October 11, 2002

EMC Chair Talks On Trust, Ethics

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Over 100 students and faculty members gathered in the Barnes Hall auditorium yesterday as Michael Ruettgers, executive chair of EMC Corp., presented a lecture entitled, “Managing Trust: The Acid-Test of Leadership.”

For about 40 minutes, Ruettgers spoke about ethics in the business world and what measures government and companies are taking to resurrect trust in the economy.

Taking examples from companies such as Enron, Ruettgers said that, “the bad behavior of a few hurts everyone.”

During the presentation, Ruettgers outlined laws recently constructed by government to prevent unethical practices. Ruettgers also addressed the tighter policy of auditing and executive boards, the current state of stock options and what his own company is doing to prevent unlawful practices from occurring.

“Trust and transparency are absolutely important for the free market,” Ruettgers said. “The reform must come from within the company.”

Ruettgers took his own company, EMC, as a model for consistent ethical policy.

By creating a, “single business plan” according to Ruettgers, it allowed EMC, “to have everyone trusting each other.”

Ruettgers said that EMC has internal and external auditors and control systems to prevent unethical practices.

But Ruettgers is quick to point out that it might take time before the economy as a whole can regain the trust of consumers. He said that, “business leaders need to take direction.”

Ruettgers also addressed many of his personal thoughts on business. He believes that in business, “strategy is 10 percent but what you decide is 90 percent.”

“The most important key to the plan is execution,” he said.

Ruettgers also pointed out his and other business leaders’ belief that, “people make the difference” when it comes to the business world. Using venture capitalist John Doerr’s words, “the critical thing for me is not having enough right people.” Ruettgers said that in his conversations with Apple executive Steve Jobs, Jobs said that he spends 30 percent of his time recruiting people.

To emphasize the importance of an honest staff, Ruettgers said that if he can’t trust a person, then they, “can’t be a part of my team.”

EMC is the leader in computer information storage systems.

When Ruettgers was CEO of EMC from 1992 to the start of 2001, EMC grew more than 74-fold from 1990 to 2000. Currently, Ruettgers is the executive chair of EMC and has been named one of the world’s top 25 executives by Business Week.

Ruettgers specifically noted, “I stopped being CEO at 2000,” jokingly referring to the time when the economy started to recede at the beginning of 2001.

Many students were pleased and impressed with Ruettgers lecture.

Jay Johnson grad said that, “it was great for the head of a major corporation to talk about trust and focus on it.”

“It was refreshing to hear a business leader of his stature talk to about trust and transparency,” Michael Ford grad said. “But it’s a little depressing because [trust] is a long way off.”

Still, after his lecture and his 20 minute question and answer session, Ruettgers was pleased in being able to, “raise awareness.”

“I think if you look at major problems in business, it’s mainly in ethical behavior. It used to be something that was taken for granted,” he said.

Archived article by Brian Tsao