WHAT HAPPENED TO HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND SOUL?

WHAT HAPPENED TO HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND SOUL?

Richard J. Cunningham


In legal terms, corporations are living entities–large financial organisms made up of living human cells, with skins of concrete, glass and steel. The brain of the corporate giant is the upper management group. The beating heart of a corporation–or the location of its soul if you will–is much harder to pinpoint. These are the men and women who are its conscience, its creative force and who can intuit changes in the marketplace when they are merely breezes.
These employees are sprinkled throughout the corporation at all levels. They may or may not be the big producers, but without them, no corporation can function competitively. Brains and brawn will not guarantee survival in the business world–especially the mountain bike biz. To flourish, a company needs intuition, a deep commitment to the sport, a keen sense of timing, and the courage to move full-speed-ahead with an unconventional concept. The soul of a mountain bike giant is its true strength.
This week, Questar, the investment company that purchased Schwinn and GT, trimmed the management staff of GT to reduce redundant positions. “Stream-lining management” is no big news to Wall Street Journal readers. In the present merger-mania climate, dour tidings of a dozen top players dropped from the payroll is as common as a dip in the Dow.
Two victims of GT’s streamlining episode are personal friends: Bob Hadley and Steve Cuomo. Before joining GT’s marketing staff, Cuomo grew up with Cannondale and was a big part of the big C’s rise to international prominence. Hadley has promoted mountain bike races, run NORBA single-handedly, and knows more about mountain biking than he–or anyone else–is willing to admit.
Bob’s unbreakable integrity and common sense enables him to calmly resolve flaming conflicts, or to find common ground between diametrically opposed adversaries. Hadley has a keen understanding of anything technical and a profound sense of the entire breadth of our sport. Although he embraces innovation, he is never intoxicated with the latest and coolest gadget. Bob understands that his customers–more than his company–will ultimately pay for any new-fangled failures. Bob was the conscience–the judge and jury of GT–at least as far as mountain bikes were concerned. He is an accomplished mountain biker, musician and craftsman.
Cuomo (a flugal horn player of minor fame) is a nuts-and-bolts guy who is equally at home hob-knobbing with engineers over a 3-D image on a computer screen, grinding out a contract in a Chinese forging factory, or hammering his i-Drive in the local mountains. I get the feeling when I?m around Steve that he never stops dreaming of the perfect mountain bike. I hear from him every month or so and he’s always asking: “What about this suspension?” Or would it be too crazy to make a super lightweight this or a longer-travel that?” His enthusiasm for mountain bikes is nuclear powered.
Both men are decidedly different individuals, but they have similar strengths: They are honest; they can be trusted to keep a secret; they can give or take criticism without malice; they don?t lord their success over you; nor couch their failures. These attributes, and the insights that Hadley and Cuomo posses are the reasons that I have often consulted with them when I was forced to take an unpopular stance in MBA. In every case, their counsel has been right on the money.
I am sure that GT and Questar thought long and hard before they sliced Steve and Bob off their payroll. GT’s parting agreement was reportedly generous, and I wish all parties the best. I can?t help wondering, however, that GT might have traded their soul–or a significant part of it–in exchange for some short-term muscle mass on their stock-holder’s report. Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: any corporate giant in search of a heart transplant will be winning marathons when they find these two guys.

 

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