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By the time the financial crisis hit. the brutal economy forced its executive leadership team to stay focused on ac recen.t1y drafted strategic plan to turn its business around. Michael A. Todman, president of Whirl pool international, recalled the overarching goal: “Let’s control the things we can. We had already changed our business model, and we had to
make some really tough decisions:”
Senior management concentrated on three priorities: aligning costs to meet the demands of the tur· bulent business climate; managing cash [or greater liquidity; and maximizing market share by targeting consumers in a more effective, efficient marmer. As1, a result, the company abandoned brand advertising, 1 shifting to promoliollal and point.of·sales methods.
“We spent oUr time talking directly to them so we-y used more digital media: Todman said.
To underscore the urgency, management also ramped up internal communications. It was critical to make and implement decisions at a faster pace and, at the same time, secure employee buy·in. So board members met once a month instead of six times a year while managers spent more ti.me meeting with the rank and file. ‘Philosophically, our approach
is to be straight, be honest, tell people exactly
what is going on,” said Todman.
DUling the challenging financial period, T odman focused on the North Amelican market. He also completed the integration of Maytag inlo the Whirlpool product line. Todman focused on re· vamping the product line by closing costly plants and educating the entire staff on both companies before introducing the new models. Todman over· sees brands in Europe, latin Amelica. and Asia with duties that-include management of global information systems and global strategic initiatives.
including efficiency and innovation-
Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corp. CEDO and chairman. said, “Mike has a number of strengths. First. he’s got great expertise in being a global leader. He !mows how to operate effectively with di fferent cultures and different people. He also knows our operations very weU-Dur strengths and wea!messes, what we can do and what we can’t do-so he’s instrumenta.l in helping us to set the right priorities and then nmning disciplined operations to help us deliver
our expected results.”
Born and raised in-St.::rhomas, U.S. Virgin Is-. lands. Todman has been desclibed as a robust man with a gentle demeanor that’s not easily ruffled. His colleagues describe him as consislent. engaging, and extremely personable. A Whirlpool executive said about Todman: “Be’s able to analyze really complex business problems and make the right decisions so
that the company can make money.
Communication is an integral part of Todman’s management style: dissecting trend information, disseminating company goals and objectives, and pushing employees to think more broadly, more creatively, but as an interconnected unit that functions across the globe. It’s a rwenry·four·hour job, he says of managing the various time zones through phone calls and video conferencing. T odman spends rwo weeks out of every month in the
marketplace visiting the team as well as customers. “I understand how consumers are living and that
keeps you on the pulse.
Todman has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University. He joined Whirlpool in 1993 in London as director of finance, eventually running the customet service business in Europe. For his leadership role in helping bolster Whirlpool’s financial pedormance through I1is strategic vision in accessing global markets and ability to effectively drive innovation, T odman was selected as the ZO I 0 Black Enterprise
Corporate Executive of the Year.
1. In what way is Michael A. Todman exercising
Identify at least three leadership roles Todman emphasizes as president 01 Whirlpool. International.
To what extent does it appear that Todman is showing a good balance between strategic thinking and focusing on people?
4. What advice might you oHer Todman to be even more successful as the head of Whirlpool?