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“The Most Successful Capitalist Who Ever Lived”: How Watson Jr. Rose to the Top
He Valued His Employees: “It is essential for each of us to strive to retain originality and to maintain our identity as human beings,” said Watson Jr. “Each of us must periodically stop to remember how important personal appreciation and recognition are to every person.” With an open-door communication policy, Watson Jr. ensured that staff members were allowed to contribute their ideas and that any personnel problems were dealt with efficiently and with care. Why did Watson Jr. want to make sure his workers were happy? Because, he said “IBM's future is in the hands of its people. Our future is unlimited.”
He Dared to Take Risks: When Watson Jr. first took over as president of IBM, he had a hunch that in order to survive, the company would have to change its course. “I knew in my gut we had to get into computers even though they seemed like another kind of animal,” he said. Unafraid of the road ahead, Watson Jr. charged forth, betting everything he had that his gut was right. It paid off. Watson Jr. was fearless in the face of risks and IBM was able to reap the benefits.
He Prioritized Customer Service: Watson Jr. recognized that IBM might have been making computers, but it was in the business of customer satisfaction. The first sale was just the beginning of his sales strategy; excellent customer service would make the difference between the first and last sale, or a second. Watson Jr. made sure that customers could depend on more than just what had actually paid for; IBM became about going that extra mile.
He Never Accepted the Status Quo: Watson Jr. was a ruthless competitor who never rested. He knew that if he ever stopped to reflect on his achievements thus far, his competitors would take the opportunity to overtake him. Much like his sailing expeditions, Watson Jr. was obsessed with trying to get places he wasn’t supposed to go, but it was the very journey that made everything worthwhile.
He Operated with Integrity: “Obviously we want high standards of behaviour,” said Watson Jr. “The object is to make sure we are always able to represent the IBM company in the best possible way.” From his own internal operations to the wider context in which the company operated, Watson Jr. did his best to ensure that IBM always kept the highest standards of business.
When Watson Jr. passed away in 1993, a former colleague said of him, “He was what corporate legends are made of…and remembered for.” Indeed, as one of the most powerful IT companies in the world today, with a rare history that stretches back to the 19th century, the company that Watson Jr. helped create today is evidence enough of his personal legacy.
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