Mark Hurd Takes his First Swing at HP
In the post-Fiorina era, a new CEO tries to balance the "HP way" and the quest for profits.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Hewlett-Packard is famously hostile to outsiders. Employees, already convinced that deposed CEO Carly Fiorina abandoned the famous "HP way," had every reason to be wary of her replacement, Mark Hurd, who built a reputation as a dogged cost cutter at NCR. After four months on the job, Hurd recently announced he was eliminating 14,500 jobs and freezing pension benefits, which together are projected to save HP $1.9 billion annually. Hurd talked to FORTUNE's Adam Lashinsky about being a "hired hand," what happened to a portrait of Carly, and the perils of vision.
How does it feel to fire so many people in one day?
Could you elaborate?
Analytically the decisions are not very difficult. It would be easy if it were a PC simulation game. But when there's a human involved--and they probably have one, two, three dependents apiece, and they're going to have to go home and tell their family that they may not have a job--it feels like the worst thing in the world.
So what do you tell them?
In the end we've got to do what's best for the company, not what's best for its CEO or the management, or what's best for any single person.
When you were hired from NCR, many questioned if you had the experience to run a company as big as HP. Has the company's size been a challenge?
That's an irrelevant dialogue. I don't really believe pure scale in revenue or in employee count actually is what drives complexity. I think what drives complexity is globality, and NCR and HP both are global.
Has anything surprised you about the job?
Reading all the press accounts, you would have thought that not much was going on at HP. That wasn't what I found at all.
When will you articulate your overall strategy for HP?
I get that question a lot. Today we're trying to focus on making the current HP the best it can be. I don't subscribe to the opinion that HP is in all these horrible markets. The printing and imaging market is exciting. In PCs there will be a consumer play around the whole wireless and mobile arena. Third, you'll see a consolidation in enterprise. The question is, Is there a spot that HP is going to double down? I haven't addressed that at this point, and I'm not going to in this interview.
What about breaking apart HP or divesting some of its businesses?
I am not working on any plan to spin off a piece of HP or to split up HP.
At some point don't you have to articulate a vision?
Remember Edison's quote: "Vision without execution is a hallucination." I have a hard time separating strategy from operations, because they all have to flow together.
Have you reached out to your predecessors?
I've met with several retired executives. We want them closer to the company and supportive of the company.
Have you spoken with Carly?
I wouldn't comment on that.
How about the Hewlett and Packard families?
(Long pause) Probably best not to comment.
The last time I was here, there was a portrait of Carly in the lobby next to portraits of David Packard and William Hewlett. Now only the founders are hanging there. Where's your portrait?
Listen, the company was founded by two guys whose names are on the company and whose pictures are in the lobby. I am a hired hand. I'm here to be part of the team.
You played collegiate tennis. Do you still compete?
No. When somebody finds out you play competitive tennis, everybody wants to have the finals at Wimbledon. And I've got enough going on here.