Larry Bossidy was never the CEO of a Connecticut-based company, but he’s been a big force in business here and elsewhere for decades at General Electric, Allied Signal, Honeywell International and lately, as a board member at Berkshire Bank, which owns the former CBT franchise .
On Friday, Bossidy brought a combination of homespun advice and hardnosed pragmatism to an economic conference of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill.
The precepts he offered are basic but the execution of them is not so easy, and Bossidy has the track record to back it up. Know yourself, be humble, reward doers, anticipate change, create systems that root out errors and, mostly, be flexible, not rigid.
“People who have their minds made up are the ones who end up falling by the wayside,” Bossidy said.
Bossidy started his career at General Electric in 1957, where he rose to be chief operating officer of GE Credit, now GE Capital, and vice chairman of the company, the right-hand man to chairman and CEO Jack Welch. Bossidy later turned Allied Signal into a top-performing company and sold it to Honeywell, which he ran in two stints, before and after Honeywell was nearly acquired by United Technologies, then General Electric, in 2001.
“I always discouraged a lot of philosophers around my place,” said Bossidy, 78. “You want good ideas but you want to get things done.”
That’s the theme of one of the two books Bossidy co-authored after retiring from Honeywell in 2002, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.” He later co-wrote “Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right.”
It’s the smart, tough, results-based management style that’s at the heart of GE culture. Bossidy was close to Harry Gray, who converted the old United Aircraft Co. into United Technologies, and who greatly admired Bossidy. Like a lot of people, I assumed Gray had tried to recruit Bossidy in the tumultuous last years of Gray’s tenure at UTC in the mid-’80s.
Not true, Bossidy told me Friday. “We were friends, but wouldn’t have gone to a GE competitor. I woudn’t have gone to UTC.”
He’s a Red Sox fan and UTC, he said, was “the Yankees.” That was a different era, of course, and nowadays Red Sox and Yankees players jump ship for the Benjamins all the time.
“The quality and performance of U.S. companies is a lot better than it was ten years ago,” Bossidy said.
He sees more difficulty in the economy this year and no great boom in 2014 — in contrast to Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, who told the audience that U.S. GDP growth could reach 5 percent next year. But Bosssidy said he’s “an optimist for the country,” and that we’ll solve the problems of long-term liabilities and other major structural worries over the economy. Yolanda Kodrzycki, a vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and director of the New England Public Policy Center, had said earlier that those concerns could hamper economic growth for years.
But Bossidy’s main message transcended business, to the realm of leadership and more broadly, humanity. It’s very hard to promote innovation and teamwork at the same time, and it’s important to remember there are no cookie-cutter solutions to tough problems.
Bossidy was in some ways very much in the mold of typical speakers at business conferences — an accomplished CEO, still with a hand in the game. But he was broader than most, something CBIA appreciated, said Peter Gioia, the association’s vice president and head of research.
For example: As the more gregarious brother of a pair of twins, Bossidy said he learned humility from his mother. She told him, “It’s not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
The JC Penney store at Westfarms Mall was closed all day Thursday and had to scramble to reopen Friday, as workers cleaned up damage from a broken water pipe.
A spokeswoman for the mall said the break was apparently caused by construction work in or around the store, and that damage to merchandise was minimal.
Late Thursday afternoon, it still wasn’t clear what happened and when the incident occurred, according to the store’s operations manager, who declined to give her name. “We had a lot of water damage…not sure the cause,” the operations manager said.
At the time, she said they were still assessing the cause, the damage to the store and merchandise, and whether the store, the anchor on the southern end of the mall, would reopen on time Friday.
By early evening, the store posted a recording on its telephone line apologizing for the closure, adding that it would reopen on schedule Friday.
State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier is ramping up her shareholder activism, joining critics of Caterpillar Inc. who are pushing the mining and construction equipment giant to exit Sudan.
Using the power of the state’s $26 billion retirement fund, Nappier on Wednesday threw her support behind a shareholder resolution calling on Caterpillar to make sure its foreign subsidiaries don’t do business with the government of Sudan.
“While Caterpillar, Inc. may not have offices or employees in Sudan, and may not sell any products directly to the government of Sudan, the fact that its foreign subsidiaries do business there is enough to trigger our concerns,” Nappier said in a written release. “As the company admits in its filing, had those sales been made by U.S. divisions they would have been in violation of U.S. law.”
Connecticut’s fund raised the issue of human rights abuses in Sudan as early as 2006, Nappier said, adding that the situation has not improved. In response to the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, Connecticut passed a law that year, at Nappier’s urging, that restricts investment in companies found to be doing business there.
Connecticut is also active in the Conflict Risk Network, a group of institutional investors with more than $6 trillion in assets, which has placed Caterpillar on its watch list.
As of May 13, the Connecticut fund held $14.4 million in Caterpillar stock and $158,000 in bonds, Nappier’s office said.
“The State of Connecticut should not condone, or even appear to condone, genocide,” she said.
As fiduciary of the fund, Nappier has often been an activist on social and humanitarian issues as well as corporate governance. She argues that her activism is part of sound financial management, helping assure that global companies adhere to accepted principles of management.
It took thirteen months since the last contract expired, but local 1298 of the Communications Workers of America has reached a 4-year deal with AT&T giving raises totaling nearly 11 percent to 3,200 wireline and customer service workers in Connecticut.
Money was less important than job security to many in the union, at a time when AT&T is reducing its wireline workforce because of the decline in landline phones. The contract, which must be ratified by members, extends some layoff protection to employees hired between 2004 and 2012. That is a guarantee of a job offer in Connecticut for workers whose jobs are eliminated, but it does not assure equal pay or a specific location within the state.
The pact is retroactive to April, 2012, and includes raises of 5 percent this year, 3 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2015. Workers would get a $350 ratification bonus, improvements in the retirement plan and, the union said in a written statement, “minimized increases in employee contributions towards the cost of health care coverage.”
Health insurance costs were a major issue, as they are in virtually all union talks.
“Given the state of the economy and the direction of the telecommunications industry, this is the best possible contract for our members,” CWA Local 1298 president Bill Henderson said in the written release. “We fought hard and this agreement will protect our members at a time when Corporate America has labor gasping for every last breath.”
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said Saturday the pact was the last of seven negotiated since early 2012 across the country between the telecom giant and CWA. He declined to say whether the 1298 contract is more favorable than others, saying, “they’re all pretty similar.”
“Our objective throughout the bargaining was to reach a fair agreement that would continue to allow us to provide excellent middle-class careers for our employees and we think this contract does that,” Richter said.
A CWA contract for a small number of AT&T wireless workers in Connecticut is separate; that bargaining unit was the first in the nation under AT&T’s wireless business.
Who’s the highest paid public employee in every state? Yes, it’s the coach in most cases, as a new graphic produced by Deadspin.com shows. Connecticut is the only state where the highest paid employee coaches a women’s team — UConn’s Geno Auriemma, of course. He took the top spot after Jim Calhoun retired last year.
Football is the biggest winner, but there are a few surprises. One state has a coach in a sport that’s neither football nor basketball. And one state has a top earner who’s a plastic surgeon at the medical school.
The author, Reuben Fischer-Baum, makes the case that the coaches often aren’t worth the money. That might not be a popular opinion in Connecticut, where Auriemma just won his eighth national championship.
In March, Auriemma signed a 5-year contract that pays him a total of $10.8 million plus bonuses. Calhoun worked for two years under a 5-year, $13 million contract before retiring in 2012, when he made $2.3 million.
Kevin Ollie, the current UConn men’s coach, signed a deal that pays him $7 million over five years, plus bonuses.
Thanks to Bill Hosley for posting the graphic on Facebook.
Five weeks after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a gun control law outlawing any retail sales for the entire product line of Stag Arms, the maker of military-style rifles unveiled a new design Thursday that its owner said will not be subject to the Connecticut ban.
From the outside, the new firearm looks identical to other Stag rifles, complete with matte black finish, pistol grip and adjustable stock. Stag owner Mark Malkowski showed a prototype of the new rifle in the shipping room of his New Britain plant, explaining why it’s legal.
It’s not a radical new concept. The gun fires smaller bullets, which are allowed under the new law even in a military-style rifle.
The new model will only be available in Connecticut, said Malkowski, who founded the company exactly 10 years ago. But he said he’s not in any way trying to defy the state.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “My only intention here is to sell a product in the state where I reside, to people who have supported me for a decade.”
It is, to use the phrase of Tony Terzi, my colleague at Fox CT, “compliance, not defiance.”
The main changes is that the gun has a redesigned bolt carrier, the 5-inch long, cylindrical fitting that moves the bullet from the magazine to its firing position. It carries .22-caliber bullets of the sort fired by millions of people including children at camps, rather than the longer, more powerful .223 Remington rounds used in Stag Arms’ line of AR-15 rifles.
Some .22-caliber rifles in the AR-15 platform are already on the market, made by companies including O.F. Mossberg & Sons, in North Haven. With about one-third the firing velocity and a much smaller overall size, the .22 bullets are far less lethal than the .223 rounds, which are virtually identical to the bullets widely used by soldiers in fully automatic assault rifles.
Malkowski said he intends to seek approval from the state police firearms unit, which is charged with interpreting the 139-page law. He’s certain there’s no problem, but wants to check with authorities as a courtesy, and so they’ll be able to answer questions about the guns.
The firearms unit is already plenty busy answering questions about what guns may be transferred to what customers, based on subtle issues in the law — and it must help devise systems for the state’s new rifle registration, registration of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds and increased background checks.
But even if the redesign is approved, Malkowski said, he might still move all or part of his company — which now has 200 people in a four-building complex in New Britain — to another state that does not restrict sales of his rifles. Last week, Malkowski was at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston, where he met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s actively wooing gunmakers from states that have enacted tighter controls.
“There’s more factors that are in place with that,” he said.
The main issue that will determine a move is how much other states offer, and how customers around the nation will react to Connecticut gunmakers in the wake of the ban. The local firearms firms, including the Colt companies, worry that sales will fall if gun owners — a famously cantankerous bunch — boycott Connecticut brands. Federal law requires all firearms to have the location of their manufacture prominently stamped on the product, and many gun-rights advocates don’t want “CT” on their firearms.
“We have seen a slowdown,” Malkowski said. “We’re not sure if it’s 100 percent affected by that.”
The slowdown, however, is from a very brisk pace that was strong throughout 2012 and gained more speed after the Newtown tragedy, with the threat of bans. Malkowski said he’s able to make just over 6,000 rifles a month, and has an 8-month backlog of orders.
The new rifles could be shipped by the end of this month, and among the first buyers is John Napierski, co-owner JOJO’s Gun Works in Southington, who ordered a few dozen. It was Napierski who sold the first-ever Stag rifle, after Malkowski founded the company in part to advance his innovation of firearms for people who aim with their left eye and shoot with their left forefinger.
“There’s a lot of buzz about the new products coming out from Stag,” Napierski said. His store previously depended on rifles that are now banned for about 40 percent of its business, but that’s been made up, he said, with custom gunsmithing. Some stores that don’t have such a specialty are suffering.
Some people who support the law are critical of Malkowski’s effort to design around it.
“If people are going to try to design around what the ban is, then that’s violating the spirit of the law and clearly by their own statements, that’s what they’re doing,” said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. “If this law had not been passed, would they be designing this weapon?”
Opponents of the law, and some who support it, say any manufacturer’s modifications to meet new rules are just plain Yankee ingenuity.
Another possible variation is a version that saws off the pistol grip. That would make the gun legal in Connecticut because the ban affects firearms that are semi-automatic, with detachable magazines and one or more military features, such as the pistol grip or a flash supressor at the end of the barrel.
On April 4, when Malloy signed the bill, Malkowski showed me a sawed-off version of an AR-15 in his office. Thursday, he was coy about whether he’ll built one of those. “We have a lot of things in development, always,” he said.
I’m in the group that thinks this is all good Yankee ingenuity because, after all, the law did not necessarily ban the most deadly weapons out there — it banned the ones that have the menacing features found on assault rifles, such as pistol grips, combined with the more powerful rounds.
Here you have two identical guns in look, features and function, one of them apparently legal because it uses a smaller caliber bullet — even though some guns that are semi-automatic, with detachable magazines and much larger, .308-caliber rounds, are still legal in Connecticut simply because they don’t have a pistol grip.
Malkowski doesn’t even consider the new version an AR-15 at all. As proof, he heads to a back room and takes out yet another model that looks and feels like his regular line of banned firearms — except that it has an orange tip and fires tiny plastic pellets. He licensed another company to make it a few years ago.
“It’s a toy,” Malkowski said, “but some people in law enforcement use it for training.”
The latest, .22-caliber version is definitely not a toy, but it’s just as surely not a weapon Malloy and lawmakers intended to ban. It only looks like one.
More About The AR-15:
The CEOs at 11 large pharmaceutical companies have made a staggering $1.57 billion over the last decade as their companies have gouged the public, a policy group charges, in a release aimed at fomenting anger at the companies.
Health Care for America Now, a Washington, DC group that favors universal medical coverage under strict federal regulation, issued the report Wednesday in response to proposals to cut back on Medicare benefits, or at least on Medicare increases.
HCAN railed against the federal law that bars Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies, in addition to slamming the CEO profits.
“By prohibiting Medicare from getting better drug prices, the federal government is subsidizing the greed of the drug companies and their CEOs,” said Ethan Rome, executive director of HCAN. “This is why Americans pay vastly higher prices than people in other countries for identical drugs. It should not be the official policy of the United States to price-gouge our people and government – a practice that’s especially offensive when some in Washington are talking about cutting Medicare benefits to seniors and middle-class families.”
HCAN points out that violations of state and federal laws have led to a ballooning number of fines and settlements for marketing abuses, which routinely total in the billions of dollars each year.
The nonprofit group also notes that profits at the 11 companies totaled $711 billion over the last ten years. That’s a two-edged sword, as the profit was at the expense of consumers but also could be used to increase the number of jobs in the industry.
Drug companies say they need the profits to support enormous research costs, which can lead to losses of upwards of $1 billion for a single drug that never reaches the market. They also say the outsized pay for their CEOs — an average of $13 million a year per CEO, per company — is designed to attract and retain the best managers.
Both arguments are leaky, especially the CEO pay excuse. They pay those amounts because they can, and shareholders go along with it because they’re browbeaten by management and directors who say all the companies do it.
As for research costs, that’s a more complicated picture but it comes down to this: U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing the world’s drug consumers as well as investors in big drug companies. It’s not an efficient way to create jobs and wealth.
Higher One, the New Haven-based educational financial services firm, has acquired the Campus Solutions business of Sallie Mae in a $47.25 million deal that boosts the company’s offerings to schools and students.
The business from Sallie Mae, the student loan giant, includes e-commerce, bill payment systems, refund disbursement and administration of tuition payment plans, Higher One and Sallie Mae said in a joint release.
For Higher One, which ran afoul of regulators last year over fees and agreed to pay $11 million in restitution to students, the cash deal solidifies its standing as a dominant player in student financial services. The company is increasing its size and offerings at a time when investor confidence in the industry has been shaken by default rates, stricter federal regulations and other factors.
“Sallie Mae Campus Solutions has been a trusted business partner to institutions,” said Mark Volchek, CEO and co-founder of Higher One. “The Campus Solutions team is talented and possesses a profound knowledge of financial assistance and payment solutions. We are excited to increase the breadth of Higher One’s offerings and expect to continue to bring best practices for refund disbursement services, payment processing services, and data analytics now to more than 1,600 campuses and more than 13 million students nationwide.”
Higher One Holdings Inc. is a Connecticut success story that’s becoming a more established force in its industry. The firm was founded by Yale friends in 2000 with the idea of helping students receive and manage refunds from colleges, and helping colleges lower the cost of handing out the refunds by tying the money to a bank card that students could use for general purchases. The company branched out to a variety of technology-based services, including checking accounts.
Higher One came under criticism last year for charging multiple fees when students tried to make purchases with insufficient funds. After an FDIC investigation, it agreed last August to make restitution to 60,000 students and pay a $110,000 fine. Later in the year, the company offered an account with a flat monthly fee.
Higher One maintained it did not violate any laws or ethical standards, and in an interview last August, chairman and president Miles Lasater said the student charges at issue stemmed from practices in 2008 to 2010, which had already ended.
Higher One also reported first-quarter results Tuesday, with revenues of $57.4 million, slightly down from the same quarter a year earlier, and net income of $9.8 million, or 21 cents a diluted share, compared with $13.4 million, or 24 cents a share. Expenses were higher in several areas but Volchek said revenue sources were further diversified.
Shares have been trending downward since the start of 2012, when they traded at around $18. Shares closed at $9.87 Tuesday before the late-day announcement of the merger and earnings.
Sallie Mae is the nickname for SLM Corp., which was founded in 1972 as the Student Loan Marketing Association, federally chartered to administer government-backed student loans. The company became fully private in 2004 and issues private student loans, but also administers remaining federal loans under a program that is winding down. Direct federal loans to students have hurt profits at Sallie Mae, which is based in Newark, Del.
The Fortune 500 list for 2013 is out, and the ranking of publicly traded U.S. companies by total sales contains two new triumphs for Connecticut and one outrage.
In all, Connecticut has 16 companies on the list, our largest total in recent years, led, as always, by General Electric, the nation’s biggest industrial company. The Fairfield giant is No. 8 with $147 billion in sales last year, down from No. 6 in 2012.
United Technologies comes in at No. 50, which is down from its usual perch in the 40s, even though the Hartford-based industrial grew to $59.8 billion.
Northeast Utilities, a Connecticut stalwart for years, which fell off Fortune 500 in 2012 because of its size, is back at the No. 402 spot — in Massachusetts. Recall, NU merged with Boston-based NSTAR in April, 2012, giving it plenty of size to rejoin the list, with joint headquarters in Boston and Hartford.
So why does Massachusetts get the nod from Fortune? It was NU that bought NSTAR, technically, so we should prevail based on the famous business concept of first dibs. As it turns out, NU for years has had its official, legal address in Springfield, Mass. for some goofy reason. This year, that’s the headquarters location the map-makers at Fortune used in their list — even though they gave NU a Berlin, Conn. address in years past.
We appeal, and we move on to the good news: Priceline.com, homegrown in Norwalk, has expanded its way onto the list at No. 473, with a stunning $5.3 billion in revenues. Five years ago the travel services company wasn’t even in the Fortune list of the 1,000 biggest U.S. corporations, then it emerged at No. 931 in 2009, with $1.9 billion in sales.
The really good news for Priceline.com is that it had profits of $1.4 billion last year, one of the highest totals of any company in the last 100 on the fortune list.
Also joining the Connecticut list is Charter Communications, the cable TV company that moved its headquarters from St. Louis to Stamford after cutting a deal with the state. Charter promised to bring at least 200 jobs and invest at least $25 million in exchange for millions in low-rate loans, from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in the Next Five program.
Charter comes in at No. 340, with $7.5 billion in sales, up from No. 351 on the 2012 list, when it was in Missouri.
Hey, checkbook economic development counts. Connecticut is, after all, a capital of corporate headquarters. The other Connecticut company that joined the list by way of the Next Five program was Cigna, in 2012 — but that’s different since the Bloomfield health insurer already had thousands of employees here and was likely to move its head office from Philadelphia anyway.
Looking at the 16 companies in Connecticut, we see about six that have only a head office here, no major operations — led by Xerox, the $22.4 billion document and information company, in Norwalk, at No. 131.
On the overall list, Wal-Mart Stores ($469 billion) edged back ahead of Exxon Mobil ($450 billion) but Exxon is far more profitable, with $44.9 billion in net income, compared with $17 billion at Wal-Mart.
Travelers Cos., No. 116 on the list, is a New York company in name only, with its biggest operations in the Insurance Capital, but fair is fair, if we get Xerox, they get Travelers.
The Connecticut companies on the list, with 2012 sales in billions:
Texas Governor Rick Perry might not have been able to name three federal agencies he’d close, but he has his sights attracting on at least that many Connecticut gun manufacturers and he used the NRA convention in Houston over the last four days to make his best pitch.
Along with his famous charm, Perry had 70,000 gun enthusiasts on hand to help make the case for firearms companies feeling unloved back home. One firm, PTR Industries of Bristol, already said it will exit Connecticut and it’s starting to look like others will head South or West.
The Republican governor and the Texas lieutenant governor both met with Mark Malkowski, owner of Stag Arms of New Britain, who was in Houston along with six other company managers and employees from Thursday through Sunday.
“There are some intense meetings going on between the owner of Stag Arms and Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas at the NRA show in Houston,” Stag posted on its Facebook page along with a picture of Perry and Malkowski.
As he traveled back home Sunday, Malkowski, 35, said he also briefly toured a couple of possible locations. He said he’s not yet ready to scout real estate — in fact, he hasn’t even decided whether to leave Connecticut, where he employs 200 people and his father also owns a machining firm in New Britain.
But the Lone Star welcome placed that pro-gun-rights state right at or near the top of the list he’d consider.
“It was refreshing,” Malkowski said. “The approach, the climate out there is very friendly — industry friendly and business friendly. It doesn’t even compare, their governor vs. ours when it comes to our industry.”
He added, “They’ve had an increase in arts and culture, we spoke about that, too.”
Now that’s hitting hard, at one of Connecticut’s competitive advantages. But momentous events bring sweeping changes, and we may be witnessing a deep erosion of the region’s 200-year history as the nation’s gunmaking capital.
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --
- #CongresswomanEsty: You have more GPS power in your cell phone than most airliners have.
- #CongresswomanEsty: Underinvestment in this country in infrastructure has had more impact in New England than any other region.'
- #CongressmanJoeCourtney at Hartford forum: Base closing commission won't happen...it looks like the F-35 in CT is in good shape.
- Homespun Advice from a Business Legend
- Westfarms’ JC Penney Closed Thursday Due to Water Damage, Will Reopen Friday
- Nappier Joins Investor Action Over Caterpillar in Sudan
- AT&T, Communications Union Reach Deal for 3,200 Connecticut Workers
- The Highest Paying Public Job In Every State (Hint: Go Team!)
- Andrew on Stag Arms Owner Unveils Modified Rifles That May Be Legal In CT
- one little on Nappier Joins Investor Action Over Caterpillar in Sudan
- John Steel on Nappier Joins Investor Action Over Caterpillar in Sudan
- CJH on Stag Arms Owner Unveils Modified Rifles That May Be Legal In CT
- Ant on AT&T, Communications Union Reach Deal for 3,200 Connecticut Workers
- Corporate finance
- Economic Development
- Financial Services
- Health Care
- Public finance
- Real Estate
- Small Business
- Wall Street
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --