Respondents to this weekâ€™s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll gave high marks to Xerox Corp. chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy, who announced her retirement last week. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said her overall performance was excellent or good.
Ursula Burns, Xerox president since April 2007, is slated to succeed Mulcahy as CEO. She will become the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company. Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and has held a range of leadership positions in areas such as product development, marketing and delivery.
Some 62 percent of respondents said they are confident in Burnsâ€™ ability to lead Xerox to steady profitable growth.
Roughly 370 readers participated in this weekâ€™s poll, which was conducted May 26.
How would you rate Anne Mulcahyâ€™s overall performance during her tenure as Xerox CEO?
How confident are you that Ursula Burns can lead Xerox to consistent profitable growth?
Very confident: 29%
Somewhat confident: 33%
Not very confident: 23%
Not at all confident: 16%
Here are some readersâ€™ comments:
Anneâ€™s leadership is an example of how strong business knowledge mixed with human resource management experience can be a benefit to a CEO. She is a brilliant, ethical and caring person, also a powerful mix in a corporate leader. She has picked and developed the right person to follow in her footsteps. Ursula will be a role model for leaders throughout our country and the world, as Anne has been.
Look at Xeroxâ€™s key data from when Anne started as CEO up to today: market cap, annual revenue, profit, etc., are all flat. She did a spectacular job of averting disaster (playing defense) but has been lackluster at revenue growth and market expansion (playing offense). I fear that Ursula is of the same mind-set. Xerox can no longer cost-cut its way to profitability. It needs a leader who can exploit its offerings and people and grow the top line.
â€”C. Lewis, Fairport
I am a Xerox retiree, now living in Beaufort, S.C. I have been extremely happy how the company has â€œcome aliveâ€ since Anne has taken over. I am confident Ursula will be able to minimize layoffs while we are all going through this difficult economic period.
Taking away medical benefits to Xerox retirees reflects very poorly on managementâ€™s personal values. Seeing what management has done to retirees also damages current employee loyalty and thus company long-term performance.
â€”Robert Shanebrook, retired
Ursulaâ€™s personal story, her preparation for assuming this role over a long period of time at Xerox, her obvious leadership skills and business acumen make her appointment a great decision for Xerox and its shareholders.
Anne never got out of the management process that was used to stop the companyâ€™s downward spiral in the early 2000s, and so she has led a team that cuts and downsizes and ultimately mortgages the future. Ursula has no experience in visionary leadership of the company, and she does not have the respect of the employees she leads.
During Anneâ€™s tenure there has been little or no grow in stock value or in total revenue. The only measureable result is a smaller company with fewer employees and less customers and broken promises to the retirees.
Mulcahy and Burns have rewritten the book(s) on corporate leadership; as a dynamic pair of women, diversified to boot, they have resurrected a failing Xerox. Kodak could learn from this example!
â€”Hutch Hutchison, In Tâ€™Hutch Ltd.
Xerox has remained stagnant in sales. Cutting employees and retireesâ€™ benefits does not grow a company for the future. They both should step aside and let someone with management skills get the job doneâ€”like some of the retirees who built the company to the greatness it once was.
â€”Vincent Cilento, Xerox retiree
The print market is very difficult. Xerox needs to increase emphasis on document management in specific industries, e.g.; health care and legal.
Now that Anne Mulcahy has announced her retirement, I am sure her next announcement will be that she is leaving the state of New York to save on taxes!
â€”Joe Fabetes, Rochester
I think it is an insult to both women to ask the Rochester community to rate their performance. Many of the people who respond donâ€™t even know them or what theyâ€™ve accomplished. Their only source is media reports and perceptionâ€”no real facts. I donâ€™t see you â€œratingâ€ other changes in management in local companies. How about Antonio Perez, Joel Seligman and their predecessors? Why them?
â€”Betsy Rice, Xerox retiree
Ursula Burns has worked very closely with Anne Mulcahy. She is ready to lead Xerox to the next level. Her style will be different but her values and her passion for Xerox and its employees and customers are the same.
â€”Sandy Parker, Rochester Business Alliance Inc.
It appears that Mulcahy never used her gender or ethnicity as an excuse or a reason. She demonstrated that real leadership makes those things irrelevant. If she used it as a motivator, good for her. Still, it appears that she never lost sight of the corporate goals. If Burns follows her example, she will be great. There is no reason to expect she wonâ€™t.
â€”Bill Lanigan, Chamberlin Rubber
Given the Xerox that Anne Mulcahy inherited, I have been very impressed with how she has managed to turn the company around and once again focus on product innovation and customer satisfaction. Having once had the opportunity to work for Ursula Burns, I have every confidence that she will continue and build on the success that Anne has set forth. I am even more proud that Xerox has once again selected an internal candidate with decades of Xerox experience behind them to take the reins. Ursulaâ€™s experience from the manufacturing and engineering side will be invaluable in leading Xerox in a very competitive market.
â€”Chris Fridd, former Xerox employee
Not being a stockholder, perhaps I have a different perception of the job Mulcahy did and the job Ms. Burns might do. As a blue-collar worker and taxpayer, I look at the number of jobs lost, the homes foreclosed on and the unemployment figures that have increased as a result of â€œdownsizing,â€ â€œoffshoring,â€ product line and employee cuts at Xerox. Frankly, when I look at the toll upon our local work force, local economy and our tax base I canâ€™t say as I put stock in the performance of Mulcahy and her successor Burns. They might have done the stockholders and board of directors some good, but they have done poorly in every other regard.
â€”Steven G. Poyzer
Anneâ€™s decision to cut out the medical stipend to retirees and their spouses was unconscionable. Itâ€™s one thing to eliminate benefits for new hires or scale back benefits to current employees, but to eliminate a benefit that was at least morally contracted prior to and at the time of retirement when the retiree has few viable options is clearly despicable; especially when the combined bonuses of the top three Xerox executives ($20+ million) totals twice the annual cost of said medical benefits.
Xerox Corp. has over the last 15 years moved away from emphasizing internal technology and innovations to marketing â€œothersâ€ products. This strategy, applying to several market segments, in the short term, may yield revenue but is plagued by competition and low margins. It further damages the companyâ€™s image for innovation. Further, deemphasizing innovation is counter to a growth company strategy. I do not see Burns altering the Allaire/Mulcahy strategic focus. â€œMe tooâ€ products are like the auto industry, and will lead to the same results. One positive sign is the new Xerox â€œColorQubeâ€ technology, which allegedly reduces image cost to the customer. I am not sure if this is because of lower margins (lower profits) or lower cost hardware and material costs over inkjet and powders. Moving color into the black-and-white price range is nevertheless a desirable offering. Another ominous sign is the gradual erosion of the hometown base (downsizing in Monroe County). As an investor, this appears to be a sound strategic maneuver to avoid the high cost of doing business with high New York state and local taxes. The long term does not look bright for any industry in Upstate New York. Thank you, Gov. Paterson, and our legislature. Xeroxâ€™s best days were when its people were also part of the future. Current bottom line controls tend to deny this reality. Hopefully, the recent award for ethics by Ethisphere (RBJ, April 13, 2009) marks a strategic change in direction. I sincerely hope that Burns promotes a visionary leadership that goes beyond the short term horizon of the predecessors. I wish her and Xerox success.
â€”Dennis Kiriazides, Xerox, retired
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