Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Profile / Thomas McDermott:
Drawing Goulds Pumps’ new blueprint

Thomas McDermott:
Drawing Goulds Pumps’ new blueprint

Sitting in the sparsely furnished conference room of Goulds Pumps Inc.’s new Fairport headquarters, Thomas McDermott scans the bare walls as if hoping to find on them the mot juste he seeks. The question–precisely what he will do differently than his predecessor did–is not easy to answer, he says.
Finally, he answers: not all that much.
The difference between his plan and Stephen Ardia’s lies not in the substance, McDermott says, but in the execution.
He considers the word, decides he likes it and says it again: “It’s in the execution.”
Eight months have passed since McDermott replaced Ardia, a 26-year Goulds Pumps veteran who had led the firm since 1985.
A former president and chief operating officer of Bausch & Lomb Inc., McDermott, 58, quit an early retirement to take the job. Becoming CEO of a major firm, he says, was an opportunity he could not pass up.
And then there was the challenge Goulds Pumps presented.
The firm, a 147-year-old maker of industrial and consumer pumps, in recent years has been a lackluster performer. Sales have hovered around $555 million, while net earnings fell from $31.3 million in 1991 to $21.8 million in 1992 before regaining ground–to $26.6 million–last year.
For much of his tenure, Ardia won accolades as a model, progressive CEO.
He took over at a time when Goulds Pumps’ sales and profits were sagging and the company was beset with labor ills. He instituted participatory management and total quality management programs, and brought sales and earnings to respectable levels.
As the firm’s earnings drifted down, however, Ardia’s star began to fade.
Other difficulties arose. The company had environmental problems with a consumer pump in California last year. It remains under state scrutiny on the matter and got hit with a shareholder suit, claiming that Ardia hid the problems to keep stock prices from falling.
In June, Ardia stepped down.
McDermott, a Goulds Pumps director since 1988, declines to speak of dissatisfaction the board may have had with Ardia. But he acknowledges his fellow directors tapped him to deliver more and to deliver it faster.
Still, he is making haste slowly, promising no quick fixes.
McDermott expects 1995 to be an “interesting” year, but not one of spectacular gains. Yet he adds: “I can’t take too long. I’ve got to find the middle ground.”
George Fisher, who became Eastman Kodak Co. CEO not long before McDermott took over at Goulds Pumps, has proceeded to shake his company from stem to stern. By contrast, McDermott is a preservationist.
“It’s not my style to make wholesale changes, and we’ve got a pretty good team,” McDermott says. Indeed, Ardia’s managers remain virtually untouched.
Under McDermott, Goulds Pumps is guided by a five-point plan: cut costs; increase inventory turns and otherwise use assets better; expand the firm’s global business; boost growth by acquiring related businesses and by expanding market share; and change corporate culture.
The program sounds sweeping. It also sounds much like Ardia’s agenda.
McDermott acknowledges the resemblance. In fact, it is deliberate.
“A lot of people might look at what I’m doing and say: “What the hell’s the difference?”’ McDermott says.
“When I knew I would be taking this job, I sat down and drew up a strategic plan. A lot of it was stuff we were already doing, so why not just do it better?”
Change is part of the equation, though.
Since McDermott took over, the firm has acquired an Austrian pump company and sold its 50 percent interest in Oil Dynamics Inc., a Tulsa outfit that makes pumps for oil rigs.
“Not really the same business as Goulds,” McDermott explains.
Such moves, he says, are first steps in the company’s drive to build global market share and to refocus domestic business.
One of McDermott’s first acts as CEO was to announce that Goulds Pumps would separate corporate from operations and move its headquarters from Seneca Falls to the Rochester area.
McDermott thinks the separation will spur changes in Goulds Pumps’ corporate culture. Managers were too close to operations; now, they will be able to better concentrate on honing the firm’s strategic edge.
To help them, McDermott is taking a page from his own book as a Bausch & Lomb executive, picking an area of corporate management on which to focus for a given period–for instance, return on net assets–and putting it under a microscope, demanding improvement.
“After you finish one, you go on to the next one but you keep looking at the ones you’ve done before,” he says.
At Bausch & Lomb, McDermott called such exercises “blueprints for success.” It was a simple but amazingly effective technique, says Daniel Gill, his friend and former boss.
Gill, president, chairman and CEO of Bausch & Lomb, still speaks with regret of McDermott’s 1993 departure from the firm.
The two men met when they started at Bausch & Lomb in the same month in 1978, McDermott as vice president of human resources and Gill as group vice president.
Gill says McDermott grew frustrated when he saw himself as stuck in a human resources ghetto from which he was unlikely to move into operational management.
McDermott says he left Bausch & Lomb in 1980 to become vice president of human resources at General Cinema Corp. in Brookline, Mass., because he thought the door to other opportunities there was open.
The job did not work out as expected. When Gill became Bausch & Lomb president and CEO in 1981, he started to woo McDermott back.
McDermott returned as senior vice president of human resources in 1981. Gill made him a group vice president in 1983, giving him the task of shedding Bausch & Lomb’s instrument businesses, then moved him through a series of jobs until making him president and COO in 1986.
“Tom is just so focused on the fundamentals,” Gill says. “When he’s focused on a goal, he gets it done.”
For his part, McDermott remains grateful to Gill for giving him the chance to prove his mettle.
“The instrument divisions was the first time I felt like I really achieved something,” he recalls. “I was 46 years old and I did it because Dan Gill took the risk.”
Despite the two friends’ mutual admiration, Gill says he always knew McDermott’s time at Bausch & Lomb was limited.
McDermott says Gill knew he planned to retire at 55 “to try something else.” Gill’s reading is the company was not big enough for both of them.
“He and I always had that one issue,” Gill notes. “Our birthdays are one day apart. Tom wanted to be CEO and he knew there wasn’t a chance of succession here.
“The amazing thing is that we got along so well. He is a strong personality and people say I’m not weak, either, but we always talked openly about it.”
After leaving Bausch & Lomb, McDermott played golf for six months and then started a one-man headhunting firm, intending to specialize in minority recruitment for major corporations. The venture evolved into a general business consulting firm whose clients mostly were other consultants.
When the Goulds Pumps job came up, McDermott says, “I jumped at it.”
Gill describes his friend’s executive genius as a sort of conventional non- conformity, that of a man who marches to the beat of his own drummer yet always stays in step.
McDermott grew up in a middle-class, Boston-area family, graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1958, and then joined the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant.
The week he joined the Army, McDermott married his wife, Gloria, whom he had dated since high school.
McDermott spent three years in the service, first in the infantry but eventually in the military police.
His sights were set on becoming a career officer. But within a year of joining the military, the first of four sons–they now range in age from 36 to 24–came along, and McDermott rethought his career.
“I was sitting around with some guys at Fort Benning, Ga., and it was Christmas and everybody was talking about holidays they’d spent away from their families and I realized: “This is no way to raise a family.”’
As a child, McDermott had two ambitions. The first was to play for the Boston Red Sox. The second–a dream fostered by hours of listening to the old radio show, “G Men”–was to be an FBI agent.
So when McDermott mustered out of the Army in 1962, he joined the bureau.
Government service proved to be another false start. This was the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover in his long twilight, an agency far different from the corps of fictional lean-jawed crime fighters that enthralled a young McDermott.
By recent accounts, Hoover ran the bureau as a personal fief, using its resources to pursue sometimes dubious personal crusades and subjecting agents to whimsical directives.
McDermott admits to leaving the FBI in some disillusionment over bureaucratic ways, but shies from any direct criticism of the FBI or Hoover.
“From my view the FBI was honest and the integrity of agents was beyond reproach. When you’re focused on a major case …”
His voice trails off.
“People can stay too long on the job,” he concludes, closing the matter.
In 1964, the FBI sent McDermott to study Arabic for two years at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., and then posted him to Little Rock, Ark.
A year later, he quit.
McDermott had a resume more suited to police work than business, but he aimed for a position in corporate management nonetheless and the resume landed him a job in corporate security with Bristol-Meyers Co. (now Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co.) in Manhattan.
He viewed the job as one of the few routes to corporate management open to a person with his background. But after six years he came to see it as a dead end.
Next came a move to a corporate security job at rival pharmaceuticals manufacturer E.R. Squibb & Sons Inc. in New Jersey. There, McDermott says, “I was hired with the understanding that there would be other opportunities.”
At Squibb, he moved into human resources, working at the firm until he left to join Bausch & Lomb.
Now, with two of three life ambitions realized, McDermott sees himself at an apex. Yet he also is painfully aware that many have tumbled from such heights.
“I’ve worked at four quality Fortune 500s and done pretty well,” he says. “If Goulds isn’t a lot better in a few years, if it hasn’t worked out, I’ll be the first to know.
“Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll be the last.”
[Rochester Business Journal Profile, 3/31/95]

x

Check Also

Loyalty programs – what you should know about compliance with the CPPA (access required)

From the straightforward “buy 9 smoothies, get 1 free,” to sophisticated frequent flyer programs, loyalty programs are a staple in ...

PathStone’s Skyview Park Apartments a model for big-box adaptive reuse (access required)

When Amy Casciani looked at the shuttered remnants of retail vitality on the former Irondequoit Mall complex a few years ...

Are cover letters really necessary? Hiring professionals have differing opinions (access required)

“I’m a hiring manager at a local company looking to fill several positions. I’ve noticed that about two-thirds of our ...

Investment acumen or inside information? (access required)

If you had known, in early 2020, that you might be working from home during a multi-year, global pandemic, would ...

Opining on Dick Vitale’s courage, more Bills nicknames, stadium names

By the time he finished delivering a motivational speech that would have made Knute Rockne proud, Dick Vitale looked like ...

The importance of female mentorship, leadership, and innovation in banking (access required)

In my 10 years at Tompkins and 35 cumulative years in the banking field, I’ve witnessed the industry undergo several ...

How not to set policy to reduce the price of gasoline (access required)

High gas prices in the U.S. cause a lot of pain for Americans every time they take their vehicles to ...

Highland Hospital Gala (access required)

This year’s casino-themed Highland Hospital Gala raised its second highest amount ever, with more than $650,000 gross net income thanks ...

Inflation: How did we get here and what can be done about it? (access required)

If you’re in your 50s - o.k. early 50s - you probably remember a time when a gallon of gas ...

Reflections on pediatrics, the pandemic, and the Golden Circle (access required)

Imagine this: Your business has been open for only five months and is doing really well. Revenue is higher than ...

Will 2022 be the year of the vacation home? (access required)

With some COVID-19 restrictions relaxing and others already lifted, the smell of tourism is in the air. Demand for leisure ...

Transition services valuable for aging population (access required)

What do you need to stay safe in your family home, even if your home is getting to be too ...

Elder transition planning: Family mediation for older adults & their loved ones (access required)

The journey of aging is rarely a smooth one. As older adults and their families face emotional, financial and health ...

Senior living communities consider how to be more diverse, inclusive, accessible (access required)

The nation’s senior population is the largest and most diverse in history, according to the most recent census data from ...

Why is inflation so scary for my retirement plan? (access required)

Over the past decade, investors experienced a best-case scenario of relatively low inflation and strong investment returns from both stocks ...

A thoroughbred racehorse whose impact was not lost on us

It seemed like a good deal at the time – a rattletrap Ford van with more than 100,000 miles on ...

Ensuring your financial plan can withstand negative conditions  (access required)

Financial plans differ based on individuals’ incomes, future goals, age and tolerance for risk, but often unconsidered in those plans ...

Boomerang employees: tips on how to welcome team members home (access required)

Every manager at every level has experienced it — that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when one ...

Spring cleaning: Considering program sustainability (access required)

There has never been a better time to consider the sustainability of your program activities and take action to address ...

Financial advisors can guide through tough times (access required)

With the country facing rising inflation and interest rates, as well as the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and the war in ...

Are you discriminating against employees with caregiving responsibilities? (access required)

As the world enters year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued a warning ...

Rochester accelerates its pace to become top tech hub in America (access required)

Rochester is on its way to becoming a national hub for technology innovation. Experts predict that it has the highest ...

A simple game for investors: How would you play? (access required)

Some years ago, financial author and advisor, Bill Schultheis, devised a simple game to illustrate the difficulty faced by investors ...

You need to improve your technology, but where do you start? (access required)

Technology is advancing at warp speed and certainly some innovations could benefit you and your company, but it’s easy to ...

Innovation advancements on display as Rochester continues to grow its technology ecosystem (access required)

From LIDROTEC, a company with patent-pending wafer dicing laser machines for the semiconductor industry to Stratio, which provides artificial intelligence ...

Milo the Dog has had a golden impact on Red Wings baseball, community

They had trained together five days a week for nearly six months in the backyard solitude of Josh Snyder’s rural ...

M&A middle-market activity: What businesses need to know (access required)

 Understanding the ins and outs, trends and activities going on in M&A markets can help businesses make informed decisions including ...

5 things to consider before deciding to work for yourself (access required)

When people ask me what I do, now that I’m out of television, I simply say, “I have my own ...

M&A lawyers keep busy despite pandemic barriers (access required)

2021 was a record-breaking year globally and nationally for mergers (combining two separate businesses into one new legal entity) and ...

Ending violent crime requires building trust between police, community (access required)

Rochester has recently been the recipient of many state, federal and private investments that create a true path for transformational ...

Former UR assistant Jay Wright continues working his hoops magic

Mike Neer likes to joke that he doesn’t get enough credit for helping Jay Wright become the best-dressed coach in ...

Four ways to prepare your business for the future of digital payments (access required)

Digital transformation continues to sweep the country — especially as more companies and their customers embrace digital payment technologies.Here are ...

Managing Our Manufacturing Plants in 2022 (access required)

There have been dramatic shifts in both the needs and the realities of manufacturing the United States over the past ...

“Rounding Errors” Can Add Up Quickly (access required)

It’s time to talk about time. For many employees, their lunch break is a time when they can step away ...

Just In Time production method becoming obsolete with supply chain issues (access required)

Just In Time (JIT) is a production method pioneered in the 1930s by Toyota Motor Corporation as a means to ...

Rochester firms embrace 3D printing for multiple purposes (access required)

Firms are using 3D printing to create unique tools, parts and other objects right here in Rochester, allowing for new ...

From mentee to mentor: the benefits mentorship provides for women in business (access required)

March marks Women’s History Month. It is a time to honor the strong, brave women who have broken down barriers, ...

Working across the ages: multigenerational teams offer multiple benefits (access required)

Quick: How long is the average career? If you guessed 40 years, you would’ve been right a few years ago. ...

Energy, dedication drive entrepreneurs at any age (access required)

Younger women who grew up with technology and worked in the gig economy may be more comfortable with the pace ...

Opining on Brandon Beane, SU hoops, a poor investment, baseball’s return

If you pressed me to rank the most indispensable Buffalo Bills of this glorious era, I’d go with quarterback Josh ...

Topics that don’t focus on COVID-19 for nonprofit leaders (access required)

For obvious reasons, COVID-19-19 and the many elements of disruption it has caused continue to dominate conversation at organizations of ...

March worldwide water, climate events are close to home (access required)

March marks two worldwide awareness events for the environment: World Water Day and Earth Hour. In Rochester, New York, these ...

Revisiting Art Schlichter’s sad tale of gambling addiction

Monday’s seismic news that Atlanta Falcons star receiver Calvin Ridley had been suspended for the 2022 season for betting on ...

Mentoring is an art passed from one generation to the next (access required)

Ahhh, what to say about the important art of mentoring? It is certainly an art and, in preparation for this ...

Protect intellectual property from the start (access required)

When it comes to intellectual property (IP), the old English idiom “penny wise and pound foolish” never goes out of ...

A loving team helped Chris Lillis ascend to Winter Olympic gold

Bernie Lillis points with pride to a framed photograph on the mantelpiece above the fireplace of his Fairport home. There ...

Three takeaways from Super Bowl ads to apply to marketing (access required)

Super Bowl ads deliver on a few recurring themes every year, and this year was no different. Whether it’s nostalgia ...

I Bonds: A rare bright spot for the income investor (access required)

Investors have a natural affinity for income-producing investments. A steady stream of investment income is comforting even if it is ...

What AG report on ‘credential stuffing’ hacks mean for your business (access required)

In January, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report summarizing the findings of a broad investigation into so-called ...

Data privacy and security concerns with rise of online betting, gaming (access required)

As of January 8, 2022, New York State joined the ranks of more than a dozen states that have legalized ...

Potential headwinds are coming — what this means for your business (access required)

An abundance of liquidity and market exuberance in the world’s recovery from COVID-19 have made this a promising time for ...

Rochester’s Roland Williams hoping his Rams do it again

Eric Weddle is one of those feel-good stories that Rochester tight-end-turned-broadcaster Roland Williams has followed closely in recent weeks. Late ...

Two UR student-led ventures take top honors at statewide intercollegiate entrepreneurship competition  (access required)

The New York Business Plan Competition announced its 2022 Grand Prize winner, along with special prize winners at Venture NY, ...

Bello: Investment in tech, people, parks key for county future (access required)

Creating a vibrant and equitable Monroe County as a great place to live, work and raise a family can be ...

Evans’ budget prioritizes public safety, neighborhoods, economy (access required)

 The proposed city of Rochester budget includes a 9.6 percent increase in spending — with public safety, neighborhoods and economic ...