:“我倾向于选择自己所喜欢的人或状况,而不是:‘这对我的职业发展会有好处吗?’”在艾睿电子期间,她在欧洲完成了超过20笔收购,然后又在撒哈拉以南的非洲并购了四家公司,成立了一家庞大的合资企业,还作为公司亚太地区销售总监在中国生活过(虽然她不会说汉语,但最终还是成了整个部门的总裁)。

    格林喜欢冒险的动力来自曾经的失败。她表示,她更习惯不可预知的事情,还说自己的无所畏惧源自父亲的离世;她11岁时,父亲被诊断出患有脑瘤,到了她14岁的时候,父亲去世。她说:“当你还是个孩子的时候,你的家人却被癌症左右。最糟糕的事情都已经发生过了。”她说,创伤恢复让她学会了要始终专注积极的一面。“(在我的职业生涯中)最糟糕的后果是什么?我失败了。但那能跟淋巴瘤或者白血病相提并论吗?当然不能。”

    At London's Claridge's Hotel, Harriet Green sips on a cup of tea. She'll be on stage in an hour to speak at a Fortune Most Powerful Women event. Her outfit -- all black, complemented by a leopard scarf and matching heels -- injects some flavor into the dark-hued Map Room. Green seems to have a talent for that. Since becoming CEO of Thomas Cook last July, she's spiced up the struggling British travel brand and saved it from collapse.

    Though initially skeptical, investors now seem to trust Green's vision for the 171-year-old company. The stock, which hit an abysmal £0.14 last summer, dipped even lower upon her announcement as CEO of the company (she has no experience in travel). Since then, she's won over shareholders by focusing on key decisions like firing and hiring, bringing in McKinsey as a management consultant, driving Thomas Cook's new strategy to trigger profitable growth, and launching that strategy to the capital markets to refinance the business (it raised £1.6 billion in May). Green's now been at the company for 336 days, and the stock's up to over £1.2.

    "I had tens and tens and tens of calls from other CEOs, from the press, saying, 'What are you doing? Why would you do this?'" Green recalls, citing the obvious risk in joining Thomas Cook. But the company intrigued her – its solid gross margins, scale, and brand – and she reached out to the chairman directly. "It was a really good business with a terrible balance sheet." She knew nothing about travel, but convinced Frank Meysman that her transformation expertise as CEO of electrical component distributor Premier Farnell, where she grew its virtually nonexistent web business from 12% to over 55%, primed her for Thomas Cook's top job.

    This isn't the first time Green's willingly jumped into an uncomfortable position. She spent the bulk of her career at Arrow Electronics (ARW), which acquired over 70 companies between the early-eighties and the mid-nineties. She often took on the jobs that didn't interest the golden bulls – "the group of very talented guys who want to do the conventional thing," she says – and then-CEO Stephen Kaufman pushed her to stretch herself. "I tend to pick the people or the situation that I want to work for, rather than, 'Is this going to be good for my career?'" Green explains. While at Arrow, she brought together over 20 acquisitions across Europe, moved to sub-Saharan Africa to merge four companies as part of a complex joint venture, and lived in China as the sales director of the company's Asia Pacific business (though she doesn't speak Mandarin, Green eventually became president of the whole division).

    Green's attraction to risk is fueled by loss. She says she's more comfortable with unpredictability than most and claims her fearlessness stems from her father's death; he was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 11 and he passed away when she was 14. "When you're a child and your family's quite dominated by cancer, the worst that could happen has kind of happened," she says, adding that grief counseling taught her to always focus on the positive. "What's the worst that could happen [in my career]? I fail. But is that lymphoma or leukemia? No."

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