For many readers, the most interesting thing about former GE CEO Jack Welch's new book, Winning, is that it was written with his wife, Suzy. In 2001, Welch and Suzy Wetlaufer made headlines when their affair, already a topic of speculation in some circles, become public knowledge. Wetlaufer was editor of the Harvard Business Review at the time; when she interviewed Welch for the magazine it was reportedly love at first sight. Their relationship sparked a journalism ethics debate and led to a lot of unusually spicy stories on the business pages.
Now the happy couple joins forces on a shared passion and aptitude business. Welch considers his latest book to be a how-to guide of sorts. Winning is a book for the people in business who sweat, get their nails dirty, hire, fire, make hard decisions, and pay the price when those decisions are wrong, he says. He speaks from experience, having been at GE's helm for 20 years before retiring in 2001. Welch wasn't a trendy outsider brought in to dazzle GE stockholders; he'd joined the company's lackluster plastics division back in 1960, fresh from earning a doctorate in chemical engineering. Seven years later, he was in charge of the division, having turned it around.
As he rose through the ranks, Welch developed a reputation for being competent, forward-thinking and, most of all, effective. He earned the nickname Neutron Jack, as he set out to fix, sell, or close under-performing divisions. The result? Record profits and 100,000 fewer employees: the neutron in the nickname was an allusion to his tendency to leave buildings standing with no people inside. Fortune magazine named Welch Manager of the Century and his philosophies a seven-point program espousing management through leadership have been the subject of several books, including Welch's memoir Jack: Straight From the Gut. In Winning he shares more of his business acumen. I see this book as a handbook for people in the trenches, turning their companies and the economy around, Welch has said of the book. I think it will be useful for people just starting their careers or their own businesses to seasoned managers running multi-billion dollar enterprises.