AMHERST, Mass. — Jack Welch, retired chief executive officer of GE, and his wife Suzy, a noted business journalist, brought their direct, no-nonsense message for success in business to an appreciative crowd of about 300 students, alumni and admirers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Tuesday night.
Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of “The Real Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning The Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career,” which was released this month.
Jack Welch, a UMass Amherst alumnus, said if the audience remembered one thing from the evening, it should be that a successful business is like a successful sports team. “Business is a game. The team with the best players acting as a team wins,” he said.
He also said there are two qualities that can help any business: truth and trust. “You’ve got to flex that truth muscle,” he said.
Both Suzy and Jack Welch said failing to keep employees informed of where they stand is a recipe for disaster. Suzy Welch recounted her daughter’s experience in having the good news of a raise but no idea what specific strengths earned it. When she asked her boss she was told only, “merit.” The incident was terrible, but common, she said. “If you don’t speak the truth in your organization, there’s no trust,” she said.
Jack Welch said, “If you fire someone and they don’t know why – your problem.”
The free talk at Roots Café at the UMass Commonwealth Honors College included a book signing.
Jack Welch is a prominent supporter of the university. A native of Salem, Mass., he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UMass Amherst in 1957 and his master’s and doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1960.
Welch served as chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric (GE) from 1981-2001. During his 20 years of leadership in this position, Welch increased the value of the company from $13 billion to several hundred billion.
Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of “Winning,” a No. 1 Wall Street Journal and international bestseller. In 2001, he wrote his No.1 New York Times and also international best-selling autobiography, “Jack: Straight from the Gut.” He and Suzy Welch currently write a biweekly business column for several Thomson Reuters digital platforms and for Fortune magazine. From 2005-09, they wrote a column, “The Welch Way,” for Business Week magazine, which was also published by the New York Times syndicate, where it appeared in 45 worldwide newspapers with more than 8 million readers.
Suzy Welch, best-selling author, popular television commentator and noted business journalist, is the author of the New York Times bestseller “10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea.” The book, which presents a powerful decision-making strategy for success at work and in parenting, love and friendship, was published in 29 countries.
Welch recently launched the “Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University,” a unique online MBA and certificate program aimed at giving students globally and at every career level the tools to transform their lives and the organizations of the future.
Jack and Suzy Welch have lifetime giving of more than $8 million to the university. Their giving has been centered on the John and Grace Welch Endowed Scholarship for students from Salem High School. Jack and Suzy Welch also established Scholar Funds in Engineering and Management. Jack Welch also donated to the Jack & Suzy Welch Reasons to Give Scholarships in Chemical Engineering. General Electric established the Jack Welch Scholars program, which provides full scholarships for students studying engineering or management.
All photos by Thom Kendall.