Perot: GM Executives Need to Eat in Cafeteria

Ed Whitacre, from San Antonio, became the acting CEO of GM earlier this week. Reuters asked Ross Perot about how well he thinks his fellow Texan will fare, given Perot’s own difficulties working with GM in the 1980s:

“I disagreed with what they were doing,” Perot told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Then suddenly, they just didn’t want anybody around to point out what we needed to do. They decided to get rid of the nuisance.”

Perot described the GM culture back then as “insulated” and “aloof”:

The first time Perot hosted GM executives at EDS in Texas after the acquisition, they were shocked, he said.

“We went to lunch and we got in line and they almost fainted,” Perot said. “They couldn’t believe I ate in the cafeteria and that I had to go to the back of the line.”

They were also surprised how good the food was, and that’s the point, Perot said. When company executives are treated the same way as the frontline workers, quality rises, he said.

4 comments on “Perot: GM Executives Need to Eat in Cafeteria

  1. This is a great point that Ross makes. I once had the President of Northwest on my flight and he said that he rides other airlines to see what’s going on and talks to the employee’s of the other airlines.. He asked me what was the one thing that I thought that people wanted in an airline ..other than being on time . I said clean restrooms and friendly F/A’s he agreed that was the number one thing to him…as well.. He let his employees at NWA call in every monday from 9-11am.. He called it Ask Dalberg? they could ask anything… oh, and by the way… he was in Coach! and said that’s how he travels…to see what the masses experience .. he said that he knew what F/C wanted…. rambling…but point Ross made is perfect about quality rising if the Executives are treated the same as the frontline workers.

  2. Actually in my comment above.. It’s John Dasburg that was President of Northwest. and his call in was “Ask Dasburg”…. I hit send and went “Yikes”…. finger was faster than the mind.

  3. So everyone at EDS was treated poorly and well fed? Nice reflection of his naval heritage.

  4. When I was with Neiman Marcus, now NM President/CEO Karen Katz was the NorthPark general manager and when it was time for department managers to do markdowns, needing space, she would throw open the doors of her office to whoever needed it…and in many cases help them. The example she set…being in the trenches instead of up on a throne …(as had been the case with no few of those before her, male and female) paved the way for impressed loyalists to gladly support her initiatives.

    On the other hand, I recall when I volunteered to help at the ill-fated Trinity Fest in 100 plus weather in the sun and when the CEO of the non-profit I was there representing walked past, he only spoke to those who were highly placed. Exclusively. And assumed (!) that my friend Carlos…who I had enlisted to help…was on the clean up crew, pointing imperiously to a spilt drink in front of his booth he expected Carlos to remove. Fortunately this guy was canned ultimately and replaced by a hands on (female) CEO.