Books by Jr. Petzinger

Released: March 1, 1999

Wall Street Journal columnist Petzinger explores the world of the small- and mid-size business entrepreneur's and finds that business these days is, on the whole, a Good Thing. With myriad anecdotes about clever entrepreneurs, from the oldest operating business in America (a cymbal maker, of all things) to the pocket-protector crowd at Lucent Technologies, from the employer of women weaving at home looms to some health care workers who won hospital patients the right to wear underwear (notably during eye surgery), Petzinger demonstrates the effectiveness of new ways to do things. Though IBM isn't discussed, that firm's succinct motto, "Think," may have had it right all along. As innovative thinking advances, the author demonstrates, so does effective commercial practice. Business and biology are, it appears, not so different. We evolved from the primordial ooze to become CEOs, after all, passing through the Industrial Age to the Information Age and a step up on Maslow's hierarchy. "People who once did business on a handshake were starting to do it on a hug, for Pete's sake!" The author will concede that there are such blights as telemarketers. But, generally, the ecology of commerce is increasingly beneficent. Small enterprises thrive when they extend themselves to serve customers and eschew old rigidity. Loyalty, as well as money, is an incentive. Family considerations need not be overwhelmed by the demands of a well-run organization. Cooperative back-scratching and everyday decency, the author finds, nurture success. Indeed, values are the foundation of successful pioneering ventures. The book stresses the operations of small businesses, which clearly outnumber the giant enterprises. A new kind of feel-good primer on the ascent of man (business department) that might well be titled "How to Win Friends and Influence People for Management." (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 13, 1995

Longtime Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Petzinger (Oil and Honor, 1987) was once a baggage handler for United Airlines. Now he effectively handles some heavy stuff for the whole airline industry with a thoroughgoing description of the business and the tycoons who've ruled it since deregulation 17 years ago. The tale is as fascinating as any of Barbary buccaneers, railroad magnates, or others of the robber baron ilk. There are lots of men like the scary Frank Lorenzo, who, when he learned of another airline's DC-9 crashing with 90 people aboard, cried ``Ninety? Shit! We're only carrying 70 on a DC-9!'' (He reconfigured his planes to pack in more seats.) Eastern, Pan Am, Frontier, Braniff, and People Express, among others, all came to bad ends as the madly competitive, cannibalistic CEOs played musical executive chairs. Ticket prices no longer have any relation to a trip's distance, but are the result of fare fights and the need to fill every seat on every flight. The hub system, which requires hauling customers all over the skies, was developed to keep other carriers from getting their hands on hapless passengers. Reservation systems were secretly rigged to favor the few airlines that owned them. The pilots' unions were played against the machinists' union and both were played against the flight attendants' until the acronym BOHICA—for ``bend over, here it comes again''—was common in the ranks. Illegal campaign payments were made. Suicides took place. As one CEO put it, ``It was not good-spirited competition.'' Petzinger thinks that the competitive craziness is just about played out and that other problems, perhaps involving the Internet or affecting safety, will appear. (He doesn't mention the disarray in air traffic control or mounting frequent-flier obligations.) A sharply drawn, engaging book about air wars largely led by some colorful brigands. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) Read full book review >