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Another View -- Bob Stamps: We always said Carly would be President one day

September 16. 2015 11:22PM

I EXPERIENCED Carly Fiorina’s leadership firsthand when I worked at Hewlett-Packard from 1978 to 2002 as a marketing manager for the HP 3000 computer line and later as an R&D manager in the services business. When I started at HP, we were still a growing company with a focus on innovation and the “HP Way.” But by the late 1990s, we had grown into a global corporation and our growth had stalled.

The “HP Way” that initially fostered innovation and creativity had become synonymous with sluggishness. It was an excuse to stay in the past and not be accountable for our performance in the changing times.

The HP Board of Directors wanted someone new who could come into the company and get it back on track and hired Carly Fiorina in 1999. Like many other HP “old timers,” I will admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of the changes Carly initiated when she arrived. Change can be daunting, but sometimes it’s glaringly necessary.

HP was a company that desperately needed change. We still had technical excellence and exceptional quality built into our products. But our cost structures were way out of control, and we were having problems meeting our commitments to customers and shareholders.

It became clear rather quickly that Carly was exactly the change HP needed, and she won over many of her initial detractors, including me. One of the first things she did that impressed me the most was creating a whole team mentality. As engineers, of course we were focused on HP’s customers, but Carly made us realize engineers needed to know what customers wanted instead of just assuming we knew the answers.

And while engineers made a great product, we needed to understand how the supply chain worked. HP had the best product in the world, but that didn’t do any good if it wasn’t what the customers wanted and if we couldn’t actually get it delivered to them. Every part of HP was integral to every other part; we all needed each other and needed to work together to succeed.

Under Carly’s leadership, we got our costs under control and dramatically improved our ability to deliver top quality products that our customers wanted and needed. Carly brought the changes necessary to ensure the longevity and prosperity of the company. She set up HP for future growth and success.

Carly’s detractors often bring up the layoffs as a sign that she was not a good CEO, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. HP had way too many people working for it, and I think everybody realized that. After the market started to crumble, there was just no way HP could continue to have so many employees and survive.

But unlike what some outsiders reported, this was not a brutal blood bath. There was always a plan in place to help people when they left. Carly did everything she could to place people in different sections of the company when it was available, and people had great severance packages.

Working for Carly could be tough: She wanted excellence and pushed everyone not only to meet their goals but to exceed expectations. But the computer business was a tough business and required a leader who wasn’t going to back down or accept the status quo. And that is exactly the kind of leader we need in Washington.

We need a leader with real world executive experience who can roll up her sleeves and make the tough decisions that are necessary. My experience working with Carly at HP has given me firsthand knowledge that Carly is exactly the leader we need, and I encourage you to join me in supporting her.

Bob Stamps of Henniker is a former Hewlett-Packard employee.

Presidential Guest Commentary Carly Fiorina

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