Modern Lighting Industries

10 October 2016

Only six months into his current assignment at Modern Lighting Industries, Inc. MLI), he was starting to worry that his string of previous successes had hit a serious snag. Working for Cardullo had become as confusing, unpredictable, and frustrating as anything he’d ever experienced. When Cardullo, president of MLI, had interviewed Turner and invited him to join the company as vice president for marketing and sales, Turner had found the older man smart, friendly, even charismatic. Cardullo had offered him a free hand in reorganizing the marketing area, and had all but guaranteed that Turner would take over as president within two years.

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Before long, however, things began to go wrong: Cardullo started to seem distant and critical, and he intervened frequently in marketing decisions, sometimes undermining or even reversing Turner’s decisions. The turnaround Cardullo was attempting to engineer at MLI had stalled, sales were again declining, and things in general were rapidly deteriorating. Turner didn’t know whether to be happy or anxious—or both— when Alan Oliver, the CEO of MLI’s parent company, announced that he would fly in the following week to review the situation.

Turner thought it was critical to resolve his differences with Cardullo before Oliver arrived. Hoping to talk things out, he had asked Cardullo to join him for drinks after work, and then for lunch each of the next two days—but Cardullo declined all three invitations and shared lunch with other managers instead. Today Turner planned to approach Cardullo as soon as he came in. Cardullo usually arrived at 9:00 a. m. , which gave Turner almost half an hour to organize his thoughts. Jamie Turner A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Turner had attended Notre Dame and graduated near the top of his class.

There are occasional references to actual companies in the narration. Copyright © 2011 Harvard Business School Publishing. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www. hbsp. harvard. edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business Publishing. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. 254 | Jamie Turner at MLI, Inc. awaiting him at Globalbank, he joined Wolf River Paper in Dayton, Ohio, a world class manufacturer and marketer of consumer paper products such as facial and bathroom tissues, paper towels and napkins, and other specialty products. As a rising star in Wolf River’s marketing division, he became product manager for disposable diapers in two years and senior product manager only a year later. By the end of his fifth year, he had doubled his starting salary. Nevertheless, at 30 and single, he felt himself stagnating in product management and started to think about moving on.

Launching new products at Wolf River involved applying the same welldefined procedures over and over again. Moreover, with strong hierarchical controls and endless rounds of executive meetings for required approvals, he worried that he had not really tested himself. In fact, he imagined that it would be hard to fail at Wolf River, although the company had recently made a disastrous acquisition which was forcing all subsidiaries into austerity measures and would probably restrict any further advancement opportunities, at least for the near term.

Lambowland. com. Turner learned of a senior marketing position at Lambowland. com, a startup Internet-based sports marketing company headquartered in Milwaukee. He signed on as VP for planning and marketing, for a 15% premium over his previous salary plus stock options in the event of an IPO. At first, he relished the challenge and autonomy of his new job—but trouble soon followed. Lambowland fell into a serious cash flow bind, and Turner found himself undertaking a second job search in less than 18 months.

Two things about his time at Lambowland still bothered him. First, although he did not consider himself a job hopper, he worried that others might start to see him that way. Second, while he had often felt critical of the late hours and foul language that his coworkers enjoyed (none of whom had graduate degrees), he now began to wonder if he’d been too harsh in his assessments. Perhaps that explained some of the personal animosities he had developed there, which ultimately might have harmed the company’s performance as well as his own. MLI, Inc.

A month after leaving Lambowland, Turner met with an executive search consultant who told him about the position at MLI, based outside of Chicago, with fabrication and systems assembly facilities in Illinois, Missouri, and Mexico, and sales and distribution centers in Kansas City and Chicago. A paternalistic, family-owned organization whose lighting products ranged from incandescent and halogen light bulbs to office and warehouse lighting systems and mobile lighting units, MLI had suffered several financial setbacks following the death of its founder, and had recently been acquired by a much larger conglomerate.

The acquirer was a large division of $3. 5 billion San Diego-based Specialty Support Services (Triple S), which had a strong history of governmentsupported contracts for military operations and field medical units, and specialty work servicing the petroleum extraction and film industries as well as facilities such as clean rooms for biotech and hightech operations. With peak annual sales of $75 million, MLI was larger and more established than Lambowland, but far smaller and less rigidly organized than Wolf River.

MLI urgently needed to fill the new position of vice president of marketing and sales, and the consultant thought he could arrange a 20% salary increase over what Turner had received at Lambowland, plus a 25% bonus if Turner took the job. There was also significant room for advancement: MLI’s new president, Pat Cardullo, wanted someone who could take more responsibility relatively quickly. Turner agreed to meet with Cardullo the following week. 2 BRIEFCASES | HARVARD BUSINESS PUBLISHING

Jamie Turner at MLI, Inc. | 4254 In repeated assignments with Triple S, the search consultant had developed a close relationship with COO Arthur Lipsky, who was Cardullo’s boss and mentor. After Turner signed a confidentiality agreement, the consultant offered a few other observations for him to consider as he prepared for the interview. First, Cardullo had been the only high-level executive at Triple S to champion the acquisition, which was probably why Cardullo himself was MLI’s president.

Cardullo had argued that a large regional lighting distributor such as MLI would provide an alternative commercial channel for selling many of Triple S’s lighting-related systems, such as security lighting, field mobile lighting units, and clean room lighting systems. Cardullo’s relations with some of his peers at Triple S seemed strained, but his strong track record and his close rapport with Lipsky had tipped the balance in favor of adding MLI to Triple S’s business portfolio. Lipsky was in line to take over as CEO when Alan Oliver retired in two years, and Cardullo was widely expected to replace Lipsky as COO.

The search advisor added that at MLI, Cardullo seemed to have excellent relationships with his executive assistant, Richard Garcia, and the new controller, Julie Chin, both of whom had come over to MLI from Triple S. In fact, the consultant said he’d recently seen Cardullo, Chin, and Garcia together at a basketball game. Finally, he noted, Turner should be aware that at least one long-time MLI employee—the current VP of operations, Ernie Dennis—saw himself as Cardullo’s likely successor. Signing On.

Cardullo interviewed Turner over lunch at Harry Caray’s, a famous steak house in the Chicago Loop. Turner placed him in his mid-fifties, slightly overweight at medium height with heavy jowls and a full head of gray hair. Originally an engineer who had spent much of his career in high-tech companies, Cardullo impressed Turner with his ability to integrate and evaluate large amounts of information. He had a quick sense of humor and seemed genuinely interested in Turner’s background. It seemed strangely unnecessary for Turner to “score points” with Cardullo during the interview.

Turner was surprised to learn that Cardullo was also president of Triple S’s $600 million mobile systems and support group (Exhibit 1 shows a partial organization chart for Triple S). Cardullo explained that he was only acting as steward at MLI until he could find an aggressive, intelligent young manager to take his place within the next 12 to 18 months, and intimated that Turner would be a likely candidate. Without making any specific commitments, the two men agreed to speak again soon. Turner left the restaurant feeling excited and optimistic.

He headed for O’Hare and flew out to spend a few days with his parents in Scranton. The search consultant phoned the following week to ask if Turner was still interested in the position, and whether he could come back to Chicago for a company visit. Turner agreed to meet Cardullo at his office the following Monday morning. Turner arrived promptly, and after a brief tour of the facilities the two spent several hours discussing company operations. Turner had done as much research as he could, and was able to conduct a knowledgeable, intelligent discussion.

In fact, at times he had the impression that he knew more about the specifics than Cardullo did. Cardullo had also expressed strong opinions about how to run a business. He believed firmly in management by objectives, and stressed the importance of good communication among the top executive team. At the same time, he thought each manager should run his or her own area with minimal help from other functions. He emphasized the importance of the controller as guardian of the company’s assets, and the need for efficiency and inventory control in production.

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