Jack Welch (John Francis Jack Welch Junior – 19 November 1935) is an American businessman, author, and chemical engineer. Between 1981 and 2001, Jack Welch was the Chief Executive Officer and chairman of General Electric, where the value of the company increased by 4,000% during his term.
Jack Welch Biography
Jack Welch was born on 19 November 1935 in Peabody, in the American state of Massachusetts. He grew up as an only child in an Irish-Catholic family, a time that taught him many things about life, as he wrote later. Through sports, he already learned at a young age that winning feels better than losing. As his career progressed, he placed increasing trust in the lessons he’d learned as a child.
In 1957, Welch graduated from the University of Massachusetts in chemical technology. He started his master’s directly after, and received his Ph.D. in 1960.
In the same year, Welch started working at General Electric as junior engineer. While he held this position, he earned approximately 10,000 dollars per year. He worked on the development of new synthetic materials.
The laboratories were small, and with little equipment, Jack Welch managed to explore the limits of material technology. He himself mentioned the intimate, loaded, and excited atmosphere from this period as support for the success and subsequently tried to retain this enthusiasm throughout his career.
During his time at General Electric, he often criticised the inflated bureaucracy. He felt undervalued and, according to him, he didn’t receive the salary befitting his work. He believed this was due to the standard bonus.
At some point, Welch chose a different path and decided to stay with Reuben Gutoff. Gutoff later started up his own consultancy firm and was a fast-growing and successful manager. This didn’t lead to a goodbye, however, and he stayed with General Electric. Nevertheless, he didn’t always agree with the bureaucracy of General Electric. He was determined to find a balance between effective management and efficient production.
Thanks to his ambition, drive, and talent, he gained the position of vice president of General Electric in 1972, and became chairman in 1979. Merely two years later, in 1981, Jack Welch became the youngest CEO and chairman of General Electric ever. Under his direction, the company booked many positive results.
He reshaped General Electric’s portfolio and implemented economic diversity. Over 500 takeovers were carried out during his term, worth approximately 50 billion dollars. A strategic part of he comes from Six Sigma. The investment of the programme required many millions, but he believed the Six Sigma would save General Electric billions in expenses.
Under his guidance, the company grew with a market value of 12 billion dollars, to 410 billion dollars when he retired. Upon retiring, he received an amount of 417 million dollars as compensation.
After retiring, he started working as a consultant at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, and as a consultant of the CEO of IAC, Barry Diller. Additionally, Welch spent time as a public speaker and wrote a column for BusinessWeek together with his wife Suzy. He did so until 2009. In 2005, he published the book Winning, written by him and Suzy Welch.
Jack Welch also started teaching a class of 30 MBA students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In December 2016, he participated in a forum that was composed by Donald Trump to provide strategic and policy advice regarding economic issues.
Jack Welch has four children with his first wife, Carolyn. They divorced in 1987 after 28 years of marriage. In 1989, he got remarried to Jane Besley, a lawyer specialised in mergers and takeovers. The couple split up in 2003 and Jack met Suzy Welch, the woman he would marry and with whom he would write a column for Reuters and Fortune. In 2012, however, they stopped writing the column after a critical article from Fortune about Welch and his career at General Electric.
Jack Welch quotes
- “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”
- “Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will”
- “When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”
- “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
- “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
- “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don’t have to manage them.”
- “Change before you have to.”
- “Common mission trap for companies: trying to be all things to all people at all times.”
- “When you become a leader success is all about growing others.”
- “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”
- “If you are not confused, you don´t know what is going on.”
- “You can look at the situation and feel victimized. Or you can look at it and be excited about conquering the challenges and opportunities it presents.”
- “It is better to act too quickly than it is to wait too long.”
- “Take every opportunity to inject self-confidence into those who have earned it. Use ample praise, the more specific the better.”
- “Face reality as it is, not as it was, or as you wish it to be.”
Publications and books
- 2014. Jack: What I’ve learned leading a great company and great people. Hachette UK.
- 2011. At any cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the pursuit of profit. Vintage.
- 2009. Jack Welch Speaks. John Wiley & Sons.
- 2005. Jack Welch and the 4E’s of Leadership. speaks…, 106.
- 2003. The Jack Welch lexicon of leadership. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
- 2003. Jack: Straight from the gut. Business Plus.
- 2003. Jack Welch and the GE Way. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
- 2001. Jack. Time Warner AudioBooks.
- 2001. Cycles of learning: observations of Jack Welch. In Six Sigma Forum Magazine (Vol. 1, No. 1). ASQ.
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Published on: 09/09/2019 | Last update: 09/29/2022
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