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The fundamental question in business and in personal life is the same: What really matters? In this book one of America’s most widely admired business leaders distills a lifetime of experience, including failures as well as successes, to reveal his answers.
John Pepper, president, CEO, and chairman of Procter & Gamble for a combined 16 years, underscores the importance of continuous change, innovation, and renewal as prerequisites for growth and sound leadership. In What Really Matters he suggests that a preparedness to alter perspective, rethink assumptions, or change course is central not only to understanding customer needs and keeping costs under control but also to developing talent, organizing global businesses, and supporting communities. While he discusses specific business tactics, he notes that they all center on fundamental tenets: listen to and respect the customer, engender personal accountability and passionate ownership, encourage diversity, and create a vibrant, trusting institution that incorporates employees and their families. In his own years as an executive, Pepper has demonstrated that a profitable business can create and sustain a culture that shapes―and is shaped by―ethical behavior. His profoundly important advice and counsel belong in the lexicon and practice of every leader.
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Q: What really matters?
A: In a personal mission statement I wrote at about the age of 30, I committed myself to be all I can be, developing to the fullest, following my best instincts, learning constantly, and trying to be true to what I believe is right. Beyond that, I committed to being of service to my family above all, to Procter & Gamble, and to the community. As I say many times in my book, I believe that people and their values are the foundation of achieving any great purpose over time.
Q: P&G has a knack for winning in the marketplace, but is there a danger of being too successful?
A: The risk of being too successful and too complacent is always present, and it is important to recognize that what’s good enough today won’t be good enough tomorrow. It is imperative to make innovation and improvement a way of life, to listen to dissident points of view, and to ask what new thing will make today's businesses obsolete.
Q: How does what you’ve written apply to your leadership roles at Yale and at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center?
A: In the end, every for-profit and nonprofit organization is ultimately a service business, and its success depends on adding value to those whom it serves. The quality of the relationships among people is vital to any enterprise, and those relationships must be founded in a culture infused with integrity, a zest for innovation and for winning, mutual trust, respect, and at its best, affection.
Q: You really believe in the importance of family to business life, don’t you?
A: Yes, I really do. I know I couldn’t have achieved anything remotely close to what I have in business or life if it had not been for my family, starting with my wife, Francie, and also my children. And, beyond my personal experience, I believe P&G’s concern for the welfare of its employees’ families constitutes part of the set of values that encouraged so many talented men and women to make their entire careers there.
Q: Are there lessons in What Really Matters that have prepared you for what lies ahead as chairman of the board at Disney?A. I am sure that my lifelong commitment to be of maximum service will be the guiding factor in how I spend my time and what I make my biggest priorities. The business of the board will be based on my conviction in the value of open communication, people being able to say what's on their mind, and honest, transparent relationships.
John Pepper is chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Company and chief executive officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Previously, he served as vice president of finance and administration at
Yale University and in various executive positions at Procter & Gamble, including chairman of the board and chief executive officer. He is married, has four children, and lives in Wyoming, OH.
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